New Plymouth, Taranaki
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 its magnetism and explore the Taranaki/Egmont National Park in all its beauty.
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, art, music events and outdoor adventure. Overlooking everything is Mount Taranaki, a giant stratovolcano that's quietly sleeping beneath its snowy blanket. Spend time here and you'll quickly discover why Lonely Planet judged Taranaki the world's number two region to visit in its Best in Travel 2017 yearbook.
Choose a hike on Mount Taranaki
Wherever you go in Taranaki, you can feel the mountain watching, so give in to its magnetism and explore the Taranaki/Egmont National Park. There are easy half-hour tracks and there are epic adventures - like the Pouakai Circuit, which is a three-day loop route, or the shorter Pouakai Crossing, a half-full day journey to the famous Pouakai Tarns and the Instagram worthy image of Mt Taranaki reflected in the waters of the small tarn. If you decide to hike to the summit of Mount Taranaki, go in summer with an experienced guide - the mountain's weather can change quickly.
Many of the trails start near the North Egmont Visitor Centre at the top of Egmont Road. Here you can get expert advice on the best trail for the 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.
Oakura 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 Hawera past 105km of beautiful black-sand beaches. They 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 and the 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 Taranaki's lively café, restaurant and bar scene. 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 Ngamotu Beach, where local produce, music and flavour come together on the first Sunday of every month, and first and third Sunday during the summer months.
Taranaki loves a good festival, especially if it involves music and lights. Beginning mid-December and running until early February, the TSB Festival of Lights in Pukekura Park is brilliant. Every evening the park becomes an illuminated wonderland, complete with live entertainment. Then in March it's time for WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance). New Plymouth has been hosting this awesome three-day event for decades, so it's fantastically well-organised.
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 Taranaki's only six-star private garden of native plants open daily from September to April. As you tour the Taranaki region, keep an eye out for Hollard Gardens and Te Popo Gardens in Stratford, and Puketarata Garden in Hawera.
The Forgotten World Highway is a two-hour 15 minute drive between Stratford and Taumaranui. 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 Whangamomona, which declared itself a republic in 1989.
Be sure to check out Forgotten World Adventures based in Taumaranui. They offer self-drive motorised rail cart tours on a 142km disused heritage railway line that runs between Taumaranui 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 Whangamomona.
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.
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.
There are no mandatory vaccinations required for visitors to New Zealand.