Dunedin to Timaru Road Trip

If you’re road-tripping across the South Island, there are plenty of family-friendly, entertaining activities and destinations to enjoy. From adventuring ancient rainforests to spending a day at the beach, we’ve put together the best things to do on a family holiday from Ōtepoti / Dunedin to Timaru. 

Glenfalloch Woodland Park
Dunedin - Oamaru

After you’ve picked up your Dollar rental car from our Dunedin Airport Branch, drive just ten minutes out of the city to the Glenfalloch Woodland Gardens for some morning exploration amongst greenery. Named after the Gaelic word for ‘hidden valley’, Glenfalloch is a historical garden filled with native plants, flowering blooms and historic architecture dating back to the 1800s. Explore the gardens with family and enjoy breakfast with a view at the on-site cafe and restaurant, serving up delicious garden-inspired dishes and kids’ meals. From here, depart Dunedin and head north towards Oamaru. While on the road, stop by Koekohe Beach to admire the intriguing Moeraki Boulders. Kids will love hopping from one giant stone boulder to another, while adults can pause here to snapshot some family memories and enjoy a short beachside break. Upon arrival in Oamaru, head down to the Blue Penguin Colony to watch kororā / little blue penguins emerge from the sea and head back to their burrows for the night. Viewing times vary depending on the season, remember to check the Penguin Information Calendar to plan your visit.

Caroline Bay Beach
Oamaru - Timaru

Continuing on toward Timaru, depart Oamaru in the morning, stopping at Riverstone Kitchen for a delicious family breakfast. Kids’ meals are available here as well as traditional breakfast meals in a modern, cafe setting. There’s also a gift shop here for you to browse and pick up any souvenirs to remind you of your time spent in the Otago region. From here, it’s just under an hour’s drive along the coast in your Dollar rental car to reach Timaru. Travelling with family? Make the drive feel faster with a game of I Spy, or see how many wildlife creatures they can spot - fur seals and penguins are not uncommon around this area. Once you’ve arrived in Timaru, visit the town’s most popular spot - Caroline Bay Beach - for an afternoon on the shore. An ideal place to swim, make sandcastles and picnic, the Bay is also home to an annual carnival taking place in summer. If visiting when the carnival is on, it’s an excellent place to take the family and spend some time making memories.

South Canterbury Museum
Spending Time in Timaru

Start your second day in Timaru with a visit to the Aigantighe Art Gallery. Featuring a diverse collection of artworks that the whole family can enjoy, you’ll admire New Zealand, Pacific, Asian and European works dating back to the sixteenth century. After a tour around the gallery, enjoy a stroll through the outdoor garden which comprises over 25 sculptures across two acres of greenery. Next, delve into local history with an outing to the South Canterbury Museum. With collections featuring Māori, social, natural history and stories of European settlement, it’s the perfect spot for kids and adults alike to learn about the history of the region. Plus, there are a range of activities and programs here made especially for kids visiting the museum. After lunch, drive up to the Centennial Park Scenic Reserve for a stroll around the lake. With playground equipment, walking trails and picnic areas here, it’s an excellent spot for the whole family to spend the afternoon before heading back into town for dinner. 

Peel Forest Park
Explore Even More

After exploring Timaru, it’s time to hit the road and finish your journey by stopping at some attractions around the area. Before departing, visit The Village Cafe for breakfast in a friendly atmosphere with a community-feel. If you’re travelling with car lovers, discover a world of vintage cars, tractors and machinery at the Geraldine Vintage Car and Machinery Museum, about 35 minutes from Timaru. With collections including motorbikesships’ engines and film and communications equipment, there’s truly something for everyone here. Continue your exploration with an adventure at the Peel Forest Park Scenic Reserve. There are four walking and tramping tracks to choose from here, ranging from easy to advanced through the ancient rainforest with captivating landscapes and waterfalls to discover. Keep an eye out for native plants including lowland tōtara, kahikatea and mataī, and native animals like the black-billed gull, spiders and beetles and mokomoko / lizards. Visit The Green Man at Peel Forest for a bite to eat surrounded by rainforest views before returning your rental vehicle and ending your holiday.  

After a road trip from Dunedin to Timaru, you’ll have stumbled across unique attractions, scenic landscapes and bring home cherished memories to look back on forever.

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