Situated on the West Coast, towards the bottom of the North Island is New Plymouth. Known for its surf, sun and art, it lies in the shadow of the spectacular Mount Taranaki.
As well as the many walks and cycle trails, there’s surf in one direction and snowboarding and skiing in the next, it’s a mecca for those with an adventurous spirit.
Here are the best things to do in New Plymouth.
Walk The Stunning Coastal Walkway
New Plymouth is known for its West Coast beauty and stunning ocean views as far as the eye can see. The best way to understand why so many people love the area so much is to tackle the Coastal Walkway. The entire journey is 12.7km but there are multiple spots to stop and start if you’re looking for a shorter stroll. Te Rewa Rewa is a definite highlight—the iconic eccentric bridge is designed to look like a whale skeleton and a wave crashing, combining land and sea. The coastal walk provides some of the most picturesque scenes along the West Coast. Make a day of it and rent a bike, pack a picnic, and take in everything the coast has to offer.
Dance At Music Festival WOMAD
One of New Zealand’s biggest and most popular music festivals hits New Plymouth each year. WOMAD is held over two days, with visitors staying in tepees or living it up large and glamping. The World of Music, Arts and Dance brings together artists from all around the globe to celebrate the world’s many forms of music, arts and dance. The festival has been running since 1982 and is held at the TSB Bowl of Brooklands. The zero-waste event is a must on the annual calendar.
Take A Kayaking Tour
Taranaki is full of many beautiful waterways and what better way to see them than up close and personal? Take a kayaking tour on the open sea to Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Reserve and witness a seal colony in its natural habitat. The spectacular spot is a collection of volcanic stumps from an old crater. Above water, you’ll see the islands and reefs and below, cliffs and canyons. With a wide range of fish and birds, both dolphins and whales also pass by the area.
If you’re looking for something to get your heart racing, take an expedition down the Waitara River. You’ll travel down the grade two rapids and get a taste of white water rafting for an extra adrenaline kick. It’s one of the best things to do in New Plymouth.
Head To The Festival Of Lights
Every year, New Plymouth lights up Pukekura Park to create a wonderland of lanterns. The Festival of Lights is a seven-week extravaganza, lasting from mid-December to early February and is now New Zealand’s leading light festival. It has been running since 2003 and attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. The park is lit with multiple installations by both local and national artists and it takes around 45-minutes to stroll around the park to take in all the magic. Thousands of LED lights are used in the Festival of Lights—the Poet’s Bridge alone has more than 1000. The park’s iconic Tea House on the Lake transforms into a giant lantern, gleaming with bursts of colour. To keep you well entertained there are performances by local and international artists, outdoor movies, gondola boats to row across the lake, food trucks, a silent disco, as well as special one-off events throughout the festival. To see 2019 in, the festival added a New Year’s Eve event that drew thousands of people. It featured bands Dtomp, Ed Pool and The Slacks and we’re calling that this is where you want to see in 2020.
Visit Mount Taranaki
The pride of Taranaki is the snowy mountain it rests beside. Mount Taranaki’s peak is visible on a good day, standing at a whopping 2.5km tall. There are multiple tracks around and up the mountain to suit every type of fitness level. The most challenging is the summit walk which takes 10-12 hours to the top and back. Of course, it’s important to be well equipped and check the weather beforehand. If a day-long hike isn’t your cup of tea, drive up to Kamahi Café where you can still soak in the sensational views. If it’s especially chilly, you’ll also be able to start a snowball war. If it’s a warmer day, take a short drive through Egmont National Park to the secluded Dawson Falls—remember that the area has unpredictable weather and be prepared. Enjoy the beauty of the 18-metre cascading waterfall and stop for a scenic picnic before heading back.
Splash In A Swimming Hole At Meeting Of The Waters
Araheke, also known as Meeting of the Waters, is a nature walk beginning with the infamous swing bridge, just three kilometres south of New Plymouth. Take a 20-minute stroll and you’ll find yourself at a swimming hole, complete with rope swings and the perfect picnic spot to laze about. If you’re up for it, continue along the looped path and take in all the native foliage and wild animals along the way.
Take A Stroll Through Pukekura Park
Situated in the heart of New Plymouth is Pukekura Park, and it's worth a visit even when the Festival of Lights isn’t on. With 49 hectares of tranquillity, there’s various plants and trees, a waterfall and the infamous red bridge—the Poet’s Bridge—over the lake. There are multiple features throughout Pukekura Park, making it a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
Surf Some West Coast Waves
Surfers rejoice because New Plymouth is a top spot in the country to catch a wave. The city is the start of the epic Surf Highway 45—a 105km stretch of coastal road with 180 degrees of ocean swells. The West Coast delivers some pretty big swells, making the beaches ideal for a surf session. Fitzroy Beach is renowned for its hollow waves and is go-to, while Back Beach and Ahu Ahu are popular spots for a rip too. Grab your board, grab some wax and hit the waves. Make a day of it and stick around for a spectacular sunset over the ocean—best enjoyed with fish and chips on the beach.
Get Inked At The New Zealand Tattoo & Art Festival
Australasia’s biggest tattoo event is held in New Plymouth each year. Held over a November weekend, more than 300 of the world’s best tattoo artists hit The New Zealand Tattoo & Art Festival. With FMX and BMX shows, live music and performances and art galore, visitors can make an appointment to get inked while soaking in the vibe.
Soak In The Art At The Len Lye Centre
“Great architecture goes fifty-fifty with great art,” Len Lye said back in 1964. And, at the Len Lye Centre, you’ll find a shimmering building that is home to experimental film and kinetic art. Opening next to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in 2015, this state-of-the-art facility is home to galleries, an education centre and even a 62-seat cinema. It is the first museum in the country that's dedicated to a single artist and is well worth a visit.
Image Credit: WOMAD