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New Plymouth is one of those beautiful places in New Zealand that shouldn’t be underestimated! Heading here, you will immediately notice the vast landscape of farmland and the array of contemporary parks and gardens, cute local shops, and the really welcoming atmosphere of the place.
Of course, it’s hard to miss the key feature of New Plymouth which is the large, dormant volcano called Mount Taranaki, also known as Mount Egmont or Taranaki Maunga. This landmark is located in Egmont National Park/Te Papakura o Taranaki which has some of the top hikes in New Zealand as well as places to go skiing, rock climbing, camping, and more.
This guide to New Plymouth will help you discover some of the well-known spots along with more hidden gems that can be found around this city. I’ll also help give you some insight into what to expect when you arrive. There are so many New Plymouth attractions to explore, but here are a few of my favorites!
- About New Plymouth, NZ
- Things to do in New Plymouth, NZ
- 1. Stroll along the coastal walkway
- 2. Hike to Pouakai Tarn and Hut
- 3. Cross the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge
- 4. Surf!
- 5. Summit Mt Taranaki
- 6. Eat fish and chips on the beach
- 7. Check out the Three Sisters and Elephant Rock
- 8. Walk around Pukekura Park
- 9. Tapuae Beach
- 10. Spend an afternoon at the races!
- 11. Try the donuts at Knead
- 12. Visit a museum
- 13. Paritutu Rock
- 14. Lake Mangamahoe
- 15. Take a dip in Wilkies Pools
- 16. Visit a local brewery (or two!)
- 17. Brooklands Zoo
- 18. Sugar Loaf Islands
- 19. Stroll through a garden
- 20. Go berry picking
- 21. See a real shipwreck!
- 22. Take the famous road photo in Egmont National Park
- Where to Stay in New Plymouth
- Thanks for reading!
- Travel Insurance Has Your Back!
About New Plymouth, NZ
Located in the Taranaki region, New Plymouth is a hub for visitors to enjoy. With a population of approximately 48,000 people, New Plymouth is a booming city to not only live in but to visit and explore. It is Taranaki’s only city and its original Maori name is Ngamotu.
Being part of the sunniest region in the country, when you’re figuring out when to visit New Zealand, you can come to New Plymouth all year round and still have plenty of things to see and do. Their bus service can make it easy and convenient to get around if you are not traveling with a rental car.
Getting to New Plymouth is as simple as taking a scenic drive through the North Island or by catching a flight. It is about halfway between Wellington and Auckland, so only around a couple of hours away from the larger cities in New Zealand, which makes it a great spot to visit for perhaps a long weekend or longer.
To reach Mount Taranaki from New Plymouth’s city center is about a 45-minute drive. Mount Taranaki is said to be one of the most photographed mountains on the North Island of New Zealand, so make sure to have your own camera handy for some Instagram-worthy shots!
Things to do in New Plymouth, NZ
1. Stroll along the coastal walkway
Located in the heart of New Plymouth, is the 12.7-kilometer (7.8-mile) coastal walkway. As the name suggests, it’s a picturesque walk around the coastline and a great introduction to the city when you first arrive!
Starting at Port Taranaki at Pioneer Park and ending at Bell Block Beach, you can walk, skate, cycle or run along flat, well-formed paths. You can access the walkway from multiple places and it is up to you how long you stroll along for. However, Hickford Park is a popular entry point to begin the walk, and I really enjoyed starting my casual stroll here.
Enjoy wandering along the edge of the city and next to the ocean as you breathe in the fresh, salty air and see the waves crashing against the rocks. You’ll have a chance to see the beauty of the pohutukawa trees and look out at the surf at Fitzroy Beach and East End Beach (keep reading for more info on surfing there!).
If you are a fan of unique art, be sure to check out The Wind Wand, which you will come across as you walk along the coastline near the city center. It is a red-fiberglass sculpture and monument that is 48 meters (157 feet) tall. It’s a New Plymouth icon and you can watch it sway back and forth in the wind!
2. Hike to Pouakai Tarn and Hut
Hiking to Pouakai Tarn and Hut is one of the best hikes on the North Island! Pouakai Tarn is a small alpine lake that showcases stunning reflections of Mt Taranaki. This view is so famous (for good reason!) and it’s even better in person.
If you’re eager to see this view yourself, you’re definitely not alone. The Pouakai Hut is only 10 minutes away from the lake and recently moved to bookings only because of how popular it is to stay here. It’s without a doubt my favorite hut on the North Island!
But how do you get here and book a spot? Well, we’ve written a complete guide to hiking to Pouakai Hut and Tarn to help. Basically, there are a few different tracks that can take you to Pouakai Hut depending on where you are starting and how long you want to hike. You can do this as a day hike, but I really recommend staying a night in the hut if you can.
One way to get to the hut, which I did, was doing the Mangorei Track where the hike starts from the parking lot on Mangorei Road. The entrance to the trail is about 100 meters (328 feet) up the road, just follow the signage which takes you through a private driveway and then into the bush.
It is quite an uphill hike with lots of wooden steps, so you want to have a decent level of fitness. The track can be muddy and the boardwalk can be slippery. The walk is really beautiful though as you hike through the forest with views of the Ahukawakawa Swamp before you reach what you came here for – the spectacular sight of Mount Taranaki. Overall, plan for about 2 hours to reach the Pouakai Hut from the Mangorei Track.
If you are stopping off and staying at the Pouakai Hut, ensure you have booked it via the DOC website. It is $15 NZD per night for an adult. There are a total of 16 bunk beds in the hut so your booking will secure you one of these (not a specific one though), or if you prefer, there is a space for two small tents to be set up outside.
The other tracks are the Dover Route which is more of an expert-level hike that takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes and begins on Carrington Road and leads you to the Pouakai Trig before reaching the Pouakai Hut. No matter what track you take, before you go make sure you wear warm, waterproof clothing and comfortable hiking boots.
This is a great activity to explore the vastness and beauty of Egmont National Park (one of the best national parks in NZ) and really take it all in! My advice is to drop your overnight gear at Pouakai Hut to claim your bed and then take a sunset walk to the tarn. The winds are calmer and the light is stunning for photographs!
Related read: Another epic adventure is experiencing the magic of thousands of glow worms at the Waitomo Caves!
3. Cross the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge
The Te Rewa Rewa Bridge can be accessed from the coastal walkway and towers over the Waiwhakaiho River. It is 69 meters (226 feet) long and you can walk, run or cycle along it to get to the protected Te Rewa Rewa Reserve.
The Te Rewa Rewa Bridge’s stunning design is recognized at an international level and was designed to represent the special and sacred relationship between the Ngati Tawhirikura tribe and the land, sea, and wind, which can be interpreted through unique shapes used in its formation. It appears as both a breaking wave and a whale skeleton, which I’m sure you won’t see anywhere else!
The views from this one-of-a-kind bridge are simply beautiful. Looking out at Mount Taranaki, take in the views of East End and Fitzroy Beach and feel the sun and wind on your skin as you walk along.
When you’re looking for some of the best beaches in New Zealand, New Plymouth has some epic surf beaches to check out!
If you are an avid surfer, then Fitzroy Beach is a must-do if you want to hit the waves. It is a very popular beach for both New Plymouth locals as well as visitors because the waves here are good for both beginner surfers and experienced ones. The surf is pretty consistent, but you will experience the biggest waves during autumn and winter. It is also a great spot for kite surfing.
Back Beach is another great surfing spot, as there is often plenty of swell. The surf can get to 1-3.5 meters (3-11 feet) high. There are surfing competitions held here regularly, which highlight just how perfect the spot is in addition to its scenic landscape.
5. Summit Mt Taranaki
While beautiful from afar, you can climb Mount Taranaki if you’re up for an adventure. This is a VERY difficult vertical climb up to the summit, so I highly recommend you only do this if you’re confident in your climbing ability and have previous experience.
If you’re not interested in a snowy, slippery climb, this is best attempted from December to April. From May to November, it’s covered in snow and ice and you’ll need years of mountaineering experience under your belt and equipment to do it safely. If you are keen to do the climb, then you can park your car down at North Egmont Road while you climb Mount Taranaki.
It is 6.3 km (4 miles) up to the summit, so will take around 5-6 hours to get to the top. It is a 1.6 km (1 mile) vertical climb to the summit which makes the climb quite challenging. Along the way you will be exposed to the elements, may need to get over rocks, and parts of the track can be quite slippery.
After all the work to get there, reaching the top is totally worth it! You’ll be greeted with a stunning view of the land below with the Tasman sea on one side and mountains on the other.
6. Eat fish and chips on the beach
Of course, you need to take part in this classic New Zealand activity while you’re here! Eating fish and chips on the beach is basically mandatory, and it’s one of my favorite ways to end a busy day whenever I’m in a coastal destination.
Grab your fish and chips from Snapper’s Fish and Chips and walk over to East End Beach, which will only take 10 minutes. Snapper’s is my pick for the freshest fish with that crunchy golden batter. It was such a joy just to sit down here and look out at the ocean and listen to the crashing waves as I ate my yummy local fish and chips.
7. Check out the Three Sisters and Elephant Rock
For a neat road trip, head about a 1-hour drive north of New Plymouth along the coast to the famous Three Sisters and Elephant Rock. These are tall 25-meter (82-foot) sandstone rocks that create a stunning visual in the water.
This is a disappearing landmark though as the Tasman Sea is causing them to erode which is why only two of the Three Sisters are left, and the Elephant Rock doesn’t quite look like an elephant anymore!
Make sure you visit at low tide so you can get up close to the rocks. I liked how I could walk right through Elephant Rock! From the car park, you will go on an approximately 20 to 30-minute walk, along the sand and natural materials so don’t wear your nice shoes.
In addition to the amazing view of the Three Sisters and Elephant Rock, there are cliffs and cool caves to explore and admire that contain Maori carvings. There are toilets and a cafe in the area too. It’s a really unique spot to check out while you’re in the area.
8. Walk around Pukekura Park
Often called the “jewel in New Plymouth’s crown”, taking a walk around Pukekura Park is a must-do. This botanical wonderland and world-renowned park is huge at 52 hectares in size.
It is conveniently located in the center of the city, although it sure doesn’t feel like it when you are in the park surrounded by the established fern trees and natural landscape. The idyllic lakes, Queen Elizabeth Fountain, and Band Rotunda add some character to the park.
The fernery and display houses are open daily so you can go and check them out or even go on a free guided tour. View the display of native and international plant varieties in the glass-topped caverns. There is even an entertainment venue located in Pukekura Park, which is called Bowl of Brooklands, where acts can play.
There is so much to do at Pukekura Park whether you just want to go for a walk, row boats on the lake, or play on the flying fox on the playground, you could easily spend a whole day at the park, or at least a few hours. If you visit during summer in December and January, they hold the Festival of Lights, where the park is lit up with thousands of lights that make it feel so magical.
9. Tapuae Beach
Looking for a beach that is secluded and a bit wild? Located on the rugged coast is Tapauae Beach. This is truly a hidden gem and the ideal beach to visit if you want to go diving or snorkeling amongst the rocks and sea life, go boating, or just chill out on the sand.
Depending on the season, you may see some baby fur seals, bird life, orcas, and whales too! It is a quiet beach, so a great option if you prefer minimal people around and it is just 15 minutes south of the city.
If you want to spend the whole day around here, Corbett Park is only a 4-minute drive away and is a great place to have a picnic or kick a ball around on the grass field.
10. Spend an afternoon at the races!
For a fun day out, go see the horse racing at New Plymouth Raceway!
Pop on your nice outfit and enjoy a day in the sun, making some bets and watching the horses run the track. On most race days, there will be 8 races but there can be more or less depending on the event. The events generally start around midday and finish in the evening, and most likely there will be some musical entertainment to enjoy after the last race too!
There are often events held at the raceway, so check what’s on when you are in New Plymouth and save the date. Keep up to date with what events are on here.
11. Try the donuts at Knead
For the best donuts ever, Knead is the bakery to visit. I can assure you that you won’t regret stopping by for a fresh donut here!
They change up their unique flavors every fortnight, so you never know what delicious flavors may be available, but I have never tasted one I didn’t like. Choose from creamy custard-filled donuts to jam, cream, crème brûlée filled donuts, and many more.
Knead is open Thursday to Saturday from 8 am until 1 pm or whenever they sell out. Due to their popularity, definitely go there in the morning before 10 am to ensure you don’t miss out.
12. Visit a museum
Visiting a museum while you are in New Plymouth is a great opportunity to connect with the history and culture of the city.
While not all museums are family-friendly, the Puke Ariki Museum totally is! The interactive exhibits here are wonderful – we saw so many kids having a fantastic time. The museum is dedicated to the history of Taranaki including the Maori people and European settlers. The best part is that it’s completely free! It’s a great rainy day activity or if you need a break from the sun. The museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.
Another great museum is the Taranaki Aviation Transport and Technology Museum, especially if you love old-school technology and anything aircraft related. Open on the weekends only with an entry fee of $7 NZD for adults, the museum is a perfect place to explore historic gadgets and technology for a couple of hours through interactive and hands-on displays and exhibitions.
You’ll get to operate a telephone exchange, try your hand at press printing and pretend to be a cashier with a chance to work the vacuum money transfer system across the museum. The museum is located about 10 minutes out of town alongside Highway #3.
13. Paritutu Rock
Between Black Beach and Ngamotu Beach lies the awesome Paritutu Rock, which is a large, extinct volcano. It was active around 1.75 million years ago, but today you can do a 15-minute climb up the rock.
It is steep as you go up the wooden staircase and then use your hands to climb up the remainder of the rock with the support of a chain. Upon reaching the top, you will get a stunning 360° view of the Sugarloaf Islands, Black Beach, Ngamotu Beach, the city, Taranaki Port, Mount Taranaki, and the surrounding mountains in the distance. I loved this spot so much!
It is a great location to watch the sunset or sunrise too. Be sure to wear covered shoes as it can be difficult to climb in sandals.
14. Lake Mangamahoe
Lake Mangamahoe is a beautiful destination less than 15 minutes from New Plymouth. It’s actually a manmade lake that was built as a water catchment area to collect water from the Waiwhakaiho River and nearby stream.
The native bush, glistening lake, and thriving wildlife provide such a tranquil atmosphere. You can access the area by driving and turning off onto Kent Road junction from State Highway 3 and following lake road until you reach the car park.
Definitely go on a scenic walk at Lake Mangamahoe! There are a few different tracks you can take but they are signposted well. It is a large area, so if you don’t explore it all, come back another day and walk around other parts.
I would recommend taking a backpack with you and bringing some food and water so you can rest and sit down in the picnic areas when you get hungry so you can spend a whole day here. There are toilets here and plenty of car parks available.
I recommend going on the 6 km (3.7 mile) circuit walk to go around the lake, through the forest, and up to some nice lookout points. It should take around 2 hours.
There are a couple of other routes available too. Take the lower lakeside trail if you want to enjoy walking close to the lake and being amongst bird life or take the upper ridge track if you want great views of Mount Taranaki.
There are spots to go mountain biking and horse riding if you are keen to do that too. Overall, Lake Mangamahoe has to be one of my favorite places in the Taranaki Region, so I invite you to set aside a day to check out this stunning New Plymouth attraction for yourself.
15. Take a dip in Wilkies Pools
If finding some hidden gems and natural pools are on your list, I’ve got you covered! Look no further than Wilkies Pools. An approximately 45-minute drive from New Plymouth, Wilkies Pools can be accessed through the Dawson’s Falls visitor entrance of Mount Taranaki.
The walk to the pools takes about 20 minutes before continuing on the Wilkies Pools loop track. Walk through the beautiful greenery of the Goblin Forest, stepping along clear pathways at a steady incline. Then you’ll cross the swing bridge above Kapuni Stream before reaching the Wilkies Pools.
Slip into the gorgeous, fresh, natural pools to cool off and enjoy the crystal-clear water. It is a perfect place to visit on a hot day! Depending on the rainfall, you might see some waterfalls or just some calming streams of water flowing down the rocks. After your dip in Wilkies Pools, you can continue along the loop track or return the way you came for a shorter walk.
This is definitely one of the best outdoor things to do in New Plymouth.
16. Visit a local brewery (or two!)
Any beer enthusiast out there should be happy to know there are some great breweries in New Plymouth to visit, relax, and knock back a few cold ones.
Shining Peak Brewery is conveniently located in the heart of the city. With a casual, yet sophisticated feel, their local craft beers are brewed on-site where visitors can taste a variety of beers from a tasting paddle or get one poured from the tap at the bar. Feast on a delicious burger or gourmet meal from their eatery while you are enjoying the brews.
Another much-loved brewery is the Three Sisters Brewery which provides local craft beers along with other popular beverages and some decent pub food. I recommend the Cubano grilled sandwich and washing it down with their staple Rain in the Face IPA. With a great range of beers on tap, Three Sisters is definitely a top choice to stop into while you’re in New Plymouth.
Related read: If your travels take you to the South Island, make sure to check out the best places to drink craft beer in Queenstown!
17. Brooklands Zoo
For a fun day out for any animal lover, Brooklands Zoo is the perfect place to visit to watch and learn about the animals. Home to monkeys, alpacas, meerkats, and more, spend a few hours wandering around the premises and watching the animals.
It’s totally free to visit and enjoy, so you can even come more than once while you’re here!
Brooklands Zoo can be accessed by driving down Brooklands Road, or you can walk through Pukekura Park. There are toilets, a playground, and picnic tables covered by shade to sit and eat lunch at. During the weekend, you can purchase real-fruit ice cream from the Wonky Cone cart or a hot coffee or tea from Incafe. I would suggest you pack a picnic and take it with you when you go!
The zoo is open daily from 9:30 am to 4 pm. If you’re here on a weekend, try to catch one of the talks hosted by the zookeepers. They are passionate about the animals here and full of interesting info about life at the zoo!
18. Sugar Loaf Islands
The Sugar Loaf Islands off the coast of New Plymouth are uninhabited islands that are pieces of an active volcano from 2 million years ago. You can see the five islands from the shore or kayak around there. It’s a pretty cool place to explore!
Seals and birds are often around, especially during the breeding season. You can also often spot whales and dolphins nearby.
Below the water, there are beautiful reefs and canyons to check out with over 80 species of fish, so diving in this protected area can be a great activity. During autumn and summer, visibility can reach 20 meters (65 feet).
If you’re keen to get out on the water, rent a kayak from Caddy’s Charters for only $20 NZD and see the islands up close!
19. Stroll through a garden
There are countless beautiful gardens in New Plymouth, and Tupare Gardens is definitely one of them. Free to visit and open daily, Tupare Gardens is welcome to all. With flourishing blue and white hydrangea garden beds, and gorgeous maple trees on a beautifully landscaped property that looks over the Waiwhakaiho River, this garden is a real must-see.
After walking through the various pathways in the garden, head down to the river flat to sit under the shady trees, eat a picnic or take a dip in the river. The serene atmosphere will have you feeling so blissful and peaceful.
Another garden to stroll through is, of course, Pukeiti. As you wander along the pavement, it guides you through the colorful, both native and exotic plants and flowers, with the scent of honey from the giant Himalayan lilies in the air. You will be blown away by the beauty here!
You can choose to go on the 35-minute Rhododendron Stroll or the 50-minute Giants Walk. What’s cool about Pukeiti is that you can still access trails that lead into the ancient rainforest. You’ll see outstanding views of the mountain ranges of Pouakai and Kaitake as well as the vast Tasman Sea.
There are so many flowers and bushes to be explored in these two gardens and it can turn into a great active and outdoorsy day. So, if you are looking for things to see in New Plymouth, going for a stroll in one of these gardens is a must!
20. Go berry picking
Only a 15-minute drive out of central New Plymouth, you can find Paradise Valley Berry Farm. Walk through the rows of plants and pick your very own berries to take home and eat. This is such a great summer activity to do to enjoy the sun, get your body moving, and find some yummy, fresh berries!
Let’s not forget the real fruit ice cream you can enjoy, plus frozen berries, jams, or chocolate dipping sauces you can also get your hands on.
With divine-tasting strawberries and friendly staff, berry picking at Paradise Valley Bery Farm is such a wholesome day out in the sun. I had a delight coming here and would suggest you put it on your list of New Plymouth things to do.
21. See a real shipwreck!
The Wreck of Gairloch is an interesting and unique site to visit. For over 100 years, the rusted skeleton of the steamship’s bow has been on the coast since it ran aground. Visiting this shipwreck from central New Plymouth takes about 30 minutes by car.
If you want to walk, there’s a great 30-minute coastal walk that starts at Oakura Beach Holiday Park and leads you on quite the adventure! Walk along the picturesque coast, past Butler’s Reef, over the Whenuariki Stream, through Ahu Ahu Reserve, along the sand past Timaru River to Weld Road Beach where the Wreck of Gairloch lies. Try to time your walk for low tide so you can see more of the ship.
Want to see the other parts of the ship? You will have to dive into the sea! Such a cool place to explore and walk to. It is definitely worth heading there and checking out a real-life shipwreck, especially if you haven’t seen one before.
22. Take the famous road photo in Egmont National Park
Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in New Plymouth is to enjoy and photograph the scenery, and few places in the area are as famous as the road shot leading up to Mt Taranaki.
Located on Kent Road, the photo here is memorized and really popular with Instagramers. I myself have even made the trip to get some fantastic shots early in the morning.
Although only a quick visit, this is truly one of the best views in Egmont National Park/Te Papakura o Taranaki.
Where to Stay in New Plymouth
With so many amazing activities in and around New Plymouth, it’s a great place to stay! There are tons of choices for accommodations to suit every budget – from backpackers to luxury travelers and everyone in between. Let me help you narrow it down a bit with my top picks for a variety of budgets.
Ariki Backpackers – $
For a fun, laid-back hostel right in the center of New Plymouth, Ariki Backpackers is our choice. You’re right across from the Coastal Walkway and after a busy day, the guest lounge and large outdoor patio are perfect for lounging in. There is a range of rooms available from dorm rooms with bunk beds (around $30 NZD) to private rooms or family rooms ($70-100 NZD). You can easily book online with HostelWorld.com or Booking.com.
The Devon Hotel – $$
Location is a big plus at The Devon Hotel with easy access to beaches, restaurants, and the coast. There’s a great pool and outdoor area and every stay comes with a free mountain bike rental so you can explore the city. Rooms here can be booked starting around the $125 NZD mark. Check availability and book your stay online here.
Millennium Hotel New Plymouth – $$$
Treat yourself to a stay on the waterfront with a room overlooking the Tasman Sea at Millennium Hotel New Plymouth. The Coastal Walkway and Wind Wand are right across the road and the Puke Ariki Museum is next door. If you’re hungry, Salt Restaurant at the hotel is known for its seafood and sea views from every table or you can order 24-hour room service. Suites here start at $250 NZD and can be booked online now.
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Thanks for reading!
When you’re traveling in New Zealand, definitely don’t overlook New Plymouth. Its gardens and parks along with some pretty epic hikes at the nearby Egmont National Park totally won me over. Pair that with a homemade donut or a local craft beer in town and this is a stop on your itinerary you won’t regret!
If you’re in the midst of planning a New Zealand getaway, make sure to check out my other blogs. After living, working, and traveling around this country, I’ve discovered some pretty amazing places and things to do that I want to share with you!