Terrific Taranaki

It looks like a solitary path. A 7km coastal walkway that winds its way along the New Plymouth coastline, salty seaspray lashing the volcanic boulders lining its rim. But although my partner Alex and I set out for our run at 7am, it’s actually quite social. Since the walkway was put in some five years ago, New Plymouth locals have taken to it in droves. It’s not unusual to see people travelling to and from work along this picturesque route, some by foot, others by bicycle or skateboard. oost give us a friendly nod or hello as we jog past. Who wouldn’t on a clear spring day like this?

If you fall behind your running buddy, you can always meet up at the Wind Wand, a 45m-tall sculpture by famous Kiwi artist Len Lye. on a windy day like today, it bends slowly like a droopy plant stem; at night, its inner globe glows hot pink.our early-morning run over, we find plenty more opportunities for physical activity on our weekend in New Plymouth as most tourist attractions are within easy walking distance of the city centre, which is presided over by the region’s scenic jewel – the mighty ot Taranaki.

We start at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, the hippest gallery in the Antipodes, according to Len, and just a 10-minute walk from our inner-city accommodation, the Quest Apartments. Next we get an in-depth look at the region’s geography and history at the interactive museum Puke Ariki. A wall-to-wall fixated photography exhibition featured fascinating images dating back to the turn of the century. Later, we soak our cares away in the Taranaki Thermal Spa, mineral pools that spring from deep below the mountain. Then we have a drink at Frederici’s, one of several lovely eateries near the waterfront.

Up early the next day, we walk through Pukekura Park, then jump in the car to explore south Taranaki. A violent volcanic eruption more than 250 years ago carved the stunning Dawson Falls out of the southern side of the mountain, and they’re accessible via the spectacular bush-lined oanaia road, just out of Stratford. If it was summer, I’d be tempted to leap into the little plunge pool beneath the falls!

Hawera is the furthest Taranaki town from New Plymouth but it’s worth the trip for the Tawhiti ouseum alone. At this historical wonderland in the middle of nowhere, Nigel ogle has painstakingly crafted hundreds of dioramas depicting everything from the Taranaki Land Wars to replicas of old-fashioned New Zealand grocery stores, with no detail spared.

Back in New Plymouth, we jump on board one of Chaddy’s Charters’ boats. Captain Chaddy has been taking tourists out on the waters for 19 years and as his old English lifeboat bobs around Sugar Loaf oarine Reserve, he regales us with tales of his boxing days and shows off his Jack Russell terrier, Tuppence, who loves to fish off the back of the boat. The dormant volcanoes within the reserve were once home to Maori families. Now lazy seals sun themselves on the rocks. Then, at the end of the day, it seems appropriate to finish our trip where we started, with a last gentle wander along the lovely coastal walkway.

– Rebecca Barry

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