Stepping out in New Plymouth

Hang gliding at Back Beach
Handgliding at Back Beach

With the holidays approaching fast have you thought about venturing out and about in New Plymouth?

BackBeach is beautiful to wander along especially when the tide is out.  The surfers are out in force when the wind is right; also the hang gliders, and more commonly, para gliders float around on the thermal air coming off the high cliffs.

Paritutu Rock is also an unusual place to clamber about.  It is a portion of the outer rim of an extinct volcano.  The steep track up is graded hard.  Make sure to allow heaps of time for the rest at the top as there are amazing views in all directions -most certainly not for the faint hearted.

Another lovely beach with a great playground is NgamotuBeach.  There are public toilets and barbecue facilities available.  You will also find the beam pump, which marks the site of Moturoa No. 4 oilwell, drilled to a depth of 666 metres in 1931 and closed in 1972.  The beam pump was erected by Shell BP and Todd Oil Services as a memorial to the pioneers of oil exploration in New Zealand.

Kawaroa Park is well known for its rock pools.  Make sure to have sturdy footwear.  Young and old have fun exploring the rockpools, seeing creatures up close and then putting them back into their homes.

The Aquatic Centre is a great place summer or winter, rainy day or fine.  There are family changing rooms available and also a shop for snacks.  The heated indoor pool is a wave pool.  It has a beach area, Tarzan rope, fountains and an inflatable playground during the weekends and public holidays.  The complex also has a spa pool, tots pool, steam room and sauna.  Outside there is a 50 metre, diving, toddler and learners pools.  The main outside attractions are the hydroslides.

A recent addition to New Plymouth is the Foreshore Walkway.  You can walk from BackBeach right out to the Waiwhakaiho River Mouth, an approximate distance of 7km.  The walk can be started from many points depending on time restraints.

Wind WandThe Wind Wand, located on the foreshore near Puke Ariki Landing, is an amazing 45 metre tall piece of art work.  The Wind Wand has a clear plastic globe that is 2 metres in diameter and can bend approximately 20 metres in any direction.

If the walk is daunting, you can hire a Wind Wanderer bike and pedal along with the help of three of your friends.  Another alternative is to hire a bike from Cycle Inn and go exploring.

Puke Ariki is where the library, museum and visitor information centre can be found.  The Activity Centre has a variety of exhibitions with many having interactive activities.  A fun place for young and old to go exploring.  or

Next to Puke Ariki is Richmond Cottage.  Built in 1953-54 as a family home it was formally opened to the public on 13 March 1963.  The cottage has a category 1 listing with the NZ Historic Places.  Selected original artefacts associated with those who lived there are on display.  For opening hours contact the Visitor Information Centre.

New Plymouth is lucky to have many zoos and animal parks.

Brooklands Zoo is a great experience for the children.  You can enjoy a close up encounter with the cotton-top tamarins, watch the otters and capuchin monkeys at play, walk through the free flight aviary and handle the baby farm animals and pat the larger animals.  There is a huge playground with picnic area.

Bowl of BrooklandsBrooklands Bowl is also a great place to visit when concerts are playing or a neat place to feed the ducks.  It is a natural outdoor amphitheatre opened in 1958 and hosts many national and international performers.

PukekuraPark is a wonderful place to explore.  There is quite a good playground with a small paddling pool.  Go prepared with heaps of bread to feed the many ducks in the two lakes.  There are also row boats that you can hire and go exploring.  A very recent addition is a walkway amongst the marshy area of the lake.  Enjoy the Fernery and display houses, fountain built in 1953 and the 10.6 metre waterfall built in 1970.

From mid December to early February the park is alive with the TSB Bank Festival of Lights.  There are many forms of entertainment daytime and evening and the park is light up with hundreds of electrical displays.

Near the main entrance to PukekuraPark is a scale model, steam train, railway.  For a gold coin donation the children can have a coal steam train ride.  The trains run from 2 – 4pm every Sunday and extra hours during the Christmas holidays.  It also runs in the evenings whilst the Festival of Lights is operating.

A few minutes drive from the shops is PouakaiZooPark.  A wonderful place for the children and adults alike to have a close look at lions, zebras, monkeys and lama to name a few of the animals kept there.

Heading South, located between New Plymouth and EgmontVillage, is LakeMangamahoe.  It has many walkways and even a wonderful look out point to view the whole lake.  If you are lucky you might get a wonderful view of the Mountain.  Weather permitting a great place to have a picnic lunch.

There are two walks:-

–        LakeCircuit Walk – 6km – 2 hours – Med/Hard

–        Forest Walk – 3km – 90 minutes – Med/Hard

There are tracks suitable for mountain biking, walking or running.  Fly fishing is the only type of fishing permitted.

Across the road from the Lake is TATATM (Taranaki Aviation Transport and TechnologyMuseum).  There is a large collection of farm equipment, dairy, vehicles, aircraft, household, marine and other items of interest.

The North Egmont Visitor Centre is worth the 25 minute drive from New Plymouth.  Spectacular views back over New Plymouth and the coastline.  Enjoy a few of the short walks or sit back and enjoy a snack at the café.

In Inglewood there is the Fun Ho National Toy Museum.  There are hundreds of miniature lead models purchased from 1935 – 45.  They also have a huge range of aluminium toys.  Some of the toys are available for sale and you can purchase spare parts for those forgotten toys of your childhood.  If you wish there is a repair shop available.   A large model working train set is also on display.  A regular newsletter is published for collectors.

A few minutes drive out of Inglewood, Stoney Oaks has farm animals that the children are allowed to get in amongst.  They have a cow, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs, goats, possum, highland cattle and fallow deer.  There is thar, yak, chinchillas, donkey, minature horse, ostrich, imu, Jacob patterned sheep, llama and alpaca and boris the eel. There is a bush walk and a small lake to row on that has black swans.  A recent addition is “The Barn” accommodation, which overlooks the farm and pond.

One travel tip – based on experience – when leaving the house always have a complete change of clothes and a plastic bag to contain the wet/dirty clothes.  Other essential items are food and drink.  You can guarantee as soon as you leave home someone is hungry or thirsty.

Of course, these are only a fraction of the attractions available.  Contact the local Information Centre for full listings.

This article was published in Kids Friendly NZ July 2007 on-line edition.

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