For more than 100 years holidaymakers have been flocking to Timaru and Caroline Bay, one of New Zealand’s safest beaches for swimming. Next to famous Caroline Bay Timaru also features the world’s largest man-made harbor and the little town once was notorious for having shipwrecks along its coast prior to the harbor being built. On top you can enjoy some scenic walks around the Botanic Gardens with its impressive rose and endangered plant collections or take a stroll around the Trevor Griffiths Rose Garden at Caroline Bay. And for sunset you should definitely make sure to be at Caroline Bay to see the penguins coming home after a long day in the sea.

How to get there?

You easily can get to Timaru by train, bus or car. So it also makes a good stop during a roadtrip through New Zealand.


Our highlight certainly was to watch the penguins coming home to Caroline Bay after sunset. Park your car somewhere at Caroline Bay and make sure to be at the Marine Parade close to the rocks. You will see some signs telling you about the penguins and about how to behave when they arrive. And then you need to wait. It took two hours until we saw them and it was bloody cold, but it was worth it. At some point some volunteers will arrive and they will be more than happy to answer your questions. We had a really nice long chat with one of them and stayed until everybody else left – this was pretty cool because all the penguins came out of their nests later on to show off and make lots of noise.

How long to stay?

We only stayed for one night and think this should be enough. There is not that much to do in Timaru itself, but if the weather is nice you can take some time to relax at the beach and wander around the Botanic Gardens, so you might want to add some more days. If you are lucky the Timaru Caroline Bay Carnival is on (it runs for two weeks from Boxing Day) which certainly will add something to your stay. And you can also enjoy some good views of the Trevor Griffiths Rose Garden at Caroline Bay from the Piazza on Bay Hill.

Where to stay?

As we were traveling with a camper, we stayed at a car park close to Caroline Bay (44.390S, 171.253E). Staying there over night is free from 4pm to 10 am and for self-contained vehicles only. Make sure to arrive in time as places are limited. Toilets can be found right next to the parking area as well as changing rooms. If you fancy it, you can even have a shower at the beach. The beach is super close and you can easily reach the city center from this spot. It also is the perfect place to enjoy some nice walks at the beach and to head out and watch the penguins come home at night.