31 best things to do in the central North Island
Dominated by the enormous Lake Taupō and a trio of volcanoes including Mount Ruapehu, the Central Plateau is sporting a plethora of natural ...
Get amongst hiking, surfing and cycling to exploring the quirky, creative corners of Taranaki towns. The region’s extensive sparkling coastline and iconic cone-shaped volcano offer a multitude of activities to get out there and adenture. Check out our top ten list and start planning your trip to this underrated holiday destination.
One of New Zealand’s best one-day walks and part of the larger Pouakai Circuit, this eight-hour crossing showcases some of the most breathtaking scenery of the region, from native forest to lava cliffs and a stunningly picturesque mountain lake – you’ll definitely want to grab a photo of Mount Taranaki reflected serenely in the water.
The Len Lye Centre in New Plymouth is hard to miss – with its mirrored columns and changeable reflections, you’ll be having fun before you even get inside. Next door to The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, the Len Lye Centre is the only public gallery in New Zealand dedicated to a single artist, and features changing exhibitions of works by the renowned kinetic sculptor and film artist.
Taranaki’s coastline is a surfer’s paradise, with 180 degrees of ocean swells to explore along Surf Highway 45 between New Plymouth and Hāwera. Top surf beaches include Fitzroy Beach, Oakura Beach, Kaupokanui Beach and Ohawe Beach. The highway is worth a drive even if you’re not a surfer – you’ll get a load of spectacular scenery along the route, and discover small towns full of art galleries and studios, historical sites, and unique personality.
The only ski field on Mount Taranaki, Manganui has outstanding steep runs and off-piste skiing as well as a small beginner-intermediate area accessible by T-bar or rope tow. Snowboarders will love the two natural half-pipes. Snow can be sporadic throughout the season, so keep an eye on the reports before planning your day.
The historic lighthouse on the westernmost point of Taranaki was built in 1881 and still flashes its light every eight seconds today. It makes a striking sight across green fields with Mt Taranaki as its backdrop. Unfortunately you can’t go inside or get up close to the lighthouse.
This stunningly scenic five-to-eight-hour walk takes you over farmland and along the sheer cliffs and bluffs of northern Taranaki, including the Three Sisters rock formations and of course the famous Parininihi white cliffs. You’ll also walk through the 130-year-old Te Horo stock tunnel, hand-hewn through the cliffs and emerging out on private farmland. The walkway is closed during lambing season, 1 July to 30 September.
This is a destination to delight anyone’s inner child, with over 3000 locally made toys on display dating back to 1935. See the slot car track, sand pit, theatrette and other interactive displays, and if the toy maker is in, you might even be lucky enough to see him make the toy of the day.
The bronze statue of Wendy in King Edward Park is the companion to the Peter Pan statue in London’s Kensington Gardens, and it’s the only Wendy Darling statue in the world! It was created as part of a Royal Academy of Sculpture competition and unveiled in 1951.
A little local secret: head to the Hāwera iSite and borrow the key to the water tower next door for some of the best views in town, looking over the Tasman Sea and back towards Mount Taranaki. This local icon was built in 1914 after a series of fires badly affected the town. It’s a fair few steep, narrow stairs to the top – 215 to be exact – and the views are well worth the effort.
Considered by many to be one of the best private museums in the country, the Tawhiti Museum is an interactive and engaging experience created by artist Nigel Ogle. Learn all about Taranaki’s history, including the Land Wars, through a series of intricate scale models, check out the collection of vintage farm machinery, and take a ride into a bygone era in the Traders and Whalers section, where you’ll be ferried on an actual boat through a recreation of the Taranaki coast, giving you a glimpse at what life was like there between 1820 and 1840.