Timaru is a beautiful coastal town in the South Canterbury region of the South Island of New Zealand, with plenty of activities for families with kids.
Whether you’re a local or a tourist, there are plenty of things to do in Timaru with kids that will keep them entertained and engaged.
You’ll find free and paid activities and options for all ages and interests.
From exploring nature to learning about local history, there’s no shortage of fun things to do in Timaru.
Hiking and Walks
Timaru has plenty of hiking and biking trails to explore.
Centennial Park Walkway
The Centennial Park Walkway is popular, as it offers stunning views of the town and the coastline.
Te Ana Loop Track
The Te Ana Loop Track is a great option for those who want to get off the beaten track. This 2.5km trail takes you through native bush and offers stunning views of the ocean.
South Beach Coastal Track
The 20-minute hike follows a well-maintained path along the shore, along a sandy beach north towards Timaru Harbour.
It is an enjoyable walk where you can see wildlife, including penguin seals, dolphins, and otters as well as oystercatchers and terns.
Timaru Botanic Gardens
The Timaru Botanic Gardens offers multiple walking tracks suitable for every fitness level.
The garden is spread across a 19-hectare land, featuring a conservatory, fernery, ornamental ponds, and different themed gardens, including two rose and tulip gardens.
It is a great place to enjoy peace and quiet among the greenery, feed ducks at the pond, and take beautiful photos.
Beaches and Water Activities
Timaru is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand. Here are some of the best beaches and water activities to enjoy with your kids:
Caroline Bay Beach
Caroline Bay Beach is a safe and sheltered beach, making it an ideal spot for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking.
The beach also has a playground, a paddling pool, and a water slide, making it a great place for kids to have fun.
Patiti Point is a scenic spot located on the outskirts of Timaru. It is a great place for families to enjoy a picnic or a BBQ while taking in the stunning views of the ocean. The beach is also a popular spot for surfing and fishing.
The Timaru Lighthouse is an iconic landmark that has been guiding ships into Timaru Harbour since 1878.
The lighthouse is located on a rocky outcrop and offers stunning ocean views. It is a great spot for families to walk and enjoy the fresh sea breeze.
The Otipua Wetlands is a beautiful nature reserve located on the outskirts of Timaru. It is a great place for families to go birdwatching, fishing, or canoeing.
The wetlands are home to a variety of bird species, including the rare Australasian Bittern.
Nature and Wildlife
Timaru is surrounded by natural beauty and offers plenty of opportunities for families to explore the great outdoors.
Here are some of the top nature and wildlife attractions:
Te Ana Ngai Tahu Rock Art Centre
The Te Ana Ngai Tahu Rock Art Centre is a must-visit destination for families interested in learning about the history and culture of the Ngai Tahu people.
The centre offers guided tours of the rock art sites, which are some of the best-preserved in the world.
Visitors can also explore the interactive exhibits and displays that showcase the traditional stories and practices of the Ngai Tahu.
See the Little Blue Penguins
Visiting the Little Blue Penguins at Timaru Port is one of the best free things to do in Timaru.
The Little Blue Penguin, also known as the Fairy Penguin or Kororā, is the smallest species of penguin and can be found in New Zealand.
These unique birds are easily identified by their slate-blue plumage and weigh only 2 to 3 pounds.
At Timaru Port, families can watch the Little Blue Penguins come ashore at night when predators are less active.
TimaruPenguins.co.nz recommends watching them from Marine Parade, the 1st left at the bottom of the Loop Road and is lit by the Port security lights.
Go past the skating rink and camper van park and look for a “penguin crossing” road sign. No flash photography is allowed.
Feed the ducks at Centennial Park
Situated along the southwestern boundary of Timaru, Centennial Park is a popular spot for families and people looking to enjoy nature.
The 65-hectare park was once home to basalt quarries owned by the Timaru Harbour Board and private parties, which have since been repurposed into an area ideal for walking, jogging, mountain biking, exercising dogs, and BMXing.
The lake in the park offers kayaking, Optimist class sailing, and fishing opportunities. The council website has an orienteering course you can download for free.
Families can also use the playground or feed the ducks around the lake.
Two BBQs are also available for use for free.
Explore Shearers Quarters
One of our favourite activities in Timaru is visiting the Shearers Quarters.
It’s a destination cafe with a playground, indoor play area, maze, animal farm and mini golf.
The farm offers child-friendly animals for children to enjoy and sells animal feed bags for $2.
Mini golf is $7.50 per person with the last admittance at 3 pm. The farm also offers a giant checkers set and Pétanque, a game originating from France.
The one-of-a-kind maze is available for $7.50 per person with the last admittance at 3.15 pm. The combo deal is available for those who want to try all three activities.
Take Your Pick from 43 Playgrounds
Timaru Council manages 43 playgrounds in the area. So you’ll be sure to find a children’s playground your family will love.
Caroline Bay playground is a favourite, but is closed for rebuilding – others to check out Lough Park, Marchwiel, Alexandra Square and Mulcahy Park.
Check out Wuhoo Timaru for a list of playgrounds and their printable Play43 Challenge.
Famlan Farm Park
Children of all ages love farm parks; Famlan Farm Park is no exception.
Open Saturday 10-3, Sunday 12-3 or weekdays by appointment, this is one place your kids can get up close and personal with some cute farmyard animals and one of the top Timaru things to do with kids.
When the weather is not ideal for outdoor activities, there are plenty of indoor options to keep your kids entertained in Timaru.
Aigantighe Art Gallery
The Aigantighe (pronounced egg and tie) Art Gallery is a great place to take your kids if they enjoy art.
The gallery has a range of exhibitions throughout the year, including works from local and international artists.
There is also a sculpture garden outside that you can explore. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
South Canterbury Museum
The South Canterbury Museum is a must-visit for families interested in learning about the region’s history.
The museum has a range of exhibits that cover everything from Maori culture to the arrival of European settlers.
There is also a children’s area where kids can dress in period costumes and play with historical toys. Admission is free.
Movie Max Digital Cinemas
If your kids enjoy movies, then Movie Max Digital Cinemas is the perfect place to take them.
The cinema has multiple screens and shows all the latest releases.
Chipmunks Indoor Playland
Chipmunks Indoor Playland is the perfect place for kids to burn off energy.
The playland has a range of activities, including slides, ball pits, and climbing structures.
There is also a separate area for toddlers. Admission prices vary depending on the day and time.
Pleasant Point Museum & Railway
The Pleasant Point Museum and Railway is a must-see attraction for train enthusiasts, located in the small town of Pleasant Point, about 20 minutes drive from Timaru.
This award-winning museum and railway feature two steam engines, two diesels, and one of the world’s only Model T Ford railcars.
Visitors can explore 2km of the former Fairlie branch line preserved to showcase yesterday’s history.
The museum also houses a collection of steam locomotives, including Ab 699, built-in 1922 by A and G Price Thames, and D16, built-in 1878.
With its unique blend of history and fun activities, the Pleasant Point Museum & Railway will be an enjoyable experience for all ages.
Check the running days on their website.
Have a pool day at CBay Aquatics
The centre has a wave pool, water slides, and a lazy river, as well as a range of other water play areas.
Te Ana Maori Rock Art Centre
Located in the heart of Timaru, the Te Ana Maori Rock Art Centre is an educational and interactive experience perfect for kids.
The centre features a range of exhibits that showcase the rich culture of the Maori people, including traditional art and artefacts.
Visitors can also take part in guided tours of the nearby rock art sites, where they can learn about the ancient stories and traditions passed down through generations.
The Timaru Observatory is a great place for kids to learn about astronomy and the universe’s wonders.
Visitors can take part in guided tours of the observatory, where they can learn about the planets and stars in our solar system.
The observatory also features a range of telescopes and other equipment visitors can use to observe the night sky.
Timaru District Library
The Timaru District Library is a great place for kids to learn and explore.
They have a large collection of books, magazines, and other materials perfect for kids of all ages.
The library also hosts various events and activities throughout the year, including story time, craft sessions, and book clubs.
Highfield Historic Reserve
Highfield Historic Reserve is a great place for kids to learn about the history of Timaru. The reserve features a number of historic buildings and gardens that are open to the public.
There are several historic buildings on the reserve, including the Highfield Homestead, which was built in the 1860s.
Kids can take a guided tour of the homestead and learn about what life was like for early settlers in Timaru.
The reserve also has several beautiful gardens perfect for a picnic or a stroll.
Rangitata River Rafting
For older kids (13+) looking for a more extreme adventure, Rangitata River rafting is easily accessible from Timaru.
Food and Drink
Timaru has a range of great dining options for families.
Bay Hill Brewery
They have a wide selection of craft beers and ciders, and their menu features a range of pub-style food with an excellent kids menu that is sure to please the whole family.
The brewery is located in a beautiful setting with outdoor seating available, perfect for a sunny day out with the kids.
The Oxford has a relaxed atmosphere and is a great place to stop for a meal or a drink after a day out exploring the town.
Cookie fans will love the Skillet Cookie.
Speights Ale House
Timaru Farmers Market
Held on Saturday mornings, this is a great place to stock up on fruits, vegetables, and other goodies. There are also stalls selling handmade crafts and baked goods.
Events and Festivals
Caroline Bay Carnival
The Caroline Bay Carnival is an annual event that takes place in Timaru during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
This carnival has been a tradition in Timaru for over 100 years and is a popular event for families.
The carnival features a range of rides, games, and food stalls. There are also live performances and entertainment for all ages.
South Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Show
The South Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Show is an annual event in November in Waimate (approximately a 30-minute drive south of Timaru).
This show celebrates agriculture, farming, and rural life in New Zealand with a range of livestock competitions, food stalls, and entertainment for all ages.
Timaru Festival of Roses
The Timaru Festival of Roses is an annual event in November.
This festival is a celebration of the beautiful roses that are grown in Timaru and features stunning geometric rose beds in full bloom.
The festival features a range of activities, including garden tours, workshops, and live performances.
Day Trips from Timaru
Just a 30-minute drive from Timaru, Geraldine is a charming town that’s perfect for a day trip with kids.
Start your day with a visit to the Geraldine Vintage Car and Machinery Museum, where you can see a range of vintage cars, tractors, and other machinery.
Then, head to Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve for a picnic and a walk through the beautiful forest.
Oamaru is a historic town about an hour’s drive from Timaru.
Start your day with a visit to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, where you can see the world’s smallest penguins in their natural habitat.
Then, head to the Oamaru Victorian Precinct, where you can wander through the historic streets and visit the shops and galleries.
Finish your day with a visit to the Steampunk HQ, where you can see a range of art and installations.
Moeraki is about an hour and a half’s drive from Timaru.
Start your day with a visit to the Moeraki Boulders, which are large, spherical stones scattered along the beach.
Then, head to the Katiki Point Lighthouse, where you can see seals, penguins, and other wildlife.
Yes, you can do a day trip to Lake Tekapo from Timaru. The drive is approximately 1.5 hours, depending on the route taken.
Once there, you can explore the stunning turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo, visit the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd, and take in views of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.
There are plenty of activities to enjoy, such as hiking the Mount John Summit Track, visiting hot pools at Tekapo Springs, or stargazing.
Things to do in Timaru with Kids – Tips and FAQs
Do I need my own car in Timaru?
While Timaru does have a public transport service, most travellers prefer to discover Timaru’s sights in their own vehicles.
If you need public transport, you’ll want to invest in a Metrocard. More information can be found here.
Christchurch users take note the Christchurch Metro card can not be used in Timaru.
What is there to do in Timaru on school holidays?
Timaru has a range of activities that will keep everyone entertained during the school holidays.
From exploring rock pools and swimming at CBay, to disc and mini golf, there is something for everyone.
The South Canterbury Museum is a great place to explore ancient art galleries, while Caroline Bay Beach provides plenty of space for swimming, volleyball or whatever else takes your fancy.
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not check out the Little Blue Penguins or the Aigantighe Art Gallery?
If that’s not enough, Famlan Farm Park and Centennial Park offer plenty of fun for kids of all ages.
Is Timaru worth visiting?
Our family love travelling to Timaru. It’s an easy drive from Christchurch with lots of fun things to do with kids and all the comforts and services of home.
From parks and playgrounds to beaches and nature walks, family-friendly restaurants and cafes, museums and art galleries, Timaru has a lot to offer visitors.
It’s more than a snack stop between Christchurch and Dunedin; stay a few days and find out for yourself.
Timaru is a great place to visit with kids, offering a variety of activities and attractions that are sure to keep the whole family entertained.