As a kiwi, it’s a bit embarrassing to admit it took me until this year to make it to New Plymouth. It’s not that there are a lack of things to do in New Plymouth, it’s just never been on my way to anywhere and I don’t know anyone from there. But since I’m in the process of showing Max the whole country we decided to make a long a weekend trip to check out the New Plymouth attractions.
Where to stay in New Plymouth
If you’re on a budget try the dorm rooms at Ariki Backpackers.
For a private room with great breakfast have a look at Heta Road B&B.
If you’re splashing out try King and Queen Hotel Suites, which is next to our favourite little cafe Ozone Coffee Roasters.
There is a nice campground on the beach with tent spots or cabins available: Fitzroy Beach Holiday Park
AirBnb is also very popular in New Zealand. Sign up using this link for $25 off your first booking.
Some of the best things to do in New Plymouth
The Len Lye Centre
The Len Lye Centre is an art gallery dedicated to a famous New Zealand born artist. After his death in 1980 much of his work was returned to New Zealand and is displayed in New Plymouth. The gallery is well worth checking out and also houses the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.
The exhibition is free for New Plymouth residents or $15 for everyone else and while it’s a must for art lovers, those travelling on a budget might opt to just be impressed by the building from the outside. A large metallic structure with waves running along the sides which catch the reflections of the historic building opposite, it’s an art exhibit in itself and certainly worth checking out while in New Plymouth.
Hiking in Egmont National Park
It’s hard not to consider hiking in New Plymouth with the great Mount Taranaki staring you right in the face. Luckily there are plenty of decent hiking trails around from day walks to overnight and multi-day treks.
We did the Pouakai Hut walk which takes about 4-5 hours return and takes you up through native bush to a stunningly located hut sitting just below the ridgeline. A few minutes further up from the hut you get the most amazing views of Mount Taranaki and can continue down the hill to the famous tarn for a reflection shot. This walk is the end of the full day Pouakai Crossing Trek which is part of the famous Pouakai Circuit .
Visit the Cafes
If you’re feeling like a break from all the amazing things to do in New Plymouth it might be time for a coffee break! Thankfully New Plymouth has a great café scene and any coffee lover will be spoilt for choice with options for every taste.
For a quick breakfast and amazing coffee we loved the crumpets with blue cheese, walnuts and honey washed down by perfect barista coffee at Ozone Coffee Roasters. There was also a great cabinet selection and friendly staff at Empire Tea & Coffee. If you’re further east towards the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge check out Federal Store or head to Chaos in the centre.
New Plymouth Coastal Walkway
The Coastal Walkway runs along the entire waterfront of New Plymouth from Paritutu Rock to the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge and is the perfect activity for a sunny Taranaki day. With a brisk sea breeze in you hair and a view out over the ocean you’ll be able to walk the length of the city and pass by locals and visitors as they enjoy the waterfront. There’s not a lot along the actual path but there’s plenty of opportunities to duck a couple of blocks over to a café or head to the Bach On Breakwater Cafe for coffee/brunch with a view.
Te Rewa Rewa Bridge
This bridge was built in 2010 and has fast become one of the top things to do in New Plymouth. It’s made to resemble a braking wave and a wale skeleton. And the view along it perfectly frames the mountain on a clear day. The area around is a popular spot for camping, fishing and walking and is the end of the coastal walkway. Although sunset is a beautiful time it can be very busy with tour groups so plan to head here in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Puke Ariki Museum
The museum, information centre and library are all housed within the same building and free of charge. The museum has some great information about the local people, wildlife and geography and has some fun, interactive exhibits for kids. There is also a gift shop and café making it the perfect location for a rainy New Plymouth afternoon.
At the opposite end of the city is a towering rock which is a popular climb for views over the city and sea. The first part is steep steps but is quickly followed by a climbing up some rocks with the help of chain. It’s not particularly strenuous but not recommended if you’re unfit or have any injuries. The views from the top are nice but after our hike in the mountains the previous day we were a little underwhelmed. The whole climb takes about 15 minutes so if you’re short on time this is a good little outing for some fresh air, exercise and views.
Surf Highway 45
From New Plymouth you can head off on a mini road trip or even incorporate it into your journey by travelling on Surf Highway 45. This quiet highway takes you right around the coastline of Taranaki and past some of the best surf beaches in the country. There are some little towns to stop off at along the way as you drive along with stunning coastline along one side and breath-taking views of the mountain on the other.
We enjoyed stops in Oakura and Opunake for cafes and beach views. The highway stops in Hawera and from there you can loop back around to New Plymouth or continue south to Whanganui.
Around a 20 minute drive from New Plymouth is the unique setting of the Pukeiti Gardens. This gorgeous outdoor area is owned by the Rhododendron Trust and has an amazing array of plants. There are a variety of walks through different areas of the gardens and there’s also a café onsite. The best time to visit is in spring when the rhododendrons are in bloom but the gardens are a nice place to wander any time of year and entrance is free.