Places of South Canterbury

Here are some sources you could look at if you'd like to find out about places of South Canterbury.

1914-1915 Postcard illustration showing Caroline Bay, Timaru. There is a band playing in the rotunda with a crowd watching.

Image: Caroline Bay, Timaru, New Zealand, 1912-1915, Timaru, by Muir & Moodie. Collection: Te Papa PS.001037/01.

Which places can I learn about?

Here are some places in South Canterbury you could find out about:

Lake Takapō | Tekapo

Lake Takapō | Tekapo
Well-known for its beautiful blue colour. Located in the Mackenzie District.

Find out about Lake Takapō | Tekapo
Waitarakao | Washdyke Lagoon

Waitarakao | Washdyke Lagoon
A special place for wildlife and mahika kai, food gathering.

Find out about Waitarakao | Washdyke Lagoon
Aoraki | Mt Cook

Aoraki | Mt Cook
Aotearoa New Zealand's tallest peak and a sacred ancestor of Kāi Tahu.

Find out about Aoraki | Mt Cook
Arowhenua Marae

Arowhenua Marae
In the Temuka area, between the Temuka and Ōpihi Rivers.

Find out about Arowhenua Marae
Waihao Marae

Waihao Marae
In the Morven area, south of Waimate.

Find out about Waihao Marae

Tips: These are just some examples of places you could research. You may have somewhere different you're interested in finding out about. Just use the place name as your search terms in the resources below.

South Canterbury resources

These local sources have information about the history of places important to South Canterbury.

Kā Huru Manu

Kā Huru Manu (The Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project) records and maps the traditional Māori place names and their histories in the Ngāi Tahu rohe (tribal area).

  • To search select View the atlas in top right hand corner.

  • Use the search bar to search for any New Zealand address or Ngāi Tahu place name.

  • Select on any feature on the map to get detailed information about the location.

  • Or back on the home page choose Kā Ara Tawhito to find out stories of Māori highways and trade.

Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua

This is the site of the Arowhenua marae, the principal Māori kainga of South Canterbury.

  • Select Whakapapa to find out about the history of Arowhenua, Te Hapa o Niu Tireni and Te Kerēme (The Broken Promises of NZ and the Ngāi Tahu Claim).

Te Runanga o Waihao

Learn about the history the people of Waihao Rohe near Morven in the Waimate District.

South Canterbury Museum

The South Canterbury Museum looks at the land, life, and people of South Canterbury. It collects specimens, artifacts, images, and documents.

Visit the museum in Timaru to find out:

  • How local Māori lived in the region, from their arrival over 800 years ago, in the museum's Takata Whenua exhibition area.

  • Learn about mahika kai, the seasonal food-gathering cycle which enabled local people to best use the resources of our land.

  • Find out about where European settlers made their homes, and changed the land through farming and trade, in the Early Settlers, Farming, and Port Development exhibition areas.

Te Ana

Visit Te Ana Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art centre in Timaru, where you can discover the stories of South Canterbury's ancient Māori rock art and learn about the people who created it in limestone caves around the South Canterbury region.

  • 2 George St, Timaru.

  • Please check their website for opening hours.

Aoraki Heritage Collection

This is the online heritage collection from Timaru District Libraries. It includes historical documents, newspaper clippings, photographs, biographies of local people and more.

Tips: Old newspaper articles and documents like the ones found on Aoraki Heritage can be good for looking at how things have continued or changed over time. Remember, stories can be told in different ways so it’s helpful to look at multiple information sources to find different perspectives.

South Canterbury Museum Collections Online

This is where the South Canterbury Museum has items that they've digitised and made available online.

  • Have a read through the Tips for Searching to help you with your search.

  • Select Keyword Search and enter a name of a place.

  • Choose a record to have a closer look.

General New Zealand resources

These websites have good information about the history of South Canterbury and the rest of New Zealand.

Māori Maps

Find information on local South Canterbury marae – through maps, information and photographs.

  • Search marae by name, hapū, iwi, region

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

‘Te ara’ in Māori means ‘the pathway’. Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand is a guide to people, the natural environment, history, culture, economy, institutions and society.

  • Search using the name of the place in the search bar

  • Or go to Places and then South Canterbury to explore stories of the region and the largest South Canterbury towns.

  • Select a town for more information on it and its nearby settlements.

Tips: We like Te Ara because it is from a government organisation. You can tell this by their web address, which includes .govt. It is also a New Zealand site, so relevant for us.

Toitū Te Whenua - Place name stories

The names of many of the great lakes of the South Island were given by Rākaihautū. Toitū Te Whenua (Land Information New Zealand) shares these stories taken from 'A Māori Oral History Atlas'.

Papers Past

This website has digitised copies of South Canterbury newspapers, from between 1860 and 1945. Use it to search for information on South Canterbury events. Go to the website, then:

  • Choose newspapers and you will have the option to limit your search by title, region or date.

  • Local papers you can limit by are The Timaru Herald, Temuka Leader, the South Canterbury Times and the Waimate Daily Advertiser.

  • Search for the name of the place.

  • You can also add keywords to your place name eg 'Waimate influenza'.

Tips: We like Papers Past because it is from a government organisation (the National Library of New Zealand). You can tell this by their web address, which includes .govt. It is also a New Zealand site, so relevant for us.

Tips: Historical sources eg newspapers can be useful for finding different perspectives on a topic. Keep in mind that they may not fairly show a wide range of views or experiences.


This is a search site that focuses on Aotearoa New Zealand's history and brings together results from lots of different websites such as New Zealand libraries, museums, universities, and government sites all at once.

  • Search using the name of a place.

  • Look at a range of videos, audio, articles and images, and more about your topic.

Rārangi Kōrero | New Zealand Heritage List

This is part of the Heritage New Zealand website. It is a record of place-based heritage in New Zealand.

  • To browse places, under Local Authorities select either the Timaru, Mackenzie or Waimate District.

  • Then select the Show listings button to see all the places.

  • You also have the option to use filters to search by keywords, list types or show listings.

Department of Conservation (DOC)

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is the government website about preserving the natural and historical places of New Zealand. You can see it’s a government site by looking at the About us or Contact links at the top of the page.

  • Go to Our Work and select Heritage.

  • Then choose Explore heritage sites by region.

  • Select Canterbury.

  • Choose a place to find out about.


Here are a few books about South Canterbury places for you to look for at your school or local library. Your local librarian is a great person to ask for books on specific places in South Canterbury.

SCIS no: 5496537

More about South Canterbury

People of South Canterbury

Here are some sources you could look at if you'd like to find out about individual people or groups of people from South Canterbury.

Learn about people of South Canterbury

Events of South Canterbury

Lots of things have happened that have impacted life in South Canterbury. The following resources explore these events and can offer some different perspectives.

Learn about events of South Canterbury