The last time I was in New Plymouth was to see Tegan and Sara open for Jack Johnson in 2010. Evidently Jack Johnson chose Taranaki as the destination for one of his two New Zealand shows because of its reputation for having some of the country’s best surf.
Taranaki is known for much more than surf breaks these days. Last year, it was named the second best region in the world by Lonely Planet. There’s plenty to love about New Plymouth: stunning coastlines, friendly inhabitants and a thriving arts and cultural scene. Despite its small size, it feels decidedly cosmopolitan and avant-garde, due in part to design-led eateries and the experimental Len Lye Centre.
Armed with less than 36 hours in New Plymouth, I checked into boutique hotel King & Queen Hotel Suites, located centrally on the corner of King and Queen Streets. The property overlooks the coast, so you can’t ask for a better location. Moroccan furnishings add a pop of colour to the otherwise minimal and sleek interiors. Balconies overlook the city below, offering views of the crashing waves. Next door is Ozone Coffee Roasters, a spacious local roastery and café serving up NP’s best cuppa. I could’ve easily spent the entire afternoon cozied up here with a book. I settled for a flat white and some beans to take home with me.
For breakfast, pop into Monica’s Eatery, a sleek café named after Monica Brewster (and attached to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery). The buzzing restaurant is open from morning till night. Bask in the sun whilst enjoying eggs benedict or decadent pancakes. Later on, return for an aperol spritz or negroni.
Other notable eateries line the courtyard of the White Hart building. Ms. White serves up pizzas and craft beer whereas The Public Catering Company is known for its doughnuts and pastries, including bacon and egg tarts. Snug Lounge is a Japanese restaurant and cocktail bar. Dining options in the West End Precinct are seemingly unlimited and I find myself wanting to try everything.
In addition to dining, there are a few notable shopping spots. Et Vous is a women’s boutique that highlights both local and international designers and Plantation is a design and homewares shop that will give you serious interior inspiration. Urban Beauty Spa is the ultimate place to get pampered in New Plymouth. I not only judge a spa based on its tranquil interior, but also the products it uses. At Urban, Dermalogica is used for all facial treatments and St. Tropez for spray tans. They also offer massages, gel manicures, pedicures and hair removal.
After exploring the retail options, I was ready for a sunny stroll along the Coastal Walkway. On weekend mornings, you’ll see families out for bike rides and locals enjoying a morning jog. There are plenty of nearby beaches as well. Fitzroy is a lovely local spot known for its great surf. Along the Surf Highway, be sure to stop by Oakura Beach. The drive itself is glorious, roll your windows and enjoy the 15-minute cruise. The beach is empty when I visit, on an unseasonably warm August afternoon.
Before departing, be sure to venture across Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, where you’ll take in views of Mt. Taranaki (also known as Mt. Egmont). New Plymouth strikes the perfect balance between culture and nature. There’s plenty to enjoy whether you consider yourself an outdoorsy type, a culture seeker or both. While some visitors feel it lacks the excitement and infrastructure of world-class cities, I disagree. New Plymouth is small but mighty and much easier on the wallet than bigger centres. It’s easy to see why this region was named one of the best in the world.