Driving or flying into New Plymouth, you feel like you’re arrived. Beautiful black sand beaches dotting the coast on one side, shops, galleries and eateries beckoning on the other – it’s absolutely a place where you and yours can fill your cup. Go to the famed Govett-Brewster Gallery/Len Lye Centre, tread or bike the Coastal Walkway, feast on the street food at Liardet Street Projects, and discover lesser-known gems like The Jewel & the Jeweller store for talks and classes, and Juno Gin for its distillery tours. Do all that and then some, but don’t stop there – because beyond this happening hotspot, there’s an entire riveting region to explore. The only thing you shouldn’t do while you’re here? Stay put.
Locals say Taranaki’s like no other and, actually, they’re quite right. Its unique intersection of natural beauty and al fresco activities, creative enterprises and innovation, vibrant cultural occasions, contemporary cuisine and down to earth provincial ease put it up there with the best for an unforgettable escape. At the foot of one of the country’s most magnificent monuments, Mount Taranaki, this really is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, foodies and art lovers alike.
Your biggest challenge will be choosing what to include on your highlights reel, a task simplified by beginning your journey at taranaki.co.nz/visit, where you can find out what’s on, plan your itinerary and book your home-away-from-home base. Are you and your crew boutique King and Queen Hotel Suites kinda gals or architecturally designed Ahu Ahu Beach Villas types? Embrace a rural pace at Taranaki Country Lodge or go back in time at the Old Eltham Post Office – you’ll find a stay to match your getaway style.
When to go and what to do?
Taranaki makes it easy for you. It recorded New Zealand’s highest sunshine hours in 2021, so bluebird days front the forecast year-round – but there’s no time like the present, as the festival region’s upcoming spring calendar offers an unmissable line-up. Prep for the Centuria Taranaki Garden Festival from October 28 to November 6. Held here in New Zealand’s garden capital for 35 years and counting, Aotearoa’s biggest spring celebration welcomes with private and public gardens, events and art trails to explore, while its sister, the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival, invites you into 40-plus properties belonging to some of the region’s foremost green-thumbed gurus.
Running over the same 10 days are the Taranaki Arts Trail and Sustainable Backyards Trail. The former showcases stars of the world class art scene in their studios and workshops; the latter opens sustainable properties to inspire and educate on all sorts of environmental practices you can take home with you.
Giving ’em the old razzle dazzle from November 10 to 20, the Taranaki Spiegel Fest sets life alight with even more art and entertainment via an impressive roster of award-winning acts, popular performers and live music. For those who prefer art of the body kind, later in the season, on November 26 and 27, the NZ Tattoo and Art Festival gives Taranaki the edge. More than 250 of the world’s most talented tattooers attend Australasia’s premier tattoo event, which makes an indelible impression with competitions, FMX and BMX shows, shopping and dangerously delicious food trucks.
Come to Taranaki for all that, then stay for the evergreen attractions. You can connect to them along the scenic Surf Highway 45, where the journey’s so obviously the destination, there’ll be no wondering if you’re there yet. Your first stop past New Plymouth could be Ōkato, to step onto the Stony River Walkway, an hour-long amble that provides epic views of the mountain. Next, in Pungarehu, you’ll find the historic Cape Egmont lighthouse that marks the westernmost point of the province, before you navigate down to Ōpunake, where you can visit open art studios, restored 1920s theatre Everybody’s, and Pihama Lavender Farm, which is also part of the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival, offers boutique accommodation and hosts a Growers and Makers market on the third Sunday of every month.
Dip your toes in at Kaupokonui Beach in Manaia, before following your nose to a local institution – the factory outlet of Yarrows Bakery, stocked with cut-price versions of the frozen and par-baked goods they deliver around the motu and the world. South again is Hāwera, where there’s more flavour to savour at the Upside Down Eatery, plus award-winning Tawhiti Museum, which lets you chart our pioneering history on the candle-lit Traders and Whalers underground boat ride created with Wētā Workshop.
For every one of these ideas, there are umpteen more, so pick your path and make a weekend of it, why don’t you? Just far enough away, you’ll reach Taranaki in short order, but the memories you’ll make with the loved ones you take – well, they’ll last you a lifetime.
For more information, visit taranaki.co.nz.