In the early settler days before the harbour was built, there were numerous shipwrecks. The coast continues to be a dramatic feature of the town and one of the best places to experience this is on the walkway along Benvenue Cliffs, with spray kicking up as the Pacific herds in against the basalt. The working port is central to the economic vibrancy of the town, set on the eastern side of Caroline Bay, the port works 24/7 with large container ships coming in from all over the world.
The building of the harbour had a dramatic impact on the coastline; in particular the sand piling up at foot of the clay cliffs is how the beach of Caroline Bay was established. Caroline Bay turned Timaru into a seaside holiday destination. Christmas carnivals have been held at the bay since 1911, attracting thousands. Recent developments on the bay include the building of a piazza on the top of Bay Hill. The view from the piazza on a clear day is absolutely stunning, offering a wonderful panorama across the bay, the Pacific and inland to the Southern Alps. Timaru has evolved slowly and as a result of this the city has some wonderful examples of early 20th-century architecture, notably along the main street, Stafford Street.
Timaru is a major port in the southern Canterbury region of New Zealand, located 160 kilometres south of Christchurch and about 200 kilometres north of Dunedin on the eastern Pacific coast of the South Island. The Timaru District in and around the former Timaru City, includes a prosperous agricultural hinterland with links to smaller rural communities such as Pleasant Point, Temuka, and Geraldine. The town of Waimate is about 40 kilometres to the south on the road to Oamaru and Dunedin. The Timaru urban area is the second largest city in the Canterbury Region, after Christchurch.
Caroline Bay beach is a popular recreational area located close to Timaru’s town centre, just to the north of the substantial port facilities. Beyond Caroline Bay, the industrial suburb of Washdyke is at a major junction with State Highway 8, the main route into the Mackenzie Country. This provides a road link to Fairlie, Twizel, Lake Tekapo, Aoraki/Mount Cook and Queenstown.
The Aigantighe Art Gallery in Wai-iti Road, Timaru is renowned internationally for its art collection and innovative exhibition and education programmes. It was founded in 1956 by the Grant family who came from Scotland and it now holds the South Island’s third-largest public art museum collection. In 1978 a large modern wing was added giving extensive exhibition space. The Aigantighe prides itself on being a friendly and thought-provoking art museum for everyone.
Aigantighe is Scottish Gaelic for ‘at home’ and is pronounced ‘egg and tie’.
The Permanent Art Collection Aigantighe holds New Zealand, Pacific, Asian and European art works from the sixteenth century to the present day. Its British Victorian painting collection is of great significance. Masterpieces by Goldie, Hodgkins and McCahon (born in Timaru) feature in a room dedicated especially to them and six new thematic exhibitions from the permanent collection are held in the House Gallery each year. The Aigantighe is well known for its extensive and innovative use and unique interpretation of its collection in entertaining, well-researched exhibitions.
The Aigantighe actively supports life-long learning and has energetically launched a number of New Zealand art museum education programme ‘firsts’. Historic painting dress-ups are replica children’s costumes of those depicted in Victorian paintings in the Aigantighe’s collection. For visually impaired and blind visitors special touch sculptures and “tactiles” which have a raised relief replicate paintings in the Aigantighe’s collection and labels in Braille are in development. Each year two special events focus on younger artists: Artarama! The Festival of South Canterbury Student Art and Polychrome, the Aoraki Polytechnic exhibition. A list of art awards and competitions plus entry forms are held at the Aigantighe. School tours and curriculum-linked worksheets for specific exhibitions or aspects of the collection are available. To book in your class or arrange a tour for your group just call the Gallery.
Caroline Bay is Timaru’s main attraction, drawing many visitors to its safe swimming beach and popular annual carnival, which provides non-stop entertainment each Christmas.
The Bay has many diversions including a maze, mini golf, gardens, aviary, landscaped Piazza and wonderful walks. The Bay Hill and Piazza offer stunning views of the distant Southern Alps and Caroline Bay.
An interesting walk heads north past the Benvenue Cliffs to the Dashing Rocks. A bright, vibrant social scene is provided by the restaurants and cafés that link the beach to the main shopping area.
A variety of activities and entertainment including the amazing midnight New Years Eve fireworks display it is a must to see and a excellent night of family entertainment. The holidaymakers are treated to fairground style rides, free daily concerts, along with a variety of activities such as Inflatables, Mini Golf, Truck & Trailer Rig, Train Rides and events and competitions along with entertainment by popular New Zealand artists.
The Big Wheel:
The Big Wheel is a Ferris Wheel type of ride operated by the Caroline Bay Association and is a major attraction of the carnival.
The merry-go-round is the only one of it’s kind in New Zealand and was lovingly restored and is cared for by the volunteers of the CBA.
The Octopus is a rotating device that offers fun and thrills for those not faint of heart.
Mini Train Ride:
The Mini Train track is operated jointly by the CBA and the Timaru Host Lions Club and, like the mini golf, it also operates weekends and School Holidays and at various other times throughout the year.
The Old Customs House is quite a spectacular building, some steps from the main road where you would not necessarily walk to. Its Corinthian style architecture and its striking white colour with light blue pillars and columns make it a standout landmark.
From the Visitor Centre (i-site) in the former Landing Service Building you would just walk down Station Street, along the railway line, and would soon spot it on the left side of the street, at the corner with Strahallan Street.
It was built in 1902, and today is used as a restaurant (Steak @ Customs House).
It is quite a fine dining restaurant.
Having run the very successful award-winning Gantleys restaurant in Queenstown for many years, Jared Aldridge and Brent Rands decided it was time for a new challenge. Whilst in Timaru visiting family they came across the old New Zealand Customs building, were captured by the stunning architecture and decided they must have it. Jared and Brent bought the business and after a refit the new Steak @ Customs House was opened.
Jared has moved to Timaru as head chef of Steak @ Customs House, while Brent has remained in Queenstown to run Gantleys. David Pearce, our restaurant manager from Queenstown, has also moved to Timaru to run the front of house.
On 25 and 26 November 2009 Timaru celebrated a Phar Lap Festival, honouring New Zealand’s (and Australia’s) most famous racehorse ever. The highlight was the unveiling of a life-sized bronze statue at Phar Lap Raceway north of the township.
The statue was created by Auckland based sculptor Joanne Sullivan-Gessler.
The life-sized bronze sculpture shows the horse in full gallop, ridden by jockey Jim Pike and demonstrating his famous 22-foot gallop stride. The horse gallops over a map of New Zealand with his front hoof placed squarely over Timaru, reminding the world once and forever that he was born and bred in South Canterbury (in 1926). The base of the statue is a water fountain which – so the words of the sculptor – brings the statue to life with the sound of water designed to emulate galloping hoof beats.
Phar Lap was considered a wonder horse that dominated Australia’s racing scene in the late 1920’s/early 1930’s with 36 wins from his last 41 starts. After winning North America’s richest race, the Agua Caliente Handicap in 1932, he died under suspicious circumstances just two weeks later.