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Cheap Car Hire Timaru Airport
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South Canterbury Attractions
A rental car gives you the freedom and flexibility to make the most of your time exploring Timaru and surrounding areas. Here are a few of the many attractions around South Canterbury you might like to consider checking out. The letters on the map match those on the tabs below, where you'll find information about each attraction. For more ideas, check out the South Canterbury Tourism website.
Te Ana Maori Rock Art Centre
The majority of rock art in New Zealand is scattered through the South Island, predominantly concentrated in the South Canterbury region, with hundreds of sites within a short radius of the town of Timaru. They date back to the original arrival of Maori up to a millennium ago and offer a glimpse into the lives of these early inhabitants.
There are two common forms: either carved into stone, or painted or drawn onto the surface. The limestone rocks are vulnerable to the outdoor elements and easily eroded, however, as are some of the paints that were used - typically made from animal fats mixed with soot, ochre or vegetable gum.
Timaru’s rock art centre - found on George St downtown, close to our rental depot - is a non profit operation, with proceeds going back into preserving this aspect of tribal culture. The Ngai Tahu Maori Rock Art Trust was established to support local councils and communities in managing their rock art legacies, protecting these for the future.
At this unique attraction you’ll be able to observe the most significant collection of ancient Maori rock art in New Zealand, and the world. Maori guides dispense with stories and traditions; an interactive exhibit retells the story of Pouakai, an enormous eagle that once rampaged through the skies, and the cave of the fearsome taniwha - in which rock art comes to life on its own.
The Te Ana centre also stocks a variety of artworks, inspired by ancient rock art, which you can purchase to take home, and support the Ngai Tahu tribe as well in doing so.
For a truly immersive experience, a three hour tour incorporating a trip out to the Opihi Rock Art site can’t be surpassed. Follow ancient trails to see these murals and etchings up close and deepen your appreciation.
Aigantighe Art Gallery
Founded in 1956 by the Grant family, who originally hailed from Scotland, the Aigantighe Art Gallery houses the third biggest public art collection in the whole South Island. (Aigantighe is Gaelic for ‘at home’ and pronounced as ‘egg an tie’.) It’s situated on Maori Hill in central Timaru, not far from our rental depot.
The museum is recognised for its entertaining and innovative approach, and unique exhibitions. There is a mix of New Zealand, Pacific, Asian and European art at this gallery, dating back to the 16th century and up to the present. The collection of Victorian paintings is a highlight, as is the representation of prominent, Timaru-born New Zealand artists. There is a room devoted to the masterpieces of our own Colin McCahon, Charles Goldie and Frances Hodgkins. For the blind or visually impaired, raised relief replica paintings are tactile to the touch, and Braille labels are in the pipeline at the Aigantighe as well. Plus there are lots of things to keep younger ones busy while your browse, from art supplies to dress up costumes.
The Aigantighe’s modern wing is devoted primarily to showcasing the work of emerging and regional artists and hosting travelling exhibitions, with more than a dozen new ones shown every year. The gallery organises two annual events focusing on younger artists, as well.
The Aigantighe is closed on Mondays; entry is free. Its surrounding manicured grounds are always open to the public - here you can wander below leafy trees and admire the range of permanent sculptures by local, Japanese and African artists that are on display.
South Canterbury Museum
As you might expect, the South Canterbury Museum is devoted to chronicling the heritage of the surrounding region, its land and its residents. That is the focus of its permanent displays, while temporary exhibitions branch out into other natural and cultural areas.
There are two full levels of material, and film footage screened in the heritage theatre.
The natural history section boasts a wealth of information and dozens of fossils - birds, insects, marine and other creatures. The butterfly and bird egg collections are something quite special.
The Maori section is very worthwhile. Maori pioneers first settled here an estimated 800 to 1000 years ago, and this collection includes a wealth of archaeological finds, plus the remnants of certain textiles and crafts. It offers an insight into the seasonal approach they took to make the most of the land’s resources and food crops and survive.
The history of European arrival, from explorers to missionaries and general immigration, is also laid out. Through maps, books and everyday items we can piece together an idea of what it was like to live here, through the eyes of those who came before us.
The social history displays include objects related to various industries, from pottery to manufacturing and foodstuffs. Check out, too, the vast costume collection with lots of period garments (especially from the Edwardian era on).
Another highlight is a model replica of the aircraft that was designed and flown by Richard Pearse from his shed. It is said this this local aviation pioneer actually beat the Wright brothers to it.
You will find the South Canterbury Museum on Perth Street in Timaru, next to St Mary’s church and close to our rental depot. Donations are encouraged. Note that it is closed on Mondays.
Often simply referred to as ‘the Bay’, Caroline Bay is the the best known park in and around Timaru. A railway line separates Caroline Bay from the main shopping district - pedestrians can cross over on a staircase or lift.
Located on the waterfront downtown, Caroline Bay enjoys a prime harbour outlook over the Pacific Ocean. It has a popular swimming beach that’s well sheltered by the breakwater (there are no other sandy beaches between the Banks Peninsula and Oamaru). A colony of little penguins has also cropped up around Caroline Bay! Beyond the beach, the park extends for a whopping 34 hectares.
It’s a great spot to relax, with endless large spaces punctuated by sculptures, murals and other objects of historic significance. There are barbecues, an outdoor gym, a small train and a playground to cater to families, plus plenty of parking for your rental car. Feeling active? Check out the tennis and beach volleyball courts, the skate park, and the mini golf course.
An annual carnival is held here at Caroline Bay every summer, and has been going strong for over a century. Concerts, rides and games draw families from near and far.
The Timaru region is renowned for its roses, and the award winning Trevor Griffiths Rose Garden can be found at Caroline Bay. It is at its finest in late November to early December. Named for a local rosarian, and designed by Canterbury architect Sir Miles Warren, it features 60 rose beds arranged around a central pergola, statue, and fountain pool. There are well over 1,000 types of roses within these gardens! They can be viewed from above, at the piazza. The layout is rather distinctive, featuring steel structures that underpin the whole design.
Roughly 125 km down the coast from Timaru, Moeraki is about an hour and a half’s drive and makes for a nice getaway as a day trip, or a scenic stop on a road trip heading further south. The Moeraki boulders, which are well signposted off the main highway, are a fascinating sight and one of the most popular natural attractions in this area.
What makes these enormous rocks such geological oddities? They are almost perfect spheres, just scattered about on the beach, with some appearing to emerge from the cliffs behind. Maori legend tells that the boulders are the remains of baskets and vegetables that washed ashore after the wrecking of a canoe at nearby Shag Point. The scientific explanation is that they were formed up to 65 million years ago caused by the erosion of sedimentary rocks. Calcium and carbonates gathered around charged particles to build up and form the boulders, which then slowly raised from the sea bed over time.
Their sheer scale can’t be overestimated - some are up to 3 metres wide and weigh several tonnes! It’s great fun to wander around them, snapping pictures from various angles.
Park your rental car securely in the carpark by the scenic reserve, and stroll down to the beach. The walk only takes a couple of minutes. There’s a loop track from the cafe above that leads to an elevated viewing point. You may get lucky and see playful Hector’s dolphins out to sea.
At the southern edge of the Moeraki peninsula lies Katiki Point, where you’ll come across a historic lighthouse, Maori village site, and lots of marine wildlife from yellow eyed penguins to fur seals. And if you’re continuing on down the coast, Shag Point / Matakaea is also home to a host of marine life.
Great value - thanks! Definitely will recommend you to my friends.
Jack Webber (Australia)
Was the best deal we could find and we looked hard. Very happy.
Matt Boser (USA)
Excellent value, We got what you promised. No hidden costs like the rip off we had in Cairns!
Mike Smith (UK)
Great for backpackers like us on a tight budget. Got to do more of the amazing things NZ offers with the money we saved. Awesome!
Sue White (UK)