Welcome to the coastal hidden gem New Plymouth, where stunning natural beauty meets a thriving arts scene and a bucketful of adventure! Nestled between the mesmerizing Tasman Sea and magnificent Mount Taranaki, New Plymouth city on New Zealand’s North Island is the perfect combination of mountain sceneries, farmland and ocean breeze. There are plenty of amazing things to do in New Plymouth. Exploring Mount Egmont National Park and Mount Taranaki as landmark is one of the highlights of this region. But there are many other amazing New Plymouth attractions including some great cafes and bars in downtown New Plymouth. Get ready to plan your road trip to New Plymouth with this complete guide!
15 BEST THINGS TO DO IN NEW PLYMOUTH
Hike Pouakai Tarns
One of the most famous hikes on the North island of New Zealand is the Pouakai Tarns hike which takes you to a beautiful reflective tarn facing Mount Taranaki. This famous photo spot with spectacular views is absolutely breathtaking, but only with the right conditions. It is definitely not guaranteed that you will see Mount Taranaki at the tarn, you have to be lucky to get the perfect conditions!
The trailhead of Pouakai Tarns walk is at the end of Mangorei Road. From the parking lot you will first walk a few hundred meters over the tarmac before the track takes you into a mossy forest. From here on you will hike for a few kilometres over the boardwalk until you reach the tree line. There are no views for the longest part of the track. Only when you reach the tree line the views start to open up. But the real treat is at the reflective tarn. If you’re lucky with the weather circumstances of course!
The walk itself is pretty easy and straightforward with only 800 meters elevation gain over 6 kilometers. The well-maintained boardwalk through mossy forest will keep your shoes dry and protect the fragile environment.
The hardest part is to predict the weather and get the very best circumstances. No (mid-high) clouds, almost no wind and some beautiful sunrise or sunset colors can add that extra bit of magic.
Visit the Three Sisters rock formations and Elephant rock
The Three Sisters and Elephant Rock are unique rock formations located on the Taranaki coastline near Tongaporutu, just north of New Plymouth. These natural wonders have become popular tourist attractions due to their intriguing shapes and scenic surroundings. The rock formations are not only geological wonders but also symbolize the beauty and fragility of the coastal landscapes in the Taranaki region.
The Three Sisters are a set of 25-metre towering rock formations that rise out of the Tasman Sea. Over time, coastal erosion sculpted the rocks, giving them their distinctive appearance. The formations are composed of sedimentary rock layers, primarily sandstone and mudstone. As the name suggests, the Three Sisters consist of separate rock stacks standing side by side. However, unfortunately, due to erosion one of the sister rocks collapsed and disappeared, leaving her two sisters behind.
The Elephant Rock which is located near the Three Sisters, is another fascinating rock formation that resembles an elephant. Set against the backdrop of a beautiful sandy beach and surrounded by rugged cliffs and lush greenery, this is a fantastic photo opportunity. Especially with sunset if you are lucky that low tide and beautiful light align at the right time.
The rugged Taranaki coastline provides a dramatic and picturesque setting for these formations, offering a stunning contrast between the rock formations and the expansive ocean. Drive to ‘The Three Sisters and the Elephant Rock’ to access the beach.
Three Sisters and Elephant Rock viewpoint
If you want to visit the rock formations from up close, then make sure to check the tides. It is only safe to walk to the rock formations with low tide. But, if your schedule doesn’t allow your visit with low tide then don’t worry. You can still see the rock formations from the so-called ‘Three Sisters Lookout’ which is opposite of the access point to the beach. Here you can spot the Three Sisters and Elephant Rock from further away with the best views of the coastline.
Take that famous Taranaki Road picture
You might have seen it on social media or in other blogs… the famous road photo in Egmont National Park with Mount Taranaki in the background. The Kent road is leading perfectly straight onto Taranaki Mountain, making it a fun and easy shot. However, be aware that you are on a public road. And people drive fast. Don’t risk your life, or that of others (!) for a picture. Use your common sense if you want to take a picture here. Park somewhere safe and always go out of the way as soon as you see a car approaching from far.
To be honest, we personally think that there are way better photo opportunities with Taranaki mountain including a more natural scenery. A much better and safer opportunity for example is Lake Mangamahoe which is located just in the extension of Kent Road.
Walk the New Plymouth coastal walkway
The New Plymouth coastal walkway is a 12.7-kilometer paved pathway offering breathtaking ocean views. This trail connects the city center with the beautiful beaches of New Plymouth along the sand dunes. With panoramic views of the Tasman Sea, and the magnificent Mount Taranaki as a dramatic backdrop, it is a great place for walking, jogging, cycling, or simply enjoying the stunning views. And you can make the leisurely stroll as short or long as you like.
Facing west, you can get an amazing view along the walkway during sunset. If you’re in for a real treat the sky will be painted with stunning colors as the sun dips below the horizon.
Along the way, you’ll encounter several notable landmarks, including the iconic Whimsical Wind Wand sculpture by Len Lye, the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge (an impressive architectural feat), and the popular East End and Fitzroy Beaches.
The Coastal Walkway seamlessly connects to the beautiful Pukekura Park, which allows you to extend your walk into this expansive and beautiful public park. It’s a perfect opportunity to explore the park’s beautiful gardens, lakes, or have a picnic to relax after your workout.
Visit Cape Egmont Lighthouse
The Cape Egmont Lighthouse, also known as the Cape Egmont Bluff Lighthouse, is an iconic landmark located on the westernmost point of the Taranaki region. It is approximately 45 kilometers southwest of New Plymouth, located near the small settlement of Pungarehu.
The original Cape Egmont Lighthouse was built in 1865 and was a wooden structure with a kerosene lantern as its light source. In 1881, the lighthouse was replaced by the current cast-iron tower that stands today. The current Cape Egmont Lighthouse is an impressive structure standing at 20 meters tall.
It is a beautiful area to explore and photograph, especially around sunset and if you’re lucky to have clear views on the volcano! Note that you can’t visit the lighthouse inside. However, you can see it from up close from outside if you visit during opening times (9 AM – 5 PM). The view and best photo spots are actually best from outside the gated area. You can see plenty of great vantage points once you drive to the lighthouse.
Admire and photograph Mount Taranaki from Lake Mangamahoe
Lake Mangamahoe is one of the easiest and most beautiful viewpoints on Mount Taranaki. And the best part is, it’s only a few minutes walk. Another great thing is that you get two different viewpoints only 2 minutes from each other! Therefore it’s a perfect place for photographers. Go with sunrise or sunset and capture the majestic mountain with soft light. Make sure to bring a tripod for long-exposure photos to smooth out the water and get some stunning reflections.
Fun fact is that the lake is man-made and was created in the 1970s as part of a flood control scheme for the Mangamahoe Stream. It serves as a reservoir and contributes to the water supply for the region. There is a network of well-maintained walking and cycling tracks that wind their way around the lake and through the surrounding forest. These tracks cater to various fitness levels and provide opportunities to explore the area’s natural beauty. Birdwatchers can spot native birds such as tūī, bellbirds, pūkeko, and herons. The lake also supports populations of trout and freshwater fish.
There lake has free entry, however there is a fence that opens before sunrise and will be closed after sunset. So make sure to leave directly after sunset, or you’ll have to camp at the lake.
Hike through Goblin forest
Goblin Forest, also known as the Kamahi Forest, is a unique and enchanting forest located on the slopes of Mount Taranaki in Mount Egmont National Park. This mystical forest is renowned for its dense growth of moss-covered trees, atmospheric ambiance, and otherworldly appearance.
There are several walking tracks that traverse the Goblin Forest. Kamahi Loop Track is a popular option, offering a relatively easy and scenic walk through the heart of the forest. Along the track you can admire the intertwined branches and moss-covered trunks that give the forest a mystical appearance, earning it the name “Goblin Forest.”
Especially on a foggy day, when there are no views on Mount Taranaki, the Goblin forest trail is a great alternative. When the forest is covered in mist and fog, it has an even more mysterious and otherworldly atmosphere. The sunlight filtering through the canopy creates dappled lighting, which gives an extra enchanting ambiance. It feels as if you step into a fairytale when walking through Goblin forest during these circumstances. As if an elf or fairy creature can cross your path at any time.
Climb up Paritutu Rock
Paritutu Rock is an iconic landmark on the coast of New Plymouth. Rising prominently from the shoreline, this volcanic remnant holds cultural significance and offers stunning views of the surrounding area. This extinct volcanic cone formed over 2 million years ago during volcanic activity in the region.
You can either admire the Paritutu Rock from the shore or hike up via a short but steep trail to the summit. The walking track starts at the parking lot at the end of Centennial Drive and leads up to the summit. The climb involves a steep ascent and can be challenging, so appropriate footwear is advised. The last part is a scramble with the support of a chain. Nevertheless, it is a stunning spot to watch the sunset from with a 360° view of the Sugarloaf Islands, rugged coastline and beaches, New Plymouth city, Mount Taranaki, and the surrounding mountains in the distance.
Cross the Te Rewa Rewa bridge
This stunning is 69 meters (226 feet) long architectural masterpiece is another iconic landmark of New Plymouth. Spanning the Waiwhakaiho River, this unique bridge offers more than just a functional crossing—it has become a symbol of the region’s natural beauty and artistic expression.
The bridge’s design is inspired by the form of a breaking wave or a curled surf wave. It features a graceful and organic structure that mimics the shape of a wave about to crash. The Te Rewa Rewa bridge connects the coastal walkway near the Bell Block beach area with the eastern side of the Waiwhakaiho River. So you will most likely cross it when going on a walk along the coastal walkway.
Go surfing along Surf Highway 45
New Plymouth is located along Surf Highway 45, a popular stretch of road that hugs the Taranaki coastline. The highway offers access to numerous surf breaks and beaches, making it a surfer’s paradise. Taranaki’s unique geography, with the presence of Mount Taranaki, creates a favorable environment for consistent surf. The region receives consistent swells from both the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, resulting in a variety of wave types and sizes suitable for different surfing styles.
The most well-known surf breaks in New Plymouth include:
- Fitzroy Beach: Located near the city center, Fitzroy Beach is a popular spot with a sandy bottom and consistent waves, suitable for surfers of all levels.
- Back Beach: Back Beach offers powerful and hollow waves, favored by more experienced surfers. It can provide challenging conditions and is known for its barreling waves.
- Stent Road: Stent Road is a beach break known for its long and powerful waves. It requires a bit of a walk to access but is worth the effort for experienced surfers seeking quality waves.
- Oakura Beach: Oakura Beach is a family-friendly beach break known for its playful and fun waves. It is suitable for beginners and intermediate surfers.
Hike to Mount Taranaki summit
If you’re up for an adventure and the weather is on your side, then summiting Mount Taranaki is fantastic activity to do in New Plymouth. The majestic Mt Taranaki, also known as Mt Egmont, is 2,518 meters (8,261 feet) high and offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes, including the Egmont National Park, coastal vistas, and the central North Island. On clear days, you may even spot Mount Ruapehu in the distance.
The hike up Mount Taranaki is challenging though. Although not the longest hike with only 6.3 km (4 miles) to the summit, is a steep 1.6 km (1 mile) vertical climb. Over such a relative short distance, this means your ankles will be vertical most of the hike!
The hiking season for Mount Taranaki’s summit typically runs from late November to early April when weather conditions are more favorable. Outside of this period, the mountain is prone to hazardous conditions, including ice, snow, and unpredictable weather. Make sure to be well prepared before attempting the summit hike. Inform with the Department of Conservation about the current status of the trails and always make sure to inform people you are going up the mountain.
Visit the local breweries
If you’re a beer lover then you’re in luck! New Plymouth boasts a vibrant craft beer scene, with several breweries offering a diverse range of locally brewed beers. Whether you’re a beer lover or simply enjoy trying new flavors, it is worth visiting some of the breweries in New Plymouth. It’s an excellent opportunity to savor the region’s craft beer culture and a fun activity to spend a couple of hours. Especially on a rainy day in New Plymouth.
Here are some of the best breweries in New Plymouth:
- Mike’s Brewery: Mike’s Brewery is a well-established and award-winning brewery located in Urenui, just outside of New Plymouth. They produce a variety of handcrafted beers, including ales, lagers, stouts, and seasonal brews. Mike’s Brewery has gained recognition for its quality and innovative beer recipes.
- Three Sisters Brewery: Three Sisters Brewery is a popular craft brewery located in New Plymouth. They are known for their unique and creative brews, offering a rotating selection of beers on tap. The brewery has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, making it a great spot to enjoy a pint or sample their latest creations.
- Shining Peak Brewery: Shining Peak Brewing is a small craft brewery situated in New Plymouth’s CBD. They focus on producing high-quality, small-batch beers with a strong emphasis on using locally sourced ingredients. Their taproom offers a cozy setting to enjoy their brews, which range from hoppy IPAs to rich stouts.
Walk to Wilkies Pools
Wilkies Pool is a beautiful natural pool with Mount Taranaki as a backdrop. So if you love a good photo opportunity with Mount Taranaki then make sure to Wilkies Pool on your list! It’s a 45-minute drive from New Plymouth and you can perfectly combine it with a visit to the Dawson Falls. The trail can be accessed through the Dawson’s Falls visitor entrance and takes you through a beautiful mossy forest. It’s only a short 20-minute walk where you will cross a swing bridge to get to the crystal clear pools.
On a clear day you can see Mount Taranaki in the backdrop which is a fantastic photo opportunity. On our visit Taranaki mountain was unfortunately hiding between thick clouds, so we only saw Wilkies Pools. Nevertheless, it is a stunning short hike in Egmont National Park.
Marvel at the beautiful Dawson Falls
As mentioned before the Wilkies Pools and Dawson Falls can be perfectly combined as both walks start from the same car park. Several trails are going to the falls with the quickest being only a 10-minute walk to the falls. However, if you want to visit the base of the falls you have to walk down for about 80 meters along a well-maintained staircase.
It’s a great little exploration for the whole family and won’t make you tired for other activities.
Visit one of the local museums in New Plymouth
New Plymouth is home to several local museums that showcase various aspects of the region’s history, culture, and art. It is the perfect way to learn more about history and culture of the city and a great activity on a rainy day. Here are some of the best museums in New Plymouth:
- Govett-Brewster Art Gallery: Known as New Zealand’s first contemporary art museum, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is located in New Plymouth’s city center. It houses a diverse collection of contemporary art and hosts rotating exhibitions featuring works by local, national, and international artists. The gallery is known for its innovative and thought-provoking exhibitions that challenge traditional notions of art.
- Taranaki Aviation Transport and Technology Museum: Located at New Plymouth Airport, the Taranaki Aviation Transport and Technology Museum (TATATM) showcases the region’s aviation history and technological advancements. The museum displays a collection of aircraft, vintage cars, machinery, and memorabilia related to transportation and technology. Visitors can explore the exhibits and learn about the development of transportation in Taranaki.
- Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Park Visitor Center: Situated on the New Plymouth waterfront, the Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Park Visitor Center provides information about the marine and birdlife found in the Sugar Loaf Islands. The center offers displays, videos, and educational resources about the marine environment. A great educational place for the whole family.
- Puke Ariki museum: Puke Ariki offers visitors a glimpse into the rich history and cultural heritage of the Taranaki region. The museum showcases a wide range of exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of the local Maori iwi (tribes), European settlement, and the region’s diverse cultural history. It is a great family-friendly museum with interactive exhibits.
Where to stay in New Plymouth
New Plymouth offers a range of accommodation options to suit various budgets and preferences. I recommended staying a minimum of two nights in New Plymouth, depending on the activities you’d like to do.
Here are some popular areas and types of accommodations to consider when planning your stay in New Plymouth:
Central Business District (CBD)
The CBD of New Plymouth is a convenient location to stay, as it offers easy access to shops, restaurants, and attractions. You’ll find a mix of hotels, motels, and serviced apartments in this area, providing a range of options for different budgets and amenities.
One of the best options to stay is The State Hotel which is a beautiful, modern and clean hotel.
→ Book here your stay at The State Hotel.
New Plymouth’s coastline is dotted with picturesque beaches and coastal suburbs. Areas like Fitzroy, Bell Block, and Oakura offer a range of accommodations, including holiday homes, beachside cottages, and bed and breakfasts. These areas provide a laid-back coastal vibe and easy access to the beaches and outdoor activities.
One of the most unique places to stay in New Plymouth is Little Church Bay. This private romantic oceanfront getaway features panoramic sea views. It’s a lovely cottage which is perfect for couples who prefer a private holiday home.
→ Book here your stay at Little Church Bay.
If you prefer a more rural and peaceful setting, consider a farm stay in the countryside surrounding New Plymouth. You can find accommodations ranging from rustic farm cottages to luxury lodges, allowing you to experience New Zealand’s rural lifestyle and enjoy the natural beauty of the region.
A fantastic option is Mangorei Heights. This stunning property has views of Mount Taranaki and the option to self-cater. It’s a 15-minute short drive to the heart of New Plymouth, and you’re only a few minutes away from the hikes in Egmont National Park. Perfect for nature lovers!
→ Secure here your stay at Mangorei Heights.
The waterfront area of New Plymouth is a vibrant and scenic spot, with stunning ocean views. There are several hotels and boutique accommodations available along the waterfront, offering a tranquil atmosphere and proximity to coastal attractions.
One of the best options for a waterfront stay in New Plymouth is at Millennium Hotel. This beautiful hotel has spacious rooms, direct access to the coastal walkway and an onsite restaurant.
→ Book here your stay at Millennium Hotel.
About New Plymouth
New Plymouth is a vibrant coastal city located on the West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. It is the major center of the Taranaki region and has a population of around 60,000 people. New Plymouth is known for its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and thriving arts and cultural scene.
Mount Taranaki is considered the most photographed mountain in New Zealand and is the most famous landmark of the region. With plenty of things to do in New Plymouth, such as great hikes, annual events and festivals, rich history, and great foodie scene, New Plymouth offers a variety of activities.
It is the perfect destination to add to your New Zealand road trip itinerary and a beautiful place to visit year-round.
Is New Plymouth worth a visit?
Yes! New Plymouth is definitely worth a visit! Whether you’re seeking natural beauty, outdoor adventure, cultural experiences, or a relaxing coastal getaway, New Plymouth has something to offer for everyone. It’s a destination that combines stunning landscapes, cultural attractions, and a friendly atmosphere, making it a worthwhile place to visit and explore.
Although you’re not coming to New Plymouth to only stay in the city, it does have a really nice city centre with a vibrant food scene. The variety of cafes, restaurants, and local eateries offer diverse cuisines. You can savor fresh seafood, farm-to-table dishes, and indulge in the local coffee culture.
The real reason you should come to New Plymouth is the natural beauty of Mount Egmont National Park at your doorstep. Explore the many hikes, stunning coastline, and thriving arts and cultural scene to get the best out of the Taranaki region.
How long to stay in New Plymouth?
The ideal duration of your stay in New Plymouth depends on your interests and the activities you plan to do. And of course how much time you have to travel. However, to fully experience the city and its surrounding natural beauty, I suggest a minimum stay of 2-3 days. If you plan to do a lot of hikes in Mount Egmont National Park and some other activities, you might want to allow 3-5 days.
What is the best time to visit New Plymouth?
Every season has something different to offer in New Plymouth. So the best time for you to visit New Plymouth depends on the activities you plan to do. Overall, New Plymouth has relatively mild and moderate weather throughout the year due to its coastal location.
The best seasons for outdoor activities are spring, summer and autumn. However, in the winter months you can get some really nice days as well which are great for hiking. There is obviously more chance of snow, which covers Mount Taranaki’s cone and provides stunning photography opportunities.
How to get around in New Zealand
To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a car, campervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots. But for some of them you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand.
Car rental New Zealand
Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we personally recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for this kind of roads. We rented for 6 weeks a Mitsubishi ASX model and were super happy with this car!
The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pickup date.
Campervan rental in New Zealand
Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a road trip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. Make sure to check if your campervan has a shower because this might influence where you want to camp. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will give you a true feeling of freedom and fully connects you with nature.
We personally recommend to book your campervan with Travellers Autobarn. They have a wide range of Station wagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, a 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 roadside assistance & long-term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream road trip!
More New Zealand travel guides
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the best things to do in New Plymouth. Make sure to put this awesome destination on your New Zealand North Island itinerary!
There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the North Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides for all the best places to visit.
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