Taranaki offers up a family holiday with a difference. Whether you’ve got excitable grommets to entertain or a hankering for exploration, there’s plenty to see and do all year round for kids and kids at heart in Taranaki.
Escape: Coffee, Skate, Surf, Yoga
Escape in Liardet St is for skateboard and surfing supplies, craft coffee, yoga classes…and a great back story. Proprietor Logan Gieni grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada and didn’t see the sea until he was 21. He and wife Marli came here on a surfing trek and just couldn’t leave. If the kids are keen skaters, take them in the afternoon when they’ll get free reign of the indoor skate bowl while you shop and caffeinate. Escape Coffee, 15 Liardet St, New Plymouth
New Plymouth was once cut off from its coast by a railway line, but not any more. Decades of work have created a waterfront walking, cycling and skateboarding path running 13 kilometres from Port Taranaki in the west to Bell Block out east. It features public art like Len Lye’s 48-metre Wind Wand and a group of his mini-wands at East End Reserve, stone sculptures, and a semi-circular stainless-steel creation that has kids endlessly posing in funny shapes. A few places in town and on the walkway offer bikes, scooters and skateboards to hire – grab one to discover the stunning Te Rewa Rewa bridge, the Aquatic Centre and its neighbouring playground, or the coffee carts, and the laid-back Paris Plage summer café. Running beside sparkling surf most of the way, the walkway is two-way, so courtesy is encouraged, and dogs must be leashed. Coastal Walkway
The Federal Store
When it’s time to refuel the kids, take them back to the good old days. Just a short block from the Coastal Walkway, on Devon St at Strandon, is The Federal Store, a venerable and busy café oozing with nostalgic décor. As a sure sign it’s good, in-the-know locals flock here for excellent coffee or shakes, breakfast or lunch. The burger towers are generous and delicious. The Federal Store, 440 Devon St East, New Plymouth
Surf Highway 45
Tracing the coastline for 105km between New Plymouth and Hawera, Taranaki’s famed Surf Highway 45 offers access to great swimming beaches, rock pools, shipwrecks, Maori pa sites and a lighthouse museum to explore. Head seaward and you’ll find renowned surf breaks with quintessential local names like Ahu’s, Green Meadows, the Kumara Patch, Stent Rd, Rocky Rights and Lefts, and Graveyards, while turning towards the mountain leads to celebrated gardens and walkways. In the south, climb Hawera’s iconic Water Tower and check out the amazing Tawhiti Museum. Towns along the route offer a surprisingly good array of eateries to keep your adventure fuelled, and numerous family camping grounds offer a relaxed place to stay. Surf Highway 45 (SH45), North End: SH3 New Plymouth and South End: SH3 at Hawera.
Pukekura Park & Brooklands Zoo
Hard to imagine now, but after beginning life as a swampy valley in 1878, the main lake at Pukekura Park was a swimming pool, with men and women bathing on alternate days. Today it’s the centrepiece of a botanical jewel, beginning three blocks from the CBD with the world’s most scenic cricket ground, then sprawling through 50 hectares of established bush and gardens. Walkways lead to gems like The Fernery, whose collection of native ferns, orchids, begonias, fuchsias, carnivorous plants and rhododendrons attracts Royals when they visit. In summer the park sparkles after dark with the TSB Bank Festival of Lights, best experienced from a row boat on the Park’s main lake, and there’s a great playground. An easy walk leads to the Bowl of Brooklands, venue for the WOMAD festival each March. Above the Bowl is a big little zoo, where kids find animals on a scale that invites getting up close. From curious Kunekune pigs to cheeky monkeys, cuddly guinea pigs and bright-coloured parakeets, you can tour this place within a child’s attention span. Pukekura Park & Brooklands Zoo, 10 Fillis St, Brooklands, New Plymouth
Puke Ariki: Museum & Library
Take the kids to this combined museum and library complex for a couple of hours of exploration and and inspiration. Discover the legend of mythical Mount Taranaki, some of the cool ideas and innovations that have emerged from its shadow over the decades, and even more stories of the region’s early days. Downstairs there’s an ever-changing lineup of interactive exhibitions with lots more to keep inquiring minds of all ages occupied. Puke Ariki: Museum & Library, 1 Ariki Street, New Plymouth