New Plymouth outdoor activities
Whether you fancy a refreshing stroll in nature or a wilderness challenge that tests your limits, you’ll love the outdoor activities in New Plymouth and the wider Taranaki region. The city has beautiful garden parks and a magnificent coastal walkway. There are long driftwood beaches right around the surf-washed coast and the Egmont National Park, home to Mount Taranaki, has more than 200km of trails to explore.
Pukekura Park and Brooklands Park, New Plymouth
This magnificent family-friendly New Plymouth park is a 10-minute walk from the CBD and includes one of the many magnificent New Plymouth gardens in the region. Covering 52ha (128 acres), Pukekura Park is the perfect place to stretch your legs and commune with nature. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Well-formed paths follow the edge of a lake that's crossed by historic footbridges
- There's a delightful tea house for refreshments or lunch and three fun-filled playgrounds for children
- A 228-jet fountain on the lake and the cascading Pukekura Park waterfall can both be operated at the push of a button
- An old-style waterwheel turns near the main playground
- For visitors who love more formal gardens, the glass-topped fernery and display houses are a real delight – there are ever-changing displays of succulents, rhododendrons, orchids, tropical foliage, native ferns and more
- Beyond the lake, paths lead through larger native and exotic trees and out to grass-covered open spaces, perfect for picnics and energetic children
- If you continue south into Brooklands Park, you'll discover Brooklands Zoo and Farmyard, a free family experience that everyone can enjoy
From mid-December to late January, Pukekura Park becomes a magical fairyland during the TSB Festival of Lights. In March it's time for the WOMAD music festival, which makes the most of the natural amphitheatre and large outdoor stage at the TSB Bowl of Brooklands, that has seen the likes of Sir Elton John, Stevie Nicks and R.E.M perform on its stage.
Resembling a giant whale skeleton or breaking wave, the award-winning Te Rewa Rewa foot bridge stretches 85m across the river.
New Plymouth Coastal Walkway and Te Henui Walkway
Whether you're a walker, runner, skater or cyclist, you'll love New Plymouth's coastal walkway. Stretching 12.7km from Port Taranaki to Bell Block Beach, this amazing concrete-paved path provides easy access to New Plymouth's coastal attractions. There are numerous entry points along the way, so you can enjoy as much or as little of the route as you want. In the city, Cycle Inn offers bike hire for the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway seven days a week, including electric bikes. Bikes can also be hired from local tourism character Chaddy's Charters at Port Taranaki where you can access the beginning of the walkway from the port.
As well as the Tasman Sea swells and uncrowded driftwood beaches, there are several constructed highlights along the walkway. In front of the CBD, Len Lye's red kinetic sculpture, The Wind Wand, reaches 48m skyward and slow dances in the breeze. At the mouth of the Waiwhakaiho River, the East End Point breakwater is a perfect spot for photos from the ocean looking back to the city and inland to Mount Taranaki. A short distance further, near the Lake Rotomanu recreation area, you'll discover the iconic Te Rewa Rewa Bridge. Resembling a giant whale skeleton or breaking wave, this award-winning New Plymouth walkway bridge stretches 85m across the river. Beyond the bridge, the walkway turns inland through picturesque farmland before emerging at Bell Block Beach.
There's a multitude of other New Plymouth walks to enjoy, so be sure to pick up a guide from the i-Site Visitor Centre. It's in the Puke Ariki building on St Aubyn Street. The Te Henui Walkway, for example, is the city's most popular river walkway. Branching off from the Coastal Walkway at Fitzroy Reserve, it weaves inland following the Te Henui River through reserve land covered in native and exotic plants.
New Plymouth beaches, surf and fishing
In New Plymouth and along the Taranaki coast, you're spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches for walking, swimming and surfing. All ocean beaches can have isolated rip currents that could carry you out to sea, so be sure to check with experienced locals before swimming.
- Right in town you'll find Ngamotu Beach, a sheltered harbour beach that's family-friendly
- There's also Fitzroy Beach, one of the best beaches in New Plymouth. It's a long length of black sand with plenty of waves for surfers, a gentle incline for swimmers and heaps of room for everyone. In summer, this beach is patrolled by surf lifesavers
- Just to the west of town, Back Beach is a favourite with locals for walking and with more experienced New Plymouth surf riders and swimmers
- Head south along Surf Highway 45 for 15km and you'll reach Oakura Beach, another long black-sand beach with good surf for boogie boarding and surfing in the right conditions, and a family friendly lagoon when the tide is out
The famously-scenic Surf Highway 45 continues for 105km all the way to Hawera, with side roads running down to legendary surf breaks and driftwood covered beaches. If you're interested in learning to surf or improving your skills, there are several highly-rated surf schools to choose from in places like Oakura and Opunake.
Taranaki is also a popular area for ocean and river fishing. Book yourself a fishing charter boat in New Plymouth or South Taranaki; try your hand at surf-casting from the beach; or hire a guide to discover the best river fishing spots New Plymouth has to offer for trophy trout.
Paritutu Rock climb
Right on the western end of downtown New Plymouth, between Back Beach and Ngamotu Beach and part of the 'sugar loaf' islands that extend from the base of Mt Taranaki out to sea a small volcanic peak rises 156m skyward, creating a steep and exciting climb. To climb Paritutu Rock, follow the track from Paritutu Centennial Park. It begins with plenty of steep steps to lift your pulse rate, before switching to something of a rock climb with a heavy chain strung between posts to hold onto. After about 15 minutes of challenging exertion, you arrive at the summit and the reward of massive views in all directions. The trip back down is equally challenging, so make sure you have suitable footwear and the confidence to tackle near-vertical slopes on a narrow track.
Forgotten World by rail, jet boat and canoe
Discover the forgotten world between Stratford and Taumarunui and the Forgotten World Highway. Explore the epic landscapes and changing scenery of New Zealand's Forgotten World by pedal or petrol-powered rail cart along the decommissioned rail line that runs between Stratford and Taumarunui. Learn about the history and hardships of the region's hardy pioneers up close and in nature. You can take your pick between rail, jet boat, canoe, bike or on foot with many different packages available. Whether it's an epic multi-day adventure, or a short trip up river by jet boat to Lauren's Lavender Farm and strolling through the aromatic fields, Forgotten World Adventures has an adventure for everyone.
Mount Taranaki walks and Egmont National Park hiking
In the Egmont National Park surrounding and including Mount Taranaki, there are forest and alpine walks to suit everyone. Just a 30-minute drive from New Plymouth, the North Egmont Visitor Centre is the ideal place to start. Here you'll find maps and track guides, as well as knowledgeable staff to help you plan a hike that suits your fitness, experience and available time. There's also a popular café and spectacular views to enjoy.
The area's best multi-day hikes include the 2-3 day Pouakai Circuit and 4-5 day Around the Mountain Circuit. There are also trails to two of the bookable overnight huts - Maketawa Hut (1.5 hours) and Holly Hut (3-4 hours).
If you're thinking of climbing Mt Taranaki, the 8-10 hour return summit climb should only be attempted in summer, and with proper preparation and clothing. The weather on the mountain can change quickly in any season. The track passes through lush native forest, alpine tussock and slopes covered in loose scoria. The maunga (mountain) is sacred to Maori, particularly the summit area. Visitors are asked to respect this by not standing on the highest point of the peak, not cooking or camping in the summit area, and taking all rubbish back down the mountain.
To get the most from your Egmont National Park walks, consider booking an experienced mountain guide from Top Guides New Plymouth. Not only will your safety be in good hands, you'll also learn a lot more about the mountain's flora and fauna, as well as its cultural significance to local Māori people and iwi. Top Guides will also help you choose a hike that suits the conditions, your goals and your abilities, ensuring a truly enjoyable and memorable experience.
If, like many visitors, a half-day hike is more your thing, there are five different trails to choose from, ranging from one to four hours return. You'll also find four walks taking less than an hour, including the family-friendly Nature Walk, a 15-minute loop track, and the 40-minute Connett Loop Walk through 'goblin forest', a magical native forest covered in lichens and moss.
Manganui ski area in Taranaki
On the south-eastern slopes of Mount Taranaki, there's a no-frills ski area that has one of the longest winter seasons in New Zealand, typically stretching from June to October. Catering mainly for intermediate and advanced skiers, The Manganui ski area is home to the Stratford Mountain Club. With a skiable area of 59 hectares, there are some great one-kilometre runs for skiers, plus two half-pipes and terrain park features for snowboarders. There's no chairlift, but three rope tows and a T-bar ensure everyone gets a lift to the top of their favourite run, again and again.
Manganui ski area is 45 minutes by car from New Plymouth and 15 minutes from Stratford. If you want to hire skis or snowboarding gear, you need to do that in New Plymouth or Stratford. There's a scenic 25-30 minute walk from the car park to the ski area, with a goods lift for your gear about half way in.