The 28,000-strong port city of TIMARU, 18km south of Temuka, is at the end of a straight and flat two-hour drive from Christchurch. The city isn’t a vastly compelling place to stop, though it’s enlivened by the new Te Ana Maori Rock Art Centre, the Aigantighe Art Gallery and the South Canterbury Museum. On a fine day, it’s worth spending a quiet hour ambling around the Botanical Gardens, entered via Queen Street (daily 8am–dusk; free), or strolling along the new boardwalk along Caroline Bay and the low cliffs north past the wooden 1878 Blackett’s Lighthouse to Dashing Rocks.
The name Timaru comes from Te Maru, Maori for “place of shelter”, as it provided the only haven for waka paddling between Banks Peninsula and Oamaru. In 1837 European settlement was initiated by Joseph Price, who set up a whaling station south of the present city at Patiti Point. A large part of today’s commercial and pastoral development was initiated by Yorkshiremen George and Robert Rhodes, who established the first cattle station on the South Island in 1839 and effectively founded Timaru. Land reclamation created a harbour in 1877 and helped form the fine sandy beach of Caroline Bay. For a time, Timaru became a popular seaside resort, and its annual two-week summer carnival, starting on Boxing Day, is still a highlight.