Discover the greatest places to eat, drink, shop, and explore in South Canterbury.
Synonymous with some of the most stunning landscapes in Aotearoa, South Canterbury is known as the home of Aoraki, the tallest mountain in the country; picturesque rolling hills, vast grassy plains and bright turquoise lakes. It’s also where you’ll find a number of idyllic small towns filled with interesting boutiques, galleries and a growing number of class eateries. Naturally bound by the snow-capped ridge of the Southern Alps in the West, the Pacific Ocean in the East and the Waitaki and Rangitata rivers in the South and North, South Canterbury is proudly home to picturesque scenery and hard-working rural communities. The region is dotted with small towns perfect for day trips or as bases for a huge number of outdoor activities.
The largest town of the region, Timaru, sits right on the shore of the East Coast and is filled with historical buildings, top-quality restaurants, fashion outlets, cute boutiques and intriguing galleries. Caroline Bay, with its sweeping parks and sandy beach right in the town center, offers a retreat away from the hustle and bustle.
Just a quick drive inland, you’ll find the cute small town of Geraldine, which is nestled amongst the undulating foothills of the Southern Alps. A hub of creatives, makers and producers, you’ll be able to taste and explore your way around town easily on foot.
Further South, Fairlie is known as a midwinter ski-town, yet it’s just as charming other times of the year. Filled with quality boutiques and home to the famous Fairlie Bakehouse pies, this town is a true South Canterbury gem.
Famous for clear night skies and a world-renowned observatory, a spectacular, turquoise, glimmering lake and the historical Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo is a small settlement filled with activities and wonderful hospitality. It is the ideal base for both winter and summer outdoor activities, plus the most visually appealing place to retreat to afterwards.
Last but not least, the Southernmost town of the region, Twizel, is continuously growing with interesting new hospitality spots and all the services you need to make the most of the Aoraki National Park, which lies just a stone's throw away.
12 Hours in Timaru
Make the most of your flying visit to Timaru with our 12 hour guide, which will have you sipping the best coffee, nipping into intriguing boutiques and galleries, learning about the ancient practice of Māori rock art and filling up on the best food in town.
The Yellow Door Café
One of the latest additions to Timaru’s café scene, The Yellow Door at the high end of Stafford Street is hard to miss.
The Running Duck
Stepping inside the Running Duck café in the heart of Geraldine is like stepping inside a proper kiwi bach, albeit with great coffee on tap.
There is something quite special about stumbling across small, independent booksellers. Timaru Booksellers, in the heart of Timaru, is definitely one of those petite treasure troves for literature lovers.
A must-visit for anyone wanting to create a calm and considered home.
If a unique, cosy atmosphere, regular live music and a great selection of beverages sound like your kind of bar, then Hector Black’s is a must-visit.
If you find yourself craving a night of teppanyaki and whisky while in Timaru, point your nose to Saikou.
77 Art + Living
Fairlie might not be the first town that comes to mind when thinking of wonderful independent galleries across the motu, but 77 Art + Living is here to change that.
The Greedy Cow Café
This sunny corner store café in the heart of Lake Tekapo is a must stop whether you are just passing through or in town for longer.
Mint Folk & Co
Perhaps the most visually appealing cafe in the Mackenzie region, Mint Folk & Co is all about great food, great aesthetic and great service.
Barker's Foodstore & Eatery
Barker’s Foodstore & Eatery sits in a stunning setting on the banks of the Waihi River in the heart of Geraldine.
Blue Lake Eatery & Bar
Blue Lake Eatery & Bar boasts a menu that’s heavily influenced by the seasons and local produce - and with a French twist on Kiwi classics - think beef cheeks marinated in red wine or hot goat cheese salad with local Mackenzie honey.
Black & Co
Black & Co is located in the south end of Timaru’s CBD and focuses on quality fashion pieces for men and women, luxurious homewares and unique jewellery, the store is a must-visit.
5 Neat Mackenzie Activities and Where to Treat Yourself Afterwards
The Silverstream Hotel, a historical country pub in Kimbell, is an iconic Mackenzie region destination.
Ask a Timaru local where to eat in town and chances are they will point you in the direction of The Oxford.
Quite possibly the most scenic spot for a flat white in Aotearoa, Astro Café is a coffee shop experience not to be missed when visiting the Mackenzie region.
Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre
Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre in Timaru offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience and learn about the ancient Māori practice of rock art.
A Beginner’s Guide to the Southern Alps (for the Non-Outdoorsy Types)
The Southern Alps are celebrated around the world for their beauty. With incredible walks, tramps, skiing and outdoor adventures abound, it can feel like an adventurer’s paradise. However, if you prefer to enjoy the views in comfort, the Southern Alps still have plenty to offer.
Petronella's Gallery and Bookstore
Lake Tekapo’s only independent bookstore, Petronella’s Gallery and Bookstore, offers a sanctuary for both book and art lovers.
The Little Red Fox
The Little Red Fox is a contemporary fashion store located in the Mackenzie country town of Fairlie. Housed in a high ceilinged, stone-clad building in the centre of town, natural tones and raw wood beams set the scene for a pleasurable browsing experience.
Dark Sky Diner
Lakefront location, intimate interiors and compelling cuisine make Dark Sky Diner the ultimate Lake Tekapo dining destination.
Ministry of Works
Ministry of Works is the social go-to for both Twizel residents and visitors alike.
Carnegie's Restaurant & Bar
Set in a stunning, historical building that was originally built as a Carnegie library in the early 1900s, Carnegie's Restaurant & Bar is a true Mackenzie destination in...
Farm Barn Café
If there was ever a perfect stop to make when on the road with the family, Farm Barn Café on top of Mount Michael in the heart of Mackenzie District is it.
Geraldine Cheese Company
Geraldine Cheese Co. handcrafts small-batch cheese varieties in its petite factory in the heart of Geraldine town centre.
Humdinger Gin Distillery
There’s a sense of discovery when walking down the alleyway off the main street in Geraldine to a former garage workshop, which has been refurbished to house the...
Part museum, part second hand and vintage store, part coffee cart and real fruit ice cream trailer – there is so much to explore at Three Creeks.
Arthur Street Kitchen
Renowned for its delicious breakfast and lunch menu, plus house-made baking and hearty salads, Arthur Street Kitchen takes pride in producing as much as possible on their premises.
Matilda & The Metalman
Matilda & The Metalman sits neatly in a large corner shop space on Fairlie’s main street.
York St Gallery of Fine Art
Creatives of Canterbury rejoice—York Street Gallery of Fine Art in Timaru is here to satisfy your art cravings.
A Drink & Dine Experience for Every Season in South Canterbury
Café Verde in Geraldine is known for its luscious garden setting and outstanding food. Located in an old phone-exchange building, this is the local café-goers meeting spot where generations of friends and family come together over a cuppa.
Hydro Café & Twizel Bookshop
Hydro Café has been keeping the good people of Twizel well hydrated for nearly a decade.
What began as a tiny family business with a team of four thirteen years ago, has grown to be one of the best known and most awarded pie-shops in the country – Fairlie Bakehouse.
Susan Badcock Gallery & The Mailroom
Explore this unconventional gallery space where contemporary artworks by Susan Badcock and the wider creative Badcock family are showcased alongside other New Zealand artists.