Timaru, the urban hub of the Central South Island, has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. Now that the island’s main highway no longer flows down its main street, Timaru residents have been able to reclaim the town’s Edwardian heart. Vibrant plantings of flowers and trees, and a more people-friendly landscape of paved areas, seating and vantage points from which to enjoy 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. This seaside haven retains some its traditional flavour with promenades, playground and picnic areas but 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.
Timaru has preserved much of its historic heritage, both in terms of its architecture and through local treasures housed in the excellent local museum. And its Aigantighe Art Gallery has a well-deserved reputation as having one of the best collections of New Zealand art to be found in any provincial city. The city is now also closely linked with the rose. This flower grows superbly in the Central South Island and has been used extensively in both public and private gardens. Throughout the long flowering season, parks and streetscapes are awash with colour.
The jewel in Timaru’s rose crown is the Trevor Griffiths Rose Garden on Caroline Bay. Complete with arbours, pools and a fountain it’s a sumptuous fusion of traditional rose garden style and contemporary design. Timaru’s growing popularity with visitors has ensured a range of accommodation options for all budgets - hotels to motels, backpacker lodges and campgrounds and a selection of bed and breakfast establishments, some in historic houses. Eating out offers the same extensive choice with Timaru now offering everything from an array of ethnic restaurants to cafes to a la carte dining experiences. The Timaru i-site, housed in one of the city’s most historic premises, the Landing Service 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.