I haven’t spent a lot of time in South Canterbury or North Otago; usually we have only passed through on our way to somewhere else. In saying that, I was born in Timaru, and did spend a weekend there with my family as a teenager once.
Caroline Bay is a great place for a coastal picnic, with a playground and a pretty rose garden to wander through. The museum has some cool fossils and Maori rock art, and Timaru’s green spaces are plentiful.
There are wallabies in Waimate. Wild ones, even. Crazy.
The historic Victorian quarter is really pretty and nice to explore on foot on a sunny day. Just north of the township is Riverstone Kitchen, a fantastic café/restaurant with quirky gift shops and a great space for kids to let off some steam. Whitestone Cheese is definitely worth stopping at – their Vintage Windsor Blue is divine.
The Waitaki Valley
Stop to see Maori rock art, take pictures of Lake Aviemore and Lake Benmore (the colour of the water is sublime), or stop at Pasquale to try their supreme pinot noir. There are places to fish and swim, and during the summer, this whole area is a popular camping spot.
Famous for two main things: boulders (featured above) and Fleurs Place. The former are a spectacular sight on the coast, massive stones that used to be part of the sea floor millions of years ago (although I like the Maori legend that the boulders are remains of baskets that washed ashore after the legendary canoe that bought the Ngai Tahu to the South Island was wrecked at nearby Shag Point.). The latter is a popular and highly-regarded café in the township, serving the freshest and most simply-cooked fish imaginable. Rick Stein and Gwyneth Paltrow are counted amongst Fleur’s famous fans.