Located on the west coast, New Plymouth is somewhat off of the well-travelled route through the North Island, but it’s a place you should consider when planning your next New Zealand holiday.
Located in Taranaki, voted as the world’s second best region to visit by Lonely Planet, New Plymouth is known for surf, art, and adventure, with something for even the littlest of travellers. Nestled in the shadow of the spectacular Mount Taranaki, alongside black sand beaches, there’s surf in one direction and skiing in the other and a number of exciting adventures to be had.
Stay: Ahu Ahu Beach Villas
Settled on a clifftop, overlooking the ocean, just steps from a beautiful black sand beach you’ll find the Ahu Ahu Beach Villas in the laid back, surf town of Oakura, just south of New Plymouth.
With award-winning architecture that is equal parts beautifully designed as it is interesting in the backstory and history of construction, the Ahu Ahu Beach Villas are a special sort of New Zealand legacy. A family-owned and run accommodation, the hospitality provided by David, Nuala, and Seth will make you feel as if you’re visiting and catching up with family friends you have known your entire life and with the communal feel of the villas themselves, you’ll find yourself a home away from home.
The expansive lawns that stretch seamlessly into the ocean are perfect for romping around or for a game of cricket, and settling by the communal fire pit before bedtime is the perfect way to end a day of exploring Taranaki.
With a total of four separate accommodations between the two villas, Ahu Ahu Beach Villas are perfect for a stay with your immediate family or rent more than one villa with whanau and have the entire place to yourself.
Just like us (and our six year old, who cried as we packed up), you’ll find yourself never wanting to leave this magical slice of New Zealand.
Tour: Chaddy’s Charters
A staple in New Plymouth history, Chaddy’s Charters is the perfect way to explore the Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Reserve.
Kiko Matthews – the fastest female to row the Atlantic, solo and unsupported! – is the new co-owner of Chaddy’s Charters. Kiko saw first-hand the extent of plastic pollution in the ocean. After cycling around the United Kingdom organising beach clean-ups along her ride, Kiko has recently taken on the business with the goal of providing sustainable fishing and eco-tours for locals, schools, and visitors.
A pleasant cruise around the port of New Plymouth, you’ll enjoy learning the extensive and interesting history of the region (like how 50 women and children lived on one of the islands for months), while witnessing a seal colony in its natural habitat (Aotearoa’s most northern population of seals).
Outing: Brooklands Zoo
Situated in the heart of New Plymouth, you’ll find the Brooklands Zoo, a small, incredibly clean zoo perfect for an afternoon of free family fun. Open daily with no admission fee, you’ll be able to view a variety of animals, from exotic animals like the friendly capuchins to farm animals like the kunekune, all who appear happy and healthy. When you’re done viewing the animals, there’s a great playground to run off extra energy and a fresh fruit ice cream and coffee truck for refuelling. Afterwards, you can meander through one of New Zealand’s premier botanical gardens in the adjacent Pukekura Park.
Adventure: Wilkie’s Pools
Wilkie’s Pools is the perfect mountain adventure for families with children of all ages and fitness abilities, with a 900 meter (a short 20 minute) pram-friendly and safe well-laid path that leads up the mountain from the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre car park. You’ll walk through the Goblin Forest, an enchanted forest of tangled trees covered in mosses, cross the swing bridge over the Kapuni Stream, to reach the interesting formation of lava formed rock pools filled with ice cold water from the melting snow and ice at the top of the volcano. Jump in the “refreshing” pools if you wish to brave the cold.
Rainy day fun: Todd Energy Aquatic Centre
With huge hydro slides, a rope swing into the deep end, and pools of all depths and temperatures for varying ages, the Todd Energy Aquatic Centre is warm, safe, and great fun for the entire family.
Eat: Holy Guacamole
A Mexican food truck parked alongside Oakura beach is perfect for families with active kids looking for a dining out option. With comfortable picnic blankets and cushions on the grass opposite the beach, the food is delicious and the laid back outdoor atmosphere is perfect for the kids to run around while the adults can relax and watch the surf.
Check out this video of Isobel and her family’s amazing New Plymouth adventure
By Isobel Benesch