Long overlooked by domestic travellers, New Plymouth is enjoying an immense surge in popularity. It’s easy to see why, and it’s not just because the region is statistically the country’s sunniest.
Hemmed in by the rugged west coast on one side and one of the country’s most iconic maunga on the other, New Plymouth and the Taranaki have something for all: from adventure seekers and foodies to artists and everyone in between.
And, being a handy four-to-five-hour drive from either Auckland or Wellington, it’s an easy enough city to get to. Here’s how to spend a day in New Plymouth.
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* Home is where the hidden secrets are
* Are Taranaki’s beaches the best in New Zealand?
* What will surprise about New Plymouth: a scenic, gastronomic and artistic haven
Breakfast at Ozone
Your day begins with a light breakfast at Ozone Coffee Roasters. A beautiful little spot in the western end of the CBD, there’s a range of seating arrangements to suit all groups (grab a spot on the communal table if you’re travelling solo). It’s a nice, quiet place to do some people watching or just sip a coffee over the morning news. The toasted sandwiches here are exceptional, especially the reuben, and the cabinet also features a tempting range of pastries. Pack an almond croissant for the road – you’ll need it.
47A King Street
Explore Pukekura Park
No visit to New Plymouth is complete without a leisurely stroll around the city’s green oasis, Pukekura Park. Encompassing a huge 52-hectare swathe of the city centre, it’s easy to lose track of time here, given the numerous sections you can explore: you’ll find botanical gardens, ferneries, a lake, a waterfall, a playground, and a cricket ground.
It’s also home to the TSB Bowl of Brooklands, scene of many a legendary gig, and the homely, free-entry Brooklands Zoo. As an added bonus, go between December and January to catch the always-impressive TSB Festival of Lights, which turns the entire park into a spectacular, immersive experience.
10 Fillis Street
Get your arts and culture fix
With a surprising array of galleries and museums for a small city, New Plymouth is a top place to explore for any arts enthusiast.
The obvious attraction is the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre, with the shimmering building also one of the city’s most recognisable sights. It’s also the first gallery in New Zealand dedicated to a single artist, and comes complete with a gift shop that is as interesting as the exhibitions themselves.
Just down the road is Puke Ariki, a hybrid museum, library, and research centre with plenty of regularly changing exhibitions. For a truly special souvenir, head to Kina, one of the city’s best art shops, and take your pick from a unique range of Kiwi art. These three venues are all within a short walking distance of each other, and the perfect way to wile away a few hours, rain or shine.
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre: 42 Queen Street
Puke Ariki: 1 Ariki Street
Kina: 101 Devon Street West
Lunch at State Pasta
By now you should have worked up a good appetite, and it’s time to stop by one of New Plymouth’s trendiest eateries.
A relatively new entrant to the city’s dining scene, State Pasta is the brainchild of local restaurateur Carl Maunder, and serves fresh and interesting pasta done well. The menu is ever-evolving but always packed with bold flavours, and the free focaccia is always appreciated.
If you want an insider’s tip, the chicken ravioli is a perennial favourite among locals and visitors alike. Make sure you check out the antipasti menu as well, and don’t forget to grab a scoop of gelato on the way out.
162 Devon Street East
Stroll along the Coastal Walkway
A New Plymouth landmark, the Coastal Walkway offers stunning views, is suitable for all fitness levels, and is a great way to kill a spare hour or two. It’s also an incredibly versatile walk – you can walk for as long or as little as you want, and start and stop anywhere along its 13.2km length.
The walk takes you through some of New Plymouth’s most popular spots, including Fitzroy Beach and Te Rewa Rewa Bridge. If you’re tackling the walkway earlier in the day or have a bit more time, cycling it is another option (you can hire a bike from a local cycle shop). It’s simply one of the most accessible ways to explore and appreciate the city’s lively coastline.
Climb Paritutu Rock
A full scale of Taranaki Maunga takes the best part of a whole day, so for a significantly shorter option that still offers amazing views, see if you can squeeze in a climb up Paritutu Rock.
Found between Back Beach and Ngāmotu Beach on the westernmost end of town, the 100-metre trek to the summit takes just 15 minutes – but it’s no walk in the park. It’s a steep climb, but a well-designed one, with a sturdy chain running right to the top for you to hold onto.
You’re rewarded with glorious vistas of the coastline at the end, so pack your camera, and see if you can time your climb to catch the sunset at the summit.
Centennial Drive, Spotswood
Pre-dinner drinks at Shining Peak Brewing
It’s nearing the end of an action-filled day, and you’ve earned a hearty feast to round off your stay in New Plymouth. But just before you tuck in, make sure you head to Shining Peak Brewing for a tipple or two. The region’s spirit is ingrained in the brewery’s name itself – ‘Taranaki’ translates loosely to ‘shining peak’.
All the beers here are brewed onsite and served fresh from the tap. It’s definitely worth taking the time to unwind while chatting to the friendly staff, who are more than happy to educate you about their beers and their place in the region.
59 Gill Street
Dinner at Social Kitchen
For a classy dining experience, few establishments in New Plymouth come close to Social Kitchen – conveniently just down the road from Shining Peak. The menu is extensive and makes no secret that it’s heavy on the meat, but you’ll find dishes to suit most groups. A huge array of meats is complemented by seafood- and vegetable-based dishes, with a range of light salads as well.
The food is complemented by an exquisite cocktail menu, and you’d do well to save space for dessert. And if the food itself wasn’t impressive enough, the restaurant is one of the most beautiful in town. It’s literally based in a former citadel, complete with a courtyard perfect for those balmy summer evenings.
40 Powderham Street