Geraldine is often overlooked as a sleepy country town, or at best a pit stop while travelling between better-known destinations. However, tucked between the foothills of the Southern Alps, and set along the winding Waihi River, the picturesque town is perfect to sample a range of outdoor activities. History, art, and nature coalesce in Geraldine to interest travellers of any taste. Here, we offer 10 ways to have fun in the buzzing town.
1. Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve
Just 5 minutes off Geraldine’s main street is Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve, a 26 ha (64.2 acre) park with towering trees dating more than several centuries. The reserve is a vestige of the lowland podocarp and hardwood native forest that once covered the town. Ideal for those looking to sample New Zealand’s rich outdoors and get a quick breath of fresh air, the reserve offers 4 easy walks beneath the shade of its ancient inhabitants. Pack a hearty picnic before your walk and enjoy lunch at one of its many picnic areas.
Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve
Address: Talbot Forest can be accessed from Hislop, Totara, Davies, Tripp, or Bridge Streets
Website: Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve
2. Peel Forest Horse Trekking
Peel Forest, a preserved park about 23 km (14.3 mi) north of Geraldine, offers a much more challenging trek. The forest is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, of which includes the ancient giants kahikatea (white pine), tōtara, and mataī (black pine). These sentients of Peel Forest belong to the family of Podocarpaceae, which dates back to more than 100 million years. Nature aside, the forest also has a fascinating origin story. According to Māori culture, the first settlers of the land, Chief Tarahaoa and his wife Huatekerekere, were transformed into Big Mount Peel and Little Mount Peel upon their deaths. Their tamariki (children) became the mighty tōtara of the forest, while their mokopuna (grandchildren) became the Four Peaks
Stunning as Peel Forest and its landscape is, make the experience even more memorable by having the soothing rhythm of horseback carry you up the track. Horse trek tours can be tailored to suit your schedule and expertise, and the informative guides are always happy to share more about the history and conservation efforts of the park.
Peel Forest Horse Trekking
Address: 105 Dennistoun Road Peel Forest, Geraldine NZ
Website: Peel Forest Horse Trekking
3. Waihi River Alpaca Walk
If you are looking to befriend something woolier than a horse, the alpaca walks along the banks of Waihi River might appeal to you. Waihi River begins in the Four Peaks Range, and flows through the town of Geraldine before it merges with the Opihi River. The tranquil setting makes these calm creatures the perfect companion for a stroll. Meet the rest of the herd in the alpaca yard, and drop by the petting zoo to feed and cuddle with the rabbits, guinea pigs, and pet lamb.
Waihi River Alpaca Walk
Address:188 Beeby Road, Geraldine NZ (access from Geraldine-Winchester Rd only)
Website: Alpaca Walk
4. Rangitata White Water Rafting
Rangitata, translating loosely to “side of the sky” in Maori, is a network of interweaving rivers that pulse beneath the Peel Mountains. Building momentum as it flows from the glaciers of the Southern Alps, Rangitata draws white water rafters from all over the world to take a charge at its roaring rapids. Rafters can choose between two options: the more thrilling Rangitata Gorge, which scales up from level 1 to 5, or the Lower Rangitata, an option that keeps the ride family-friendly at level 2.
For fans of Lord of the Rings, the magnificent valley through which the river wends may be known by a different name — the city of Endoras.
Address: Peel Forest 53 Waikari Rd, South Canterbury 7992, NZ
Website: Rangitata Rafting
5. Geraldine Farmers' Market
In the months from October to April, residents of Geraldine gather at the bustling farmers’ market every Saturday morning to sell their homegrown produce and handmade products. Visitors can expect an array of artisanal goods, from jams to smoked meats, honey to cheese, and even crafts by the artistic community. Pick up some lovingly-baked bread and freshly-brewed coffee, and mingle with the locals as they chat and dance to the live music in the background.
Geraldine Farmers' Market
Address: St Marys Churchyard, Talbot Street, Geraldine Geraldine, Canterbury 7930 NZ
Website: Geraldine Farmers’ Market
6. Geraldine Observatory
As the gate to the Starlight Highway and the UNESCO International Dark Sky Reserve, it is only appropriate that Geraldine has its own fully-equipped observatory. The Geraldine Observatory is privately owned by Peter, an astronomer of 40 years who has made it his mission to make astronomy accessible to everyone. On clear nights, enjoy an intimate stargazing session of the celestial landscape with Peter. Be informed by his wealth of knowledge, and let his enthusiasm infect you, even as you take in the ethereality of the scene before you.
Address: 22 Macdonald Street, Geraldine 7930 NZ
Website: Geraldine Observatory
7. Tekapo Springs
Further up the Dark Sky Reserve route is Lake Tekapo, famous for its distinctive turquoise waters resulting from fine glacial flour suspended in the water. Tekapo is an excellent location to catch a glimpse of the Southern Lights because of the absence of light pollution. Between April and September, it is truly a sight to behold as the inky skies come ablaze with the vivid dance of colours.
Lake Tekapo is about an hour’s drive away from Geraldine. A great way to make the journey worth it is to spend a night at Tekapo Springs, a recreation facility set at Mount John. Soak in any one of the three hot pools overlooking Lake Tekapo and the alpine slopes of the Two Thumb Range. Alternatively, indulge in a day spa, or take a couple of spins around the skating rink, or even whirl down the world’s largest inflatable water slide! With all these options, Tekapo Springs is an award-winning attraction for good reason.
Address: 6 Lakeside Dr, Lake Tekapo 7945 NZ
Website: Tekapo Springs
8. Geraldine Vintage Car & Machinery Museum
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the Geraldine Vintage Car & Machinery Museum, run entirely by volunteers, has over 1,400 items in its collection. Aside from classic cars, the museum’s display boasts tractors, hot air engines, a threshing mill, and even a 1929 Spartan Biplane. Other exhibits that testify to Geraldine’s history is a 1907 De Dion, which has been in the town its whole life, and a tractor said to be New Zealand’s oldest working one. The best part of all? Children get to enter free!
Geraldine Vintage Car & Machinery Museum
Address: 178 Talbot St, Geraldine 7930 NZ
9. The Tin Shed
For a selection of authentic made-in-New Zealand products, definitely drop by The Tin Shed, a horse stable turned grain shed turned country store, set within a cosy farm yard. The Tin Shed is best known for its high quality Merino and Merino possum knitwear, but also stocks a range of health and skincare products made from local ingredients. Once the shopping is done, go for a romp in the yard where you can find old farm machinery and a lush native garden. Say hello to the medley of animals, including sheep, alpacas, donkeys, rabbits and hens, who are all part of the family!
The Tin Shed
Address: 809 State Highway 79 Rangitata South Canterbury NZ
Website: The Tin Shed
A country town waiting to be explored
The quaint country town of Geraldine hides a lively community that keeps visitors busy with things to see and do all year round. A stunning variation in its surrounding landscape means that you do not have to travel far to experience a whole host of outdoor adventures. Geraldine’s rich farmlands further offers plenty of opportunities to taste fresh local produce, and also frolic with the farm animals! Next time you drive along the scenic inland route (SH72), do make Geraldine a necessary detour!
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