Ace Rental Cars Blog

Christchurch to Timaru Road Trip

Embark on an unforgettable journey through the stunning landscapes and vibrant cultures of New Zealand's South Island from ‘The Garden City’ of Christchurch to the port city of Timaru. Discover the natural wonders of Ōtautahi / Christchurch before travelling southwest along the coast to reach Timaru. Uncover our list of places to stop by during your road trip to uncover the hidden treasures and unforgettable experiences awaiting you on the South Island.

  • Christchurch
  • Rakaia Gorge - Ashburton
  • Ashburton - Geraldine
  • Timaru


  • Te Māra Huaota o Waipapa / Christchurch Botanic Gardens
  • Christchurch Tram

Your adventure begins in the largest city on the South Island - Ōtautahi / Christchurch. Named the ‘Garden City’ for its wide open spaces, colourful blooms and dazzling lakes, there’s no better way to start your Christchurch exploration than in the Te Māra Huaota o Waipapa / Christchurch Botanic Gardens. With ten flowering gardens including a Central Rose Garden and Water Garden, as well as conservatories and native New Zealand gardens, it’s a nature lover’s paradise. Admire the sculptures and artworks on display, delve into science at the Magnetic Observatory exhibition, and hear the sounds of the New Zealand World Peace Bell ring out through the gardens, evoking a serene atmosphere. After relaxing amongst the greenery, book an all-day pass and jump aboard the iconic Christchurch Tram for an exciting sightseeing tour. The tram passes 18 stops including Cathedral Square, Canterbury Museum and New Regent Street, letting you discover the city at your own pace. Enjoy brunch at a local cafe like Hello Sunday to pause for a moment of reflection before heading out on the road.

Rakaia Gorge - Ashburton

  • Rakaia Gorge Walkway
  • Rakaia’s Salmon Statue
  • Ashburton Aviation Museum

Now it’s time to swap greenery for scenery at Rakaia Gorge - about an hour inland from Christchurch in your Ace rental car. Load up some easy listening tunes, roll down the window and feel your worries drift away with the wind. Upon arrival at the Gorge, turquoise blue waters surrounded by luscious forests make a postcard-perfect image, providing photography opportunities like no other. Traverse the canyon on the 10km walkway tramping track, taking in views of the rugged cliffs, flowing river and distant mountain tops. If time allows, visit the town’s giant salmon statue - symbolising the fruitful fishing in the Rakaia River. After your scenic exploration in Rakaia, travel 40 minutes South to reach Hakatere / Ashburton. A stopover in Ashburton perfectly breaks up your road trip to Timaru. Whether you’re planning to stay overnight or just spend a few hours out of the car, it’s a popular town with plenty to see. Interested in aviation? Delve into all things aircraft at the Ashburton Aviation Museum. Located on a WWII training base, the museum displays an extensive collection of vintage and rare aeroplanes for an intriguing look into Ashburton’s past. Feeling peckish? Spend an evening picnicking in the Ashburton Domain or settle in for a meal at local bar and restaurant, Armadillo’s, for a taste of local flavours.

Ashburton - Geraldine

  • Ashburton Art Gallery
  • Trott’s Garden
  • Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve

Continue your exploration of Hakatere with a visit to the Ashburton Art Gallery. Let the colours and composition of works created by local artists inspire you, perhaps to create an artwork of your own reflecting on your adventure across the South Island. Visiting during spring or summer? Admire Rhododendrons in bloom at Ashburton’s hidden gem - Trott’s Garden. Pack a picnic or grab a drink from the drinks caravan and embrace the beauty of the manicured gardens, complete with hedge mazes and tree-lined archways. When ready to continue your journey toward Timaru, head back out on the road and make your way to Heretini / Geraldine. Moments of serenity await here, with time spent surrounded by natural beauty at the Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve. Offering four short walks, the Forest boasts a collection of native trees including an estimated 800-year-old tōtara tree. Back in town, stroll down Cox Street to discover local delights, such as New Zealand-made clothing, the Geraldine Cheese Company and the Geraldine Historical Museum.


  • Caroline Bay
  • Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre
  • Little Blue Penguins

Arrive in Timaru after a 30-minute drive in your Ace rental car. Enjoy the ocean views from the golden sands of Caroline Bay Beach and let the lapping waves evoke a sense of calm. Take some time here to journal, capture scenic shots and take a dip in the refreshing water, soaking up the blissful atmosphere of the beach. In town, delve into culture and history with a tour at the Te Ana Māori Rock Art Centre. Choose between a self-guided or guided tour through the interactive centre which follows in the footsteps of the local Māori tribe, showcasing eight pieces of ancient rock art. Here, you’ll also learn about the history of rock drawing and are invited to immerse yourself in the culture by creating your own rock art. When it’s time to dine, head to Cave Kitchen for woodfired pizza or tacos in a relaxed outdoor setting and enjoy warm hospitality and delicious food. As the sun sets over the Bay, head back down to the beach to see the kororā / little blue penguins emerge from the water and make their way to their burrows on the shore.

From exploring charming towns and indulging in local cuisine to immersing yourself in the rich history and natural beauty of the region, every moment is a new adventure waiting to be explored on the South Island; and you can see it all with an Ace.

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