Here's a list to help you find Te Tihi-O-Maru Timaru's attractions, their history and some fun facts along the way. Best of all, it's free. Connect to our Art, Culture, History and Environment with this free Timaru Scenic Drive guide.


1. Heritage Place

The Timaru Landing Services building was constructed from local basalt rock and chiseled by hand. It's the site of Timaru's first European house and the early landing service. Inside you can visit the team at Timaru's Information Centre and pick up your FREE Timaru Scenic Route guide and other trails and hunts. 

You can visit the Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre and follow in the footsteps of our ancestors on personalized guided tours to iconic Māori rock art sites, and immerse yourself in the history and culture of Ngāi Tahu at our tribal Rock Art Centre, Te Ana. 

Check out the sign for the Heritage Trails, plaque for Timaru's first European House, History Signs, Sculpture and Street Art.


2. Timaru Botanic Gardens

These are one of the oldest Botanic Gardens in New Zealand (established in 1864). Here you can enjoy the peace, feed the ducks, and see plants from all over the world. Enjoy the playground, free-to-use BBQ, hot house, fernery, Anderson Rose Garden and one of the largest species rose collections in the Southern Hemisphere (which date back to ancient history and are the ancestors that all modern roses originated from). Pick up a free copy of the WuHoo Botanic Gardens Scavenger Hunt from the Timaru Information Centre or South Canterbury Museum.


3. Pātītī Point

A great spot to see a rugged South Canterbury stony beach, connect to the coastal track and the WuHoo Art History Signs. We love to hunt for interesting pebbles on the beach, try to spot seals, toast some marshmallows on a camp fire - Check restrictions before you light your fire here


4. Ōtipua Wetlands & Saltwater Creek
DOMAIN AVE (through Cemetery) or KING ST

Enjoy a walk, run or bike on the coastal track that goes through the Wetlands and connects to Pātītī Point, Jacks Point and Centennial Park. 

Ōtipua Wetlands was once a huge lagoon. It was rich with fish and bird life and was a food basket for takata whenua, who caught tuna (eel) here. A huge effort has gone into the area to restore the wetlands. All vegetation was sourced locally with native species to match the three underlying eco systems; wetland, shrub land and forested areas. See if you can spot a range of habitats for birds, fish and lizards, mud flats for wading birds, islands as retreats for roosting and nesting birds. Can find you some of the indigenous ecosystem plants? harakeke, kahikatea, karamu, kohuhu, kowhai, mahoe, marsh ribbonwood, mati, mikimiki, ngaio, toe toe, ti kouka (cabbage tree) and totara.

Note, as this is a sanctuary for wildlife, dogs are not allowed in the area. 


5. Centennial Park

Drive the road that runs through the park from Otipua Rd down the "Zig Zag" to Gleniti. Or walk/run/cycle the 3.5km walkway that connects Otipua Creek to Ōtipua Wetlands.

Volunteers and the Timaru District Council has transformed the former basalt quarry into one of our Districts premier parks. There's playground equipment that loops around a duck pond and free-to-use BBQs.

There are some great tracks that you can follow where the trains used to transport basalt boulders from quaries to build the harbor in 1901. On one of the tracks is a site where bones of the extinct Moa bird were found - the oldest ever found to date.

The local mountain bike club has created awesome tracks, for younger kids, a challenging BMX, and different grades for mountain bikers to get their heart rate up and test their skills.


6. Waitarakao Washdyke Lagoon

On the north side of Timaru at the top of the Showgrounds Hill drive down Bridge Rd, towards the Smithfield Freezing works, park before the railway bridge. Look for the stile that leads to a walking track down to the shallow coastal lagoon. This is a fascinating spot to explore, especially at low tide so you can spot creatures in the rock pools. 2 million years ago, lava flowed down to what is now the sea. This is the most recent volcanic activity in the South Island.

The area has long been a mātaitai (food gathering) for Māori. The lagoon has a long history of cultural significance to local runanga, as an important site for traditional food gathering.

The coastline has been in long term retreat, and erosion of this lagoon significantly increased after the construction of the Timaru Port. In 1881 it was 253 hectares, now it is less than 48.

During World War 2, Timaru-vians feared invasion by the Japanese. You can still see the 1942 defense site in the cliffs that was built as some security to the port and people of Timaru. There used to be two guns at this battery and a battery camp was about 300 metres behind the guns.

The lagoon provides an important coastal link for birds


7. Blackett Lighthouse

Spy the Brass Rubbing of the lighthouse as part of the Brass Rubbing Trail, enjoy the Coastal Track, and take in excellent view across the bay.

Here you can knock on the door of the famous Blackett Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1878 at the top of the Terrace. Captain Meredith was the first lighthouse-keeper. In 1980 the Timaru Harbor Board moved the tower to Benvenue Street, Maori Park. and it was then shifted again in 2010 several hundred metres down the street, across the rail track to Benvenue Cliffs. The lighthouse was designed by governments maritime engineer and architect John Blackett. He demanded the destruction of the early Ports breakwater due to the impacts it was making on the long shore drift of gravel and on coastal erosion. Supporters of the Port, paraded an effigy of Blackett down the main street, filled it up with fireworks and blew it up in protest. 

The cliff was named after the ship that wrecked here on “Black Sunday” 1882. A southerly gale kicked up and because the ship was too close to the coast, it didn't have room to maneuver out to sea. It lost it's anchor and smashed into the cliff. Soon after another ship the City of Perth did the same and drifted into the wrecked Benvenue ship. Initially everyone was safe. Thousands of people gathered on the shore and watched an attempt to salvage the City of Perth. But instead witnessed an absolute disaster. The sea was so rough that at one point 40 men fell into the boiling sea. Nine lives were lost including the harbor master Captain Mills who while in the job, saw 28 shipwrecks over 18 years on the Timaru Coastline.


8. Caroline Bay

The sea used to reach the cliffs, but the new harbor changed the way that material moved up the coast, and trapped the fine sediment here. Over 150 years the sand built out to create the "Rivera of the South" - Caroline Bay. Some say is was named after a supply ship who visited an early whaling station here. The bay is shallow and a great spot to paddle, swim and even slide! In the winter you can walk your dogs across the sand, the dogs are kept away in Summer to give the special Blue Penguins kororā some space to nest amongst the rocks and come ashore after sunset. The Penguins live around the Timaru Port and rock areas along Marine Parade. At 40cm they are the smallest penguins in the world. Best time to see them is from October to March just after sunset.

Pick up a Wuhoo Timaru Caroline Bay Challenge, enjoy the WuHoo Art History Signs, and print out a copy of the Brass Rubbing Trail to collect rubbings along the way.


9. Aigantighe Art Gallery
This is South Canterbury's public art gallery and has a significant art collection, regular exhibition by guest artists and a lovely sculpture garden. If you take a careful look you will notice hundreds of monarch butterflies in the trees. As the weather cools from April, they congregate in the needles of a couple of cedar trees. On sunny days, you'll see them flutter around in search of a snack but, if it's overcast day, they save energy and sit still with their wings shut. The sculpture gardens and the art gallery are both free to enter.
The gallery is closed on Mondays and public holidays. Open Tue - Fri 10am - 4pm and Sat & Sun 12pm - 4pm


10. South Canterbury Museum Pioneer Hall
Learn learn and reflect on South Canterbury's past and identity and environment. You can pick up free WuHoo Hunts and Colourful fact sheets, birds, bees, bats and the Strathallan, and the brass rubbing trail.
The Museum is closed on Monday's, open Tue - Fri 10am - 4:30pm and Sat & Sun 1pm - 4:30pm


DOWNLOAD The Timaru Scenic Route here 

Created by local volunteers