Eltham is one of those small towns where the very visible closure of main street shops could put you off stopping. Behind the loss of retail business is a fascinating community with a number of firsts in New Zealand industrial history. Together with a heritage portfolio of buildings and places Eltham offers visitors a chance to slow down, linger in glorious retro stores, fossick in second hand shops and explore a flourishing local community gallery.
SURF HIGHWAY TOWNS ARE AN EXCELLENT REASON FOR A PIT STOP OR SEVERAL HOURS EXPLORING SMALL COMMUNITIES
Best time to visit
Year round there are plenty of indoor activities to keep visitors entertained.
A vehicle is needed as there is no public transport.
Eltham to New Plymouth – Fastest route
Eltham is a detour from the Surf Highway making it a town where visitors just might skip by. Eltham and its attractions are worth a detour.
DAY TRIP INSPIRATION – ELTHAM
- Browse the Friday market collecting nibbles and snacks
- The cheese shop to pick cheesy bites
- Remember to take a selfie of your newly acquired Friday market goodies
- Picnic at Lake Rotokare and take a leisurely stroll around the dam perimeter
- Return to Eltham for serious retro shopping and museum
- Rainy day activities could include scones in the local cafe, extending time in local museums and shops
- The afternoon at the Village community art gallery
6 FUN THINGS TO DO IN A FEW HOURS
- Visit Kaponga Horse Museum, it’s definitely worth 10 minutes down the road
- Check out the Arty Loos (everyone needs to visit a toilet sometime)
- Visit the Eltham toy wall and think about what a good idea it is to visualise childhood toys
- Indulge in a world winning cheese scone at the local cafe or Four Square
- Visit one of the retro shops for a new ensemble, it definitely will not break the bank
- Browse the exhibition space of the community art gallery. Grassroots art doesn’t come any better than this
United States born George Washington Tayler, first mayor of Eltham among his first decisions was to ban driving stock through the main street.
WHAT TO SEE AND BEST THINGS TO DO
Lake Rotokarelearn more
Mangamingi Bush Reservelearn more
Lake Rotorangilearn more
Bridger Parklearn more
Check the detailed heritage inventory for Eltham in the travel pack section. The heritage walk is a walk through the industrial history of the town and Taranaki region in general. Eleven of the buildings are registered as significant buildings with the NZ Historic Places Trust.
Highlights on the heritage trail include:
Post Office 1904learn more
Pease Buildinglearn more
The Eltham Town Halllearn more
Coronation Hotel (named in honour King Edward VII)learn more
Wilkinson's Building 1913learn more
WHAT TO DO WITH KIDS
- Arty Loos (toilets), tiles used as a decorative feature have become a visitor highlight with a compulsory toilet stop to check out school children’s tile art among other artists.
- Eltham Toy Wall: Bridger Park has the Eltham Toy Wall. Originally the toys were placed in hopes the toys would be returned to the original owner who had left the toys in Bridger Park. More toys joined the collection and then became a feature fixed to the toy wall set in concrete.
- Lake Rotokare: Become a kiwi guardian for the day at Lake Rotokare. Become a kiwi guardian for the day at Lake. Kiwi Guardians at Rotokare Scenic Reserve. Are you ready for an adventure? Rotokare is a Taranaki treasure just waiting to be discovered. Find a weta, spot the native fish and discover the secrets of this special place.
- Find the weta motel – anyone home?
- How many different noises can you hear here?
- Where are the tuna/eels lurking?
Eltham is a great shopping destination with a compact shopping area. An eclectic mix of shops making for not one size fits everyone answered.
The Village Art Gallerylearn more
Eltham Friday Marketlearn more
Four Square grocery storelearn more
ADRENALINE ACTIVITY – DAM DROPPING, WAINGONGORO RIVER
Risky, and not recommended unless with companions. The activity is sledging over a river dam, the closed 5 ½ metre dam on the Waingongoro River near Normanby. Check with the local visitor centre for up to date information before departing.
TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION
- Eltham is a small town and a poster village for the loss of services and shops to the nearby larger town (New Plymouth). Main Street is the haunt of a number of closed and abandoned shops. The retro and second hand shops are popular however it is very apparent that the small town retail vibe is struggling. New Plymouth is approximately 30 minutes drive.
Unique journeys, personal adventures.