South Canterbury

A great snapshot of the best of New Zealand - with beautiful outdoor environments, rich art, history and heritage, plenty of outdoor adventures, fabulous fare, and great Kiwi hospitality.

South Canterbury's geography is made up of sweeping plains, rolling hills, meandering rivers, native forest and unspoiled coastline. There are many picture-postcard views to be had here, and lots of ways you can get out and discover these gorgeous environments. Walking and mountain bike trails zigzag their way through the area, ranging from gentle family-friendly tracks to testing hikes over several days, or two-wheeled exhilaration.

Peel Forest

Head to Peel Forest for some of New Zealand’s best white-water rafting, trot through the bush on horseback, or simply take a load off and enjoy the lush surroundings, and the solitude.

Timaru & Geraldine

Lovely Caroline Bay sits at the heart of Timaru. Take a walk, cool off with a swim, and keep the kids entertained at the great play area here. For a history lesson with a view, take a walk over the Benvenue Cliffs to the historic Dashing Rocks area. Check out the beautiful botanics at Timaru’s Botanical Gardens, or admire the blooms at the Trevor Griffiths Rose Gardens.

There’s tons of history and heritage to unravel in these parts. Explore the Te Ana Maori Rock Art Centre for meaningful and authentic cultural interpretation of some of New Zealand's most significant examples of Maori rock art. Museums are dotted throughout the district, offering up fascinating artefacts and insights into local history, aviation history, vintage cars and machinery. Take a ride on the rails at the Pleasant Point Museum and Railway – with fully operational steam locomotives and the world’s only Model T Ford Railcar.

Art buffs will be right at home here too. Timaru’s Aigantighe Art Gallery boasts impressive collections of national and international works, and copious local talent is on show at a host of galleries and workshops. They’ve long been a creative lot here – the famous Temuka Pottery has been made in the small South Canterbury township since 1930. Check out today’s stunning clay offerings at the iconic Temuka Pottery Factory Shop.

Bring a hearty appetite on your visit here – because taste bud temptations are everywhere. Arm yourself with a copy of the South Canterbury Food & Wine Trail, and discover sublime edibles in every pocket of the district. The quaint township of Geraldine has become a gourmet Mecca – home to delicious local cheeses, fruit preserves and irresistible handmade chocolates. Get yourself along to the Geraldine Farmers’ market – held each Saturday in summertime – and sample the area’s best produce, smoked goods, preserves and some fine coffee. Timaru hosts a Saturday morning Farmers’ Market year round, with fresh seasonal produce, artisan bread, meats and much more, including lots of goodies to munch on while you shop.

Whatever you choose to eat and drink while you’re here you can be sure it’s served up with a passion for flavour, and a good dollop of Central South Island hospitality.

Waimate

Peacefulness and country charm – that’s what people love about the Waimate district. Come and discover the serenity for yourself, along with history and heritage, some world class fishing and outdoor pursuits. It’s the gateway to the picturesque Waitaki River Valley, and one of the few places in New Zealand where wallabies run wild.

Come and wander the wide streets of the heritage town of Waimate, lined with buildings showcasing Edwardian architecture. Delve into one of the best small museums in New Zealand, and take a peek at New Zealand’s most unusual war memorial at Waihao Forks Hotel – Ted’s Bottle. For more than 60 years a bottle of beer belonging to Private Ted D’Auvergne has remained unopened behind the bar. Legend has it that the publican of the day was saving the beer for when Tom returned from war – but he never made it home. There’s even been a book and a play written about the captivating relic.

A host of short walking tracks offer lovely glimpses into Waimate’s parklands, countryside and native bush. Head up the hill to the distinctive White Horse Monument on Mount John. Built in 1965 to mark the work of the Clydesdale horse, the summit offers stunning panoramic views over South Canterbury. If you’re not so energetic, you can also access the top by road.

There are loads of other outdoor activities to get out and enjoy here. Cast a line, with some of the world’s best trout and salmon fishing, race down the river on a raft, or try some dry land exploration on horseback. Mountain bikers of all abilities are fast discovering the trails in these parts, with picturesque landscapes to check out along the way.

Bring an appetite – you’ll find several operators here on the South Canterbury Food and Wine Trail, including the revered Havoc Pork – winner of the prestigious Cuisine Magazine Artisan Producer Award in 2011. Stop in for a cellar door tasting at Point Bush Estate, Waimate’s first vineyard. Waimate is also known as the berry capital of the South Island – so make sure you try some local berry lusciousness while you’re here. Each December, thousands celebrate the area’s berry fruit industry at the Waimate Strawberry Fare – a fantastic day of family entertainment with more than 250 stalls.

Waimate is the home of New Zealand’s largest wallaby, the redneck or brush wallaby. Thousands of the bouncy creatures roam the Hunter Hills beyond the Waimate township. Get up close and personal with the iconic local wild life by hand feeding or cuddling them at one of the area’s animal parks.

When you’re planning your South Island adventure, take note that the shortest distance from Christchurch to Queenstown is through Waimate. There’s plenty to stop for in this tranquil rural district, and take the journey in autumn for spectacular orange and yellow hues along the Waitaki Valley