Western North Island Holidays
Taranaki is the North Island’s ‘nose’, a peninsula that juts out into the wild Tasman Sea. From its broad, flat plain, used mostly for dairy farming, the majestic volcanic cone of Mt. Taranaki rises to over 2500m.
At the foot of Taranaki, the modern and prosperous port of New Plymouth is the gateway to Mt Egmont National Park to which hikers are drawn to climb Mt Taranaki or walk the 5-day circuit around its lower slopes. The town is about an equal distance from both Auckland and Wellington and a good base from which to explore the region.
The town itself, though not large, has a very pleasant feel with shops, cafés and bars, which are often open late and provide an ambience all of their own. There are also several art galleries, befitting a region that has more artists per capita than any other region in the country. Indeed, the Govett Brewster Art Gallery is renowned as a contemporary art gallery and is one of the town’s “must-see” attractions.
Most visitors to New Plymouth, however, are probably drawn more by the natural attractions of which, there are plenty. The coastline for one is almost as big a draw as Mt Taranaki… well at least for surfers and windsurfers, with several world-class surfing beaches located nearby. Even for those less inclined to ‘riding waves’, these are beautiful beaches that are simply worth seeing.
There are several walking trails in the New Plymouth area, totalling over 60-kilometres. These are well marked out trails and are less demanding that the hike up Mt Taranaki. Alternatively for more casual strolling, New Plymouth’s parks and gardens are a delight with the perfect climate for flowers such as rhododendrons, azaleas and roses to grow.
To the south of the peninsula the city of Wanganui is justly proud of its Victorian and Edwardian heritage. The mighty river bearing the same name was once the main ‘highway’ inland for paddle steamers that used to transport people and goods up and down river. Today river trips up the Whanganui River provide the easiest access to a vast region of untouched forest, where the poignant ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ is a reminder of the pioneers’ struggle with nature.
Situated on the banks of the Manawatu River, Palmerston North is a university town, home to New Zealand’s second largest university, Massey. Though often overlooked by tourists, the town acts as a major crossroads, linking the North Island’s major roads in all directions. It has a relaxed feel and provides a pleasant stopover point on route to Wellington down highway 1.