The city’s setting between ocean and alps make Timaru a great place to live and visit. The striking piazza, with its stunning views that stretch from Caroline Bay across to the snow-clad mountains, is complemented by the development of numerous café-bars and restaurants that have taken advantage of this superb setting. They have enhanced the attractions of the much-loved Caroline Bay itself. Holiday-makers have been flocking to this stretch of sandy, safe beach for more than 100 years. Timaru stays up with the play with its long-running annual Christmas – New Year carnival that continues to entice in visitors from throughout New Zealand and beyond for days of entertainment and fast and furious fairground rides.

The Timaru i-SITE, housed in one of the city’s most historic premises, the Landing Services Building, can help visitors with all aspects of their visit to Timaru, from where to stay to tailor-made tours of the region’s attractions.

The following are some suggestions of places in the region to visit:
  • Aigantighe Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden
  • Dine in one of the fine restaurants or trendy cafes overlooking Caroline Bay
  • Enjoy the great outdoors – go rock climbing, mountain biking or swimming
  • Check out the Information centre in the historic Landing Service Building or relax next door with a quiet ale at the Speights Ale House
  • Visit the Trevor Griffiths Rose Garden on Caroline Bay
  • Visit the South Canterbury Museum
  • Stroll along the beach at sunset
  • Play a recreational game of golf, bowls or tennis
  • Tour the DB Brewery
  • Plan a day trip to a scenic river gorge
  • Try retail therapy in one of Timaru’s many shops
  • Enjoy a day with the kids at the new C-Bay complex
  • Have a picnic at the scenic reserve and enjoy some exercise through the various walking and biking tracks

Brief History of Timaru

Named Te Maru, “place of shelter”, Timaru was originally a haven for weary Maori travellers canoeing along the otherwise shelterless coastline. Briefly settled as a whaling station about 1838 by the Sydney-based Weller Brothers, Timaru’s first resident was whaler Samuel Williams.

A large part in the area’s pastoral and commercial development was played by George and Robert Rhodes, brothers born Yorkshire, England. They set up the area’s first sheep run and freeholded 50 hectares of land on which Timaru’s commercial heart is based.

Timaru was sparsely populated until 1859 when the English ship, Strathallan, arrived with 120 immigrants. The townships of Rhodestown and Government town (Proposed by the Government, situated south of North Street) jealously competed until the areas were incorporated as a borough in 1868.

Development of an artificial harbour was begun in 1877, but ships continued to be wrecked in the bay into the next decade. As moles were extended from the landing service, sand began to fill the rocky beach to the north, making it a popular summer resort. In 1876, the first stream train puffed into Timaru’s railway station.