Geraldine is a picturesque country village located in the heart of the South Island, on the Inland Scenic Route 72, about 1.5 hours south of Christchurch and just a 35-minute drive north of Timaru. Set on the edge of the Canterbury Plains and among the foothills of the southern alps, the Waihi River winds its way through the laidback town centre, graced with majestic trees, native bush walkways and early settler’s cottages.
The friendliness, tranquillity, and wealth of history of Geraldine make this popular tourist stop hard to resist. Geraldine was settled by Europeans in the 1840s - sheep runs were quickly established in the area together with pit saw milling of native bush. When the bush had been cleared, wheat and flax cropping became significant across the plains. Geraldine became a Town in 1884 and a Borough in 1905.
The area boasts a warm microclimate, with hot dry summers and crisp sunny winter days. The locals are friendly, welcoming, and always up for a chat.
Geraldine’s arty vibe and café scene has waylaid more than one traveller over the years, adding a definite international flavour to the feel of the town which is home to many nationally acclaimed artists, accounting for the many galleries and studios dotted around.
You can pick up very own Badcock, Deavoll, or Woollcombe original while here and you might even find yourself bumping into the artist in the street or in the same queue for coffee at a local eatery.
The area is very motorhome friendly, with a range of stay options available, plus loads of useful services, including a well-stocked supermarket, health services, pharmacy, and petrol station.
Geraldine offers the perfect chance to relax and explore – birdsong, bush walks, and bike rides are the order of the day here.
Talbot Forest, a preserved remnant of ancient podocarp forest overlooking the town, is criss-crossed with walks for all levels. During the day hear the coo of the Kereru or catch a glimpse of cheeky fantails and by night you might be lucky enough to spot the rare and endangered long tailed bat (Pekapeka).
The riverside walkway is a riot of colour in springtime when the blooming rhododendrons are on full display. It’s a wonderful place to pause and revitalise.
Geraldine offers a great range of on and off-road cycling, including the excellent Orari River Tracks, just a short drive from town, and PekaPeka Gully, right next to Talbot Forest in the centre of Geraldine.
For more leisurely outdoor activities, Geraldine is blessed with 2 golf courses in town (plus a rural themed minigolf course) and a further 12 courses within a 30-minute drive. Club hire and bike hire make it easy to enjoy all that there is to do in Geraldine.
As the gateway to the International Dark Sky Reserve at Lake Tekapo, Geraldine’s pristine night sky is great for star gazing, particularly in winter, and with one of the best private observatories in New Zealand located in town and open to the public, you’ll be in for an inspiring experience.
The historic cinema and live music nights at various eateries offer a chance to get out and about to socialise in the evenings. The heritage trail around town complements both the interesting historical museum and renowned Vintage Car and Machinery museum, which boasts many ‘world’s only’ exhibits.
Events pack the town’s calendar – festivals, fetes, parades and so much more seem to be constantly happening in Geraldine so make sure you check the events calendar before you come or ask what’s on when you arrive.
Foodies will delight in the chance to taste and purchase direct from Kiwi favourites such as Barker’s of Geraldine, The Geraldine Cheese Company and more. The Farmer’s Market, open during the summer months in St Mary’s Churchyard, is the place to be in Geraldine on a Saturday morning with music, produce, crafts and good coffee, all jostling for space.
Peel Forest, a short drive north of Geraldine is a native treasure, with a great selection of short and long bush walks, including the Mt Peel ascent, which offers sweeping views out across the patchwork plains below and on to the Pacific Ocean at the horizon. In addition, there is a camping ground, fantastic café, and plenty of history – a night or two here would be the perfect complement to your stay in Geraldine.
You’ll find the small outlying settlements of Woodbury, Orari and Pleasant Valley also hold plenty of surprises and chances to explore –all are within comfortable riding distance or make a great circuit for a leisurely drive, with the café at Orari a perfect refreshment stop.
In summer, Geraldine locals head to the river gorges to cool off for swimming, picnics and fun. Ask a local about the water holes and waterfalls – they can be a little tricky to find but are well worth the effort.
Geraldine is a place you’ll find yourself returning to over and over – for its warm welcome, genuine hospitality, stunning landscape, and the abundance of things to see and do that let you set the pace to explore. It’s all here in Geraldine – naturally!
Geraldine Visitor Information Centre: