Timaru, whose name comes from the Māori "Te Maru" (shelter), began life as two towns, one called Government Town and the other Rhodestown. The two towns met at George Street and merged in 1868. As Timaru's harbor was developed and its foreshore reclaimed, the Caroline Bay beach took shape and became a popular summer venue for its concerts and sideshows. Take a walk around the waterfront area at Caroline Bay where various festivals and events are held throughout the year—catch the farmers’ market there every Sunday morning. There's a rose garden, semi-enclosed soundshell for outdoor performances, paddling pool, and play area; the boardwalk and sand dune area down at the beach are a great spot to unwind after a day in the car.
These days, Timaru is the urban hub for South Canterbury and is a two-hour drive south of Christchurch—close enough for a weekend trip but far enough away to have its own strong identity. Mountain-biking is a growing sport here with some good trails through Centennial Park Reserve in the city, and a number farther out in the hinterlands.