New Plymouth, Taranaki

From the snow-topped volcano of Egmont National Park to the black-sand beaches of Surf Highway 45, Taranaki is an awesome adventure playground.

Taranaki is a picturesqueand fertile region half way between Auckland and Wellington on the North Island's west coast. Renowned for its outdoor lifestyle opportunities and creative communities, Taranaki offers a wide range of unique experiences for travellers who like to create and explore.

Wherever you go in Taranaki, you can feel the mountain watching, so give in to his magnetism and find yourself a hike in Egmont National Park/Te Papakura o Taranaki.

About our flights to New Plymouth

Air New Zealand operates daily non-stop flights to New Plymouth from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, with connections across the New Zealand domestic network. With all our New Zealand domestic airfares you can choose seat, seat+bag, flexichange or flexirefund fare types. Flexichange gives you the flexibility to change your flight with no change fees while flexirefund is fully refundable. Find out more about our New Zealand domestic seat options.

Where to go and what to see in Taranaki

The Taranaki region, with New Plymouth as its main city, is an inspired holiday destination for those who love surf, food, art, music events, and adventurous hikes. Overlooking everything is Taranaki Maunga, a giant stratovolcano that's quietly sleeping beneath his snowy blanket.

As the story goes, Taranaki Maunga once lived with the other volcanic mountains of the central North Island - Tongariro, Ruapehu, and Ngauruhoe. They were great mates. But Taranaki fell in love with a little female peak called Pihanga, who happened to be the wife of Tongariro. After losing a fiery battle with Tongariro, Taranaki retreated from the central plateau. His falling tears created the mighty Whanganui River as he fled to the west coast.

Choose a trail on Taranaki Maunga

Wherever you go in New Plymouth you can feel the mountain watching, so give in to his magnetism and explore Taranaki Maunga and the Egmont National Park/Te Papakura of Taranaki, less than an hour's drive from the city. There are easy half-hour tracks and there are epic adventures – such as the Pouākai Circuit, a three-day loop route, or Wilkies Pools, a family-friendly walk to natural plunge pools. If you decide to hike to the summit of Taranaki Maunga, go in summer with an experienced guide as weather conditions can change quickly.

Many of the trails start near the Department of Conservation visitor centre at the top of Egmont Road. Here you can get expert advice on the best trail for the type of walk you have in mind. Local companies offer a wide range of safe and informative guided hiking tours, including transport to and from the mountain.

Surf, swim and soak up the sun

Fitzroy Beach, right in New Plymouth city, has a great surf break for all levels of experience. If the swells are big, however, it's best left to the experts. The local surf lifesaving club patrols the beach in summer; swimming between the flags will keep you safe. Long and wide, like most Taranaki beaches, Fitzroy is ideal for seaside walks or relaxing in the sun.

Ōakura Beach, 15 minutes south of New Plymouth, is another local favourite - especially with families and beginner surfers. It's patrolled by surf lifesavers in summer and has handy food and drink options on the beachfront. Local surf schools provide lessons and coaching at all levels, along with all the gear you'll need.

Taranaki's Surf Highway 45 runs south between New Plymouth to Hāwera past 105km of beautiful black-sand beaches, including Back Beach. The beaches feature surf breaks ranging from perfect for beginners to deeply satisfying for seasoned experts. The highway is also a top driving route for scenery, serenity, and excellent local food.

Enjoy art, food and festivals

New Plymouth is an arty city, so make sure you visit the Govett Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre - New Zealand's only true museum of contemporary art. The Centre celebrates Len Lye, who pioneered kinetic sculpture and filmmaking in the 20th century. His iconic work is also found beyond the gallery walls, with the 48-metre-high Wind Wand, that can be seen swooping and swaying in the breeze as you stroll along New Plymouth's coastal walkway.

Locally roasted coffee, craft beer, and talented chefs have all helped to create a lively café, restaurant, and bar scene in Taranaki. With many eateries making the most of the region's fresh seafood and farm produce, visiting foodies are in for a treat. From breakfast favourites to evening meals you're sure to find a menu that suits your tastes and budget. For delicious local fare, you can't go past the Seaside Market at Ngāmotu Beach, where local produce, music and flavour come together on the first Sunday of every month. Or discover the locals' hidden secret, Liardet Street Projects – a communal courtyard of food trucks and stalls offering a wide range of authentic street food and cheap eats.

Taranaki loves a good festival, especially if it involves music and lights. Beginning mid-December and running until late January/early February, the TSB Festival of Lights in Pukekura Park is brilliant. Every evening the park becomes an illuminated wonderland, complete with live entertainment.

Explore gorgeous gardens and the Forgotten World Highway

Taranaki is known for its spectacular parks and gardens. Pukekura Park is a 52-hectare Garden of National Significance in central New Plymouth. Perfect for quiet walks or family outings, it features two lakes, children's playgrounds, a fernery, display houses, and vast formal gardens and tracks and trails waiting to be explored. Pukeiti is another local favourite featuring extensive plantings of Rhododendron and colourful exotic plants, as well as walking trails through a large temperate rainforest. Te Kainga Marire is the only six-star private garden of native plants in Taranaki, open daily from September to April. As you tour Taranaki, keep an eye out for Hollard Gardens and Te Popo Gardens in Stratford, and Puketarata Garden in Hāwera.

The Forgotten World Highway is a two-hour and 15-minute drive between Stratford and Taumarunui. Following a bridle path used by 19th century pioneers, the road twists, turns, rises and falls its way through farms, forests, and character-filled towns. Highlights include the narrow historic Moki Tunnel, Mount Damper Falls, small museums, and the town of Whangamōmona, which declared itself a republic in 1989.

Be sure to check out Forgotten World Adventures based in Taumarunui. They offer self-drive motorised rail cart tours on a 142 km disused heritage railway line that runs between Taumarunui and Stratford. As you journey along the rails through the remote hill country farms and forested countryside, you'll cross historic bridges and pass through numerous tunnels. Shorter trips cover different sections of the line, and from October to May you can choose an epic two-day journey in either direction along the entire line, overnighting in Whangamōmona.

Essential information

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Best time to visit Taranaki

Taranaki is among the sunniest places in New Zealand. Average daily highs range from 21°C in summer to 13°C in winter, with average daily lows about eight degrees less throughout the year. Monthly rainfall is reasonably even, with June being the wettest and January the driest month. The long New Zealand summer holiday season, from December to February, is the busiest time.

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How much will it cost?

This will depend on your tastes and what you want to do. As a rough guide, not including air travel and hotels, you should allow about NZD $150 to $200 a day per person for food and entertainment.

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If you're visiting Taranaki from overseas you might need a visa to holiday in New Zealand, depending on where you're from and how long you're staying. See the visa-waiver list.

Keep exploring New Plymouth

Mt Taranaki image courtesy of Jeremy Beckers; Len Lye Centre image courtesy of Patrick Reynolds; WOMAD Global Village image courtesy of Federico Pagola