New Plymouth & Taranaki – ideas for free time

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New Plymouth is a great place to just kick back a little and enjoy the relaxed beach atmosphere. There are a couple of fantastic art galleries with a good mix of traditional and contemporary works to make it interesting for most people. The coastal walkway is a 12.7-kilometre long beach parade and takes you past some interesting art installations as well as splendid views of Sugar Loaf Islands and the west coast.

Further afield Mount Taranaki dominates the skyline and there are some fantastic walks around it’s flanks. There are three main access points to the park, on the northern, eastern and southern sides, and the closest to New Plymouth is about a 20-minute drive from the city, with a visitor centre conveniently located at the car park. Here you will find information about the history of the park as well as maps of all the walking trails.

For the less energetic you could just take a scenic drive along the coast and around the mountain – you can easily do a full circuit in a day with stops at some of the lovely coastal and country towns en route such as Opunake and Stratford. From Stratford the Forgotten World Highway stretches eastwards, a delightfully rural and winding road that would take a full day to drive one-way. However, in a day from New Plymouth it’s possible to get as far as the intriguing ‘Republic of Whangamomona’, have a bite to eat and return in a day.

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