When we announced our plans to visit New Plymouth for the weekend, we had more than just a few of our friends question our reasons for going there. “But why?” they said, “there’s nothing to do there”. With the ambition of seeing more of New Zealand during 2018, New Plymouth was a place that actually sat quite high on both of our lists of places to go, as neither of us had spent much time there.
Climbing Mt Taranaki was originally part of our itinerary for the weekend. After a bit of research, our length of stay (a mere 2 nights) combined with the somewhat dubious weather forecast caused to conclude that maybe we would rather spend our time in other ways. We also looked at hiking the Pouakai Circuit, in order to obtain that picture perfect reflective view of Mt Taranaki off the lake. The walk was longer than we hoped, so we decided to save ourselves the exertion and inject some quality rest and relaxation instead.
We left Wellington on the Friday evening preceding Waitangi Day, so it is probably unnecessary to state that traffic was horrendous. It took us a little over six hours to get there, an extremity which was only realised when it took us a mere 4 hours to get home on the return trip. We stayed at an Air BnB right next to Pukekura Park, which quickly proved itself to be in a very handy location.
After a bit of a lie in, morning one involved a sunny stroll down to the vibrant Monica’s Eatery for brunch (read about that here). Once our bellies were no longer empty, we roamed next door to the architecturally stylish Len Lye Centre (free admission) where we took some time appreciating the different exhibitions. From there we proceeded to head down to the waterfront to take a look at Len Lye’s 45m high wind wand. It was a gusty day, so we got to see it in fine form!
The coastal walkway is an 11km stretch of boardwalk which spans New Plymouth’s waterfront. Especially popular with cyclists, runners, walkers and even rollerbladers, it was a perfect way for Andy and I to do some exercising and sight-seeing at the same time. We walked… and walked… and walked. Approximately 5km later, we found ourselves at the Te Rewa Rewa bridge. It was eye-catching, but the niggly layer of cloud that was set on clinging to Mt Taranaki meant we were unable to align the bridge with the top of the mountain. We could see, however, the concept of the curved arc of the bridge being a wave that is supposed to wash over the mountain.
Most of the walk back was spent intensely discussing possible pitstops. Both of us had beers and sun on the brain and we were enthused at the thought of lazing away the afternoon, especially after our 10km walk in the heat. Paris Plage was the lucky winner, and so we parked up on bean bags and soaked up that sunshine.
For dinner we were treated to an absolute feast at Deluxe Diner (read here) and we headed home via Pukekura Park to check out the TSB Festival of Lights. It was absolutely spectacular, an absolute must-do if you are in New Plymouth during late December to early February (admission is free too!). There was not just one cool thing to look at, but about ten. The festival runs as a big loop walk around the lakes and park, with a few detours for some exhibitions. All up it took us about 40 minutes and it was definitely one of the most memorable parts of our trip. Really, I can’t praise it enough!
The next morning, we hit up The Federal Store (read about it here) before making ourselves at home on Oakura Beach. The black sand beaches of New Plymouth are pretty unique, although if you are like me, the novelty wears off a bit once you actually have to put your towel down in the sand and go swimming. The surf was nice and tidy – perfect waves for some casual boogie boarding and frolicking in the sea, and there were a decent number of both people and dogs dotted about. Oakura is about 12 km south of New Plymouth and it is somewhere I would definitely recommend for anyone after a beach day. The number of cafes and restaurants in the area is steadily growing, so in the summer at least it is quite a lively place.
New Plymouth for us was a wonderful experience. Admittedly it is pretty isolated, and is also a decent drive from Wellington – but it does have good cafes, beaches, hikes and parks – certainly enough to keep one entertained for at least a weekend. I really enjoyed the chilled vibe of the area. Next time I go, I would definitely look at doing one of those aforementioned hikes, or time it to coincide with WOMAD – a festival showcasing the World of Music, Arts and Dance.