Named after the English city of Plymouth from where the first English settlers migrated, New Plymouth, New Zealand is the major city of the Taranaki Region on the West Cost of the North Island of New Zealand. New Plymouth is home to spectacular views, rich heritage and culture. Trip101 gives you some tips and tricks to make your visit worthwhile. Read on to make sure you don’t miss out on the best.
1. Pukekura Park
Located in the centre of New Plymouth city is Pukekura Park. First opened in 1876, it was formerly a swamp land which was transformed into a garden and public recreation ground. The park includes two lakes (one of which has wooden rowboats for hire) a children’s playground, cricket ground, fernery and display houses, kiosk, fountain and waterfall, historic band rotunda and even an amphitheater, referred to as The Bowl of Brooklands.
Situated at the edge of the lake,The Bowl of Brooklands often plays host to both national as well as international acts. When night falls, the performances on stage are beautifully reflected on the surface of the lake, adding a magical feel to the whole experience. Visitors can also find beautiful English-style gardens and a children’s zoo located next to the Bowl. Every summer Pukekura Park hosts the spectacular Festival of Lights, so that might be the best time to visit!
2. Te Rewa Rewa Bridge
Opened on the 5th of June in 2010, New Plymouth’s Te Rewa Rewa cycle bridge is an impressive structure, which binds engineering and architecture seamlessly. The iconic bridge, spanning across the Waiwhakaiho River, represents the sacred relationships between the land, sea and wind with the local Ngati Tawhirikura tribe.
Te Rewa Rewa is also part of the award-winning New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, which provides visitors with an off-road route for cycling, running, skateboarding and rollerblading. This trail leads from Ngamotu Beach in the west through to Bell Block beach in the east. The bridge has bagged a couple of international awards already to its name, such as the Footbridge Awards 2011 and the Bridge Awards 2011 during the International Bridge Conference.
3. Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is a contemporary art museum with an international reputation and reach. Founded on a visionary exhibition and collection policy in 1970, the museum continues to seek ways to engage and interest an audience with people from all walks of life. The museum occupies the site which used to be the Regent Theatre, transforming the space into a site for groundbreaking exhibitions and multi-sensory installations, bringing to the city the creative and provocative work of both local and international artists.
Possessing a significant and growing permanent collection of paintings, video, installation and photography, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery enables people to connect with art and artists through tours, talks, workshops, films, performances and music. Their collection has a strong Māori and Pacific representation, which will give visitors meaningful insight to New Zealand’s culture and heritage. The gallery appeals not only to art aficionados alone, but to anyone who is keen to appreciate what it has to offer.
4. Sugar Loaf Islands
The Sugar Loaf Islands, situated just off the coast of New Plymouth, are the eroded stumps of an ancient volcanic crater. The waters around the islands are home to at least 89 species of fish, 33 species of encrusting sponges, 28 species of bryozoans and 9 nudibranchs. Seals and oceanic seabirds breed here; dolphins and whales regularly pass through. The islands, both above and below water, have been protected since 1986.
The islands and reefs in the Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area are close to Port Taranaki in New Plymouth and are a popular diving spot. Best times to dive would fall during summer and autumn. Recreational fishing is a popular activity in the Marine Protected Area, but beware that individual fishers are restricted to one rod with a maximum of three hooks. Visitors can kayak in the water and appreciate the wildlife up close. Approach the Information Centre at Puke Ariki in New Plymouth, who can assist in providing guide and kayak hire details.
Editor’s Note: Establishment is permanently closed.
Previously a theatre, this space has transformed into a bustling bar-restaurant and live music venue, often hosting rock or jazz bands and even comedy acts. Before your trip, check out their website to see what events or concerts they might have lined up for the day to ensure that you make the most of your time. There is also a food establishment located in the same venue that offers anything from entrees to platters and desserts, with takeaway available as well.
6. Back Beach
Back Beach is the place to be for surfers, with powerful waves and several peaks that cater to both right and left handers. With a breathtaking and picturesque landscape, it is no wonder that Back Beach is one of New Zealand’s most popular beaches. The beach is most beautiful at sunrise and sunset and overlooks Sugar Loaf Marine Park and Paritutu.
Fret not if you intend to visit this attraction during the colder months. You can still enjoy a leisurely stroll along the beach, run up and down the sand dunes or explore the tidal pools at low tide.
7. Taranaki Cathedral
New Plymouth’s Anglican cathedral, the Taranaki Cathedral Church of St Mary, is the country’s oldest stone church. In March 2010 St Mary’s was consecrated as a cathedral after years as a provisional cathedral. The ceremony was attended by hundreds of guests and dignitaries including many from the three stands of the Anglican Church – Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha. The service was conducted by The Archbishop of York, the most reverend Dr John Sentamu, and was deeply moving and significant.
The cathedral boasts a complex stone structure, a soaring timber ceiling, stained glass windows and historic artifacts. Plaques, flags and church pews illustrate the city’s past. Outside in the churchyard houses lie the graves of the Maori tribe and early settlers. Taranaki Cathedral has also held services ranging from those that mark the Battle of Britain to those mourning the loss of lives in the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.
8. Federal Store
Walk into the Federal Store and you will instantly notice the quirky 50s style tables and chairs and floral umbrellas. Their food is cooked to order and their cakes and fresh bread are made in house, and they even switch up their a la carte menu every month to keep things interesting. The owner of the Federal Store, Jeremy, has been a barista for the past 15 years and has worked alongside some of New Zealand’s leading coffee companies, so you can definitely trust him to brew you a good cup of Joe.
The Federal Store specializes in brunch and does it well – we hear their Banana Butterscotch and Bacon pancakes are a real hit. They also serve deli items such as gourmet sandwiches as well as burgers.
9. Brooklands Zoo
Brooklands Zoo is a family focused zoo which is home to a diverse variety of species including farmyard animals, reptiles and amphibians, oriental small-clawed otters, meerkats, a brolga, Bolivian squirrel monkeys, capuchins and cotton-top tamarins as well as a selection of colorful birds housed inside a walk-through, free-flight aviary. The best part about including this attraction in your itinerary is that it is completing free of charge! It will also be an enjoyable attraction for the little ones especially.
The track up to the summit of Paritutu is well worth the view. Paritutu was first discovered in 1770 when Captain Cook sailed down the coast and named the islands after the lumps of sugar he put in his tea. The summit is surprisingly flat as compared to other rocks, and this is a result of the laborious effort by the Maori tribe to level the rocks down for whares and kumara pits. They also used the rock for shelter and defense. In the early days, the bottom of the rock even housed a substantial village by the name of Mahoe, which was famous for their Tohunga school of learning.
The city of New Plymouth
The city of New Plymouth is a great destination for your next holiday. Known for its warm and sunny climate, art galleries and beautiful nature parks, it has something for everyone indeed. Perhaps this is a less known fact, but New Plymouth is also New Zealand’s ‘oil town’, with offshore rigs extracting natural gas and oil. You would not want to miss the breathtaking views from the summit of Paritutu, the adorable animals at Brooklands Zoo or the enthralling lush greenery at Pukekura Park, so don’t forget to pay this city a visit when you are in New Zealand.