Taranaki was named the second best region in the world by Lonely Planet in 2016.
But despite this, when I (a relative newcomer to New Zealand) announced I’d be heading there for a long weekend in January, many of my friends had bemused reactions.
“It’s not really where I’d choose for a getaway,” one reacted, while another thought I was just another misguided traveller.
The often overlooked region, that counts New Plymouth as its main city, apparently isn’t on the ‘traditional tourist trail,’ like Queenstown and Wellington might be, and is renowned for brutal west coast weather.
Not exactly synonymous with the perfect holiday destination, maybe, but this reputation does it a disservice.
After spending four days in the beautiful Taranaki region, I’d totally fallen for the place. And being an adopted Jaffa, couldn’t believe the ease at which you could drive around/get a table/find a patch of beach with no one on. Oh, and the people couldn't have been more helpful either.
Flying in at 7am, we headed straight to the coast to have a stroll along the New Plymouth coastal walkway, a 10km track that takes in views of Mt Egmont, the infamous wind wand and rugged coastline.
The first hike on my list was up to Wilkies Pools. An easy, half hour track took us through 'Goblin Forest' until we came upon crystal clear, aquamarine pools that were perfect for plunging. Despite being pretty chilly, it was hard to resist the allure of these beautiful swimming holes, with their backdrop of the Mount.
Here’s where you get that classic reflection shot of Mt Egmont. A circular walk is perfect for anyone of moderate fitness levels, and is definitely worth a visit.
Right in the city lies the impressive Pukekura Park: 52 hectares of native and exotic plants, walking trails, and water features. The home of the annual WOMAD festival, this is also great to catch during the festival of lights at the start of summer.
Take in the street art
If Len Lye isn’t your thing (and to be honest, his kinetic art was not for me) take a wander down Egmont Street and the surrounding area in the centre of town. There’s some pretty impressive street art to marvel at.
Visit Federal Store for lunch
This quirky café has a distinctly retro vibe, with everything from the waitresses to the furniture channelling ‘50s chic. On top of this, the food and drink is fantastic, and is best enjoyed in one of their trademark booths.
Drive along Surf Highway 45
This 105km stretch along the west coast sports some pretty impressive beaches. Taking a picnic down and having a wee nap in the car, as the waves crashed outside, was definitely one of the trip highlights.
Drink at Snug Lounge and Prohibition
There are plenty of watering holes in New Plymouth, but our personal favourites were Snug and Prohibition. Snug is, as its name would suggest, perfect for cold and wet afternoons when you just want to feel cosy (plus, great Japanese food), while Prohibition is decidedly cool with its tattoo design wall hangings and killer cocktails.
Warm up at Taranaki mineral pools
Wet and chilly weather on the west coast can make you feel a little worse for wear. We headed to Taranaki Mineral Pools, where mineral water straight from the source promises to cure you of all your aches and pains. A private bath for two is reasonably priced and comes with sauna session, so is the perfect place to warm up on a windy day.
Bach on Breakwater for ocean views
With great cabinet food and restaurant menu, we made this our final stop on the way back to New Plymouth airfield. With pretty views of the Sugar Loaf Islands and the Port – this is great come rain or shine.