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Travel Guide

10 outdoor things to do and see in New Plymouth

  • 3 minutes

North Island, New Zealand

In this Article

Taranaki has spectacular outdoor places to go from a short fantasy walk in Mount Egmont National Park to a stunning coastal path in New Plymouth. Things to do in Taranaki embrace the outdoors with driftwood beaches where surfers challenge the elements. New Plymouth and Taranaki are the home to beautiful gardens and parks. Taranaki is the gateway to three National Parks with the iconic Mount Egmont is the rockstar for the province’s charms. Your Taranaki guide, things to do showcases New Plymouth’s funky festivals full of light and sound. Visit fascinating museums and enjoy delicious food destinations. And it is guaranteed you will return to the bump on the map that is Taranaki.

1. Festival of Light

An outstanding garden, lights, sound and glittering sparkles brightening up the summer evening.

The festival is an outstanding imaginative use of a public space for light installations in Pukekura Park, New Plymouth. The festival is free entry, during the school holidays making it a great reason to put Taranaki on the bucket list.

Here’s a handy link to get you excited, click here for details TSB Festival of Lights.

Festival of Light, New Plymouth, New Zealand
Festival of Light, New Plymouth
Goblin forest in Taranaki, New Zealand
Goblin forest in Taranaki

2. Goblin Forest Walk

Need some inspiration for kids during the school holidays in Taranaki. There is a local favourite, the Goblin Forest Walk. The Kamahi trees have grown over the remains of a forest destroyed by an eruption approximately 500 years ago. There is a  labyrinth of twisted trunks, all covered in a green, mist coated  moss that inspires thoughts about fantasy creatures. The goblin trail or Kamahi loop track is a hunt for fairies, hobbits, Kamahi Loop Track: Walking and tramping in Egmont National Park, Taranaki region is a 600m loop walk so even the shortest legs can manage the journey. Check out Egmont National Park for details about twelve park walks. And remember to pack swimmers as there are a series of rock pools at the end of the track for paddling in.

3. Fitzroy beach

New Plymouth has the powerful surf beach Fitzoy beach at its doorstep. Fitzoy is officially part of Surf Highway 45. There is a popular camping ground nearby making it an easy spot for surfers to congregate year round.

The Surf Life Saving crew ensures kids are safe and swimmers can make use of the beach during the hot summer. It is a perfect place for people watching with your fish and chips.

For beach buffs the iconic Surf Highway is not to be missed.

Egmont National Park, Dawson Falls, Taranaki, New Zealand
Egmont National Park, Dawson Falls, Taranaki

4. Egmont National Park and And Manganui Ski field

The glorious picture postcard mountain that is permanently etched against the horizon (unless it is foggy).  The year round icing of snow makes the mountain a tourism advertising staple.  A great place for walks ranging from short to multiple days.

For winter holidays a rustic, no frills ski field is a great family option with New Plymouth offering plenty of warm indoors to keep non-ski buffs happy.

5. Drive surf highway

Check out the area, the small towns of Eltham and Hawera and beyond, drive Surf Highway 45 stretches from Hawera to New Plymouth.

The 102 km road leads to beaches with names such as Graveyard, Kumara Patch and Dump. There are numerous black sand surf beaches where you will see the lyra clad surfers paddling their boards.

There are cafes, the Cape Egmont Lighthouse and a lavender farm to pop into while cruising the surf highway.

Opunake beach at low tide, Surf Highway 45, Taranaki, New Zealand
Surf Highway 45 @Lonely Planet
Scenic view of Moturoa Island Sugar Loaf from Paritutu Rock in Port Taranaki, New Plymouth, New Zealand
Moturoa Island Sugar Loaf from Paritutu Rock in Port Taranaki

6. Sugar Loaf Island seal colony

Kayak to Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Reserve and check out the seal colony. The special marine outcrops are the remnants of a volcanic cone. It is also a favourite spot for snorkelling due to the cliffs and canyons inhabiting the reserve. For details or to book an experience check out for further information CHADDY’S CHARTERS – Island cruises and sightseeing in New Plymouth.

7. Waitara River Kayaking

White water rafting does not get any better than the wild east coast rivers of New Zealand and the Waitara River will not disappoint. It is not the slick operations of the crowded tourist areas of Queenstown and Taupo. Rather it is rustic, natural and you feel as though it is you and the river without the crowds (except for the occasional fly fishing buff. In the lower reaches of the river children (6 years and above) can be introduced to kayaking.

For details click here for further information Waitara River Kayak Tour. And, it is very reasonably priced for those visitors where budget is a big consideration about deciding to pay for activities.

Waitara River @Canoe & Kayak
Waitara River @Canoe & Kayak
Curtis Falls Track, Dawson Water fall, Egmont national park, Taranaki, New Zealand
Curtis Falls Track, Dawson Water fall, Egmont national park

8. Dawson Falls

Of course there is a waterfall, it’s New Zealand and Dawson Falls with its 18m drop does not disappoint. The Dawson Falls or Te Rere o Noke (the Falls of Noke) are named after Noke who hid from his pursuers behind the falls. From the Visitor Centre, walk 400 metres down Manaia Road to get to the Dawson Falls walk entrance.

The walk from the road entrance is suitable for all fitness levels and takes 10 minutes to reach the lookout point. Combine this walk with your Goblin adventure.

9. Cape Egmont Lighthouse

For lighthouse fans, photographers this is a must stop place on the Surf Highway. The lighthouse is now automated and the keeper’s cottage is now a private residence. For details about the lighthouse click here Cape Egmont lighthouse maritime history. The lighthouse was originally erected on Mana Island, it was moved to Cape Egmont in 1877. You are close to Patea, check out What’s so great about Patea for things to do in the area.

TIP: Get there at sunset as the iconic Mount Taranaki, the lighthouse and the landscape make a glorious contrast with hills, tipped snow covered mountains and rural pastoral foreground landscape.

Historic Cape Egmont Lighthouse, New Zealand, and Mount Taranaki
Historic Cape Egmont Lighthouse

10. Dam Dropping Normandy Hydro-Electric rapids

Water, swimming and is it safe Safe to swim? for water quality and Taranaki Outdoor Adventures has added a local twist to rafting with Normandy Dam Dropping as a summer sport.

The Waingongoro River and its generating station ceased operating in 1967.

Today the 5.5 metre hydroelectric dam rapids are rafted on anything inflatable, and for more water wild fun check Activities monitored by Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits and Education Centre.

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