Timaru, New Zealand

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Strolling along the city’s hilly streets and past its Edwardian and Victorian buildings and green spaces, you might not guess that Timaru was built on the lava flows of a now-extinct but vividly named volcano, Mount Horrible. Timaru’s own name comes from the Maori Te Maru, which means \"place of shelter.\" Chief among Timaru’s charms are its parks and gardens. As if the backdrop of the Southern Alps wasn't enough, a rose garden, boardwalk and beach also enliven the already beautiful waterfront of Caroline Bay, named for a 19th-century whaling ship. Up the hill, the scenic reserve of Centennial Park offers picturesque picnic spots and walking and biking trails. Timaru showcases New Zealand and Maori culture at the stellar Aigantighe Art Gallery and South Canterbury Museum. (If you have time to venture beyond Timaru and are interested in learning about the area's truly ancient history, the fascinating Te Ana Maori Rock Art Centre, about half an hour outside the city, exhibits rock art made by early Maori settlers more than 700 years ago.)