NZ's BEST KEPT secret
For a long time New Plymouth and the beautiful Taranaki region have been one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets. But then Lonely Planet named it as the 2nd best region in the whole world to visit and well and truly let the cat out of the bag!
Feeling that it was time my partner and I saw for ourselves what everyone has been missing, I booked our flights for a 2 day, 2 night escape. (New Plymouth is serviced by several direct flights each day from Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch so very easy to get to).
The region is well-served by accommodation providers for all levels of budget but I wanted something a little bit special for our trip so the 2-night dinner, bed and breakfast offer at the Nice Hotel in the heart of the city was the perfect choice. The package also included an art lunch and tour of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre option organized by Discover Taranaki. As this acclaimed art gallery was firmly on our must-do list, it was a match made in heaven.
After 40 minutes in the air from Auckland and a 10 minute taxi ride, we arrived at our charming boutique hotel which wouldn’t be out of place in downtown Manhattan or London’s Convent Garden. A drink on the beautiful deck surrounded by tropical garden was the perfect way to unwind before heading into the hotel’s restaurant Table for dinner. I chose the market fish of the day while my partner couldn’t go past the trio of lamb – both dishes delicious. The dessert menu was particularly enticing and so we treated ourselves to a bananas foster and a dark chocolate delice then a port in the upstairs library before sinking into our very comfortable bed.
Our batteries recharged, after breakfast we strolled along the foreshore on the award-winning Coastal Walkway before our art & lunch tour. Viewing the iconic Len Lye Wind Wand and Howard Tuffery's Light on the Land along the way set us up wonderfully for our Govett-Brewster Gallery experience.
Our tour guide Josh really bought the exhibitions and artworks alive for us in a way we would have missed just walking around by ourselves. He also proved to be a font of knowledge about the history of the gallery, opened in an unused cinema in 1970 and now recognized internationally for contemporary art. The adjacent Len Lye Gallery, with its stunning reflective exterior designed by architect Andrew Patterson, gave us the opportunity to see the amazing work Trilogy in all its booming, shaking glory. Then it was next door to Monica's Eatery for a delicious lunch.
We decided to explore the city’s shopping potential as we made our way back to the hotel – and discovered a plethora of sweet little clothing boutiques, designer stores, art and design galleries and interior design treasure troves.
The next day saw us head out for a historical walking tour of the city. Starting in the galleries at Puke Ariki, New Plymouth’s museum, library and visitor information centre, our guide Mike recounted stories which helped us picture the days when the settlers first arrived in the town, no doubt apprehensive of what they might find and how they were to build their lives here.
We then strolled around the town, taking in the much treasured Cathedral of St Mary and its fascinating historical graveyard and the town’s 150 year old forboding stone prison along the way.
Throughout the two hour tour, Mike pointed out places of interest and really brought the local history to life for us, giving us a whole new perspective on the town and what it was like to live in during some most challenging times. A bonus was the informative take home booklet which was part of the package. Then it was time for a delicious lunch at the popular award-winning Arborio restaurant in the Puke Ariki foyer overlooking the Coastal Walkway.
The tour is another experience offered by Discover Taranaki and we highly recommend their packages.
We then spent a pleasant hour or so browsing Puke Ariki’s fascinating longterm galleries and temporary exhibition space, before our escape was over and it was time to go home.