New Zealand’s New Plymouth is the perfect destination for a getaway. While it’s often overlooked on the tourist path, this area is packed with awesome hikes, gorgeous beaches and excellent places to eat. New Plymouth has a little bit of something for everyone.
New Plymouth’s stunning black sand beaches are backed by the impressive Mount Taranaki, a snow-capped volcano often compared to Japan’s Mt Fuji. Side note: The Last Samurai was actually filmed here!
Between beautiful rugged coastline and Egmont National Park’s forests around the mountain, there is so much wilderness to get lost in.
When we visit New Plymouth, we love to hike and go to the beach during the day, and restaurant + bar hop during the evening. Not to mention the mornings, where you can find some amazing coffee and brunch all around town.
In this guide, we’re sharing some of the best things to do in New Plymouth!
WHERE TO STAY IN NEW PLYMOUTH
One Burgess Hill: Our top pick. This spacious hotel is about 10 minutes out of town and feels like a complete oasis. Surrounded by lush greenery and overlooking a river, it’s the perfect spot for a peaceful getaway. The property has lounge chairs, picnic tables and barbecues for you to use, and each room has a little kitchenette.
To top it all off, there are luxurious baths in the hotel rooms; the upper-floor rooms even have bathtubs overlooking the river, which makes things particularly magical. The one problem is that you won’t want to leave the property—it’s that great.
Holiday parks: for a more affordable option, stay in a cabin or campsite at one of the nearby holiday parks. We like Belt Road Holiday Park at the south end of town, and Fitzroy Beach Holiday Park at the north end of town. Both are about a 20 minute walk into New Plymouth’s city centre along the Coastal Walkway.
PLACES TO EAT + DRINK IN NEW PLYMOUTH
Coffee and brunch:
Monica’s: Bright and spacious, Monica’s is our favorite brunch spot in town. Their ricotta and pea fritters are divine.
The Federal Store: Another amazing brunch spot, the Federal Store has a 50’s retro vibe and delicious food in a cheery setting.
Billow: This sourdough bakery makes some of the best bread in New Zealand. Billow’s sourdough has a perfect crusty outside and a chewy, dense center. It’s the most delicious base for one of the toasted cheese sandwiches on offer. Grab a loaf for takeaway so you can have avocado toast all week long. They also have delicious pastries here.
Ozone Coffee: A hip coffee roastery with cabinet food and outdoor seating.
Mrs. White: For delicious wood-fired pizzas and a lengthy craft beer selection, head to Mrs. White.
Social Kitchen: An incredible spot for dinner. Social Kitchen serves up family-style meals with a focus on perfectly-cooked meat dishes and the best sides to go with. One main and a couple of sides are perfect for two—if you can mutually decide on what to order, that is, as everything will sound good!
Polpetta: With a pick-your-own-combo thing going on, Polpetta might be the most fun place for dinner in New Plymouth. Here’s how it works: choose a “meatball” (they have meat, seafood and vegetarian options), a sauce (pomodoro, satay, stroganoff, etc) and a base (they even have zoodles!). This is a great place to go with a small group—no matter your tastes or dietary requirements, you’ll be able to craft the perfect meal here.
The Hourglass: Creative tapas, a huge drink menu, and a cozy, intimate vibe make this a great spot for a fun evening out. The craft beer list alone is worth a visit to Hourglass!
Shining Peak Brewery: Set in a cool industrial building, this bustling brewery has excellent house-made brews on tap and yummy food.
PLACES TO SHOP IN NEW PLYMOUTH
The Jewel & the Jeweller: Part studio, part jewellery shop, this is a gorgeous space in the Quarter Bank development that’s well worth a visit. You can watch the jewellers in action, peruse the pieces on offer, or sign up for a weekend jewellery-making course. Stop by their neighbour Billow bakery while you’re there.
Beach Road Milk Co/Kaitake Farm stand: Just outside of town is our favourite place to shop in New Plymouth—and it happens to be a produce and raw milk stand! We love coming here for the freshest locally-grown produce around. Their fridge is always stocked with spinach, lettuces and microgreens. Sometimes, they have other seasonal vegetables on offer—we recently picked up zucchini with the flowers still attached, and the crunchiest cucumbers we’ve ever had.
TOP THINGS TO DO AROUND NEW PLYMOUTH
Explore these landmarks in New Plymouth:
Scramble up Paritutu Rock: This gravity-defying 20-minute climb takes you up to one of New Plymouth’s best views over the city and sea—and Mount Taranaki on a clear day. Not for the faint of heart, you’ll need to use the chains provided at some of the steeper points to help you up and down the walk. If you’re not afraid of heights, the views are well worth the climb!
Visit the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge: Situated at the northern end of the Coastal Walkway, the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge is a beautiful piece of architecture. Reminiscent of a whale skeleton, the bridge perfectly frames Mount Taranaki on a good day when visibility is clear.
Hike in Egmont National Park:
Egmont National Park is full of incredible hikes, from short walks to multi-day treks. There are waterfalls, creeks, epic viewpoints (on clear days) and goblin forests. That’s right, goblin forests! The forests get this name from their gnarled, mossy, lichen-laden trees that would make the perfect home for mythical creatures.
If you’re lucky enough to visit the area when Mount Taranaki is visible, you’ll find some excellent viewpoints in Egmont National Park. That being said, it’s still a great place to visit on a grey or drizzly day, as it makes the goblin forests seem even more mysterious and mystical.
Below, we’ll outline some of our favorite walks in Egmont National Park.
Goblin Forest to Dawson Falls to Wilkies Pools loop
Hiking time: Approx. 2 hours total
Difficulty: Moderate with some uphill sections and muddy spots
Trail type: loop
This hike has it all: a lush goblin forest, waterfall, swimming holes and mountain views (weather and visibility dependent).
Start at the visitor center and walk along the Kapuni Loop track, which takes you through dense goblin forest.
Make your way to Dawson Falls, an impressive and photogenic waterfall.
The Wilkies Pools are fun to explore, and if it’s sunny out or you’re feeling brave make sure to take a dip in their icy waters! This is also a nice spot for a picnic.
From the Wilkies Pools, follow the well-formed track back down to the Visitor Centre carpark.
Note: There are numerous short and long walks that begin at this visitor centre, but below is the one walk we’ve done here and loved.
Ngatoro Loop Track
Hiking time: Approx 1 hour
Difficulty: moderate; there are a few steep sections
Trail type: loop
This trail takes you through dense goblin forest, perhaps the most “gobliny” we’ve seen in the whole park. It’s really quite magical. If you’re craving moody forest, this is the hike for you.
Pouakai Tarns (and hut)
Hiking time: 2.5-3 hours one-way
Difficulty: moderately difficult due to uphill stairs and general incline the whole way there, but the track is well-formed
Trail type: out-and-back
This is the trail that leads to the famed tarns you’ve likely seen photos of—the tarns, or alpine ponds, make a perfect reflective surface for Mount Taranaki.
You can do this hike as a day trip; however, if you’re keen for an overnighter, you can stay at the Pouakai Hut, which is about 2.5 hours up the trail and a short walk from the tarns. Make sure to purchase hut passes beforehand at one of these retailers.
The trail itself is steep and can get muddy in spots—the entire way to the hut and tarns is uphill, but luckily tree cover offers shade for much of the hike.
We have two pieces of advice regarding the tarns and the hut. First, make sure to do the hike on a clear day when the mountain is visible and wind isn’t in the forecast; it’s a nice hike in of itself, but the views are really what make it special!
Second, if you plan to stay in the hut, be prepared for it to be busy and possibly full. This happened to us and we had to hike all the way back to our car in the dark (good thing for our trusty headlamps!). If you can, bring a camping pad and possibly a tent up with you (there are two small tent sites near the hut). Otherwise, be prepared for the fact that you may not get a spot in the hut and might have to arrange alternative accommodation for the night.
Take a day trip further afield
Whitecliffs Walkway (about a 45 minute drive from New Plymouth): While we haven’t been able to do this hike yet, we’ve heard awesome things about it. You’ll walk along farmland clifftops and loop back along the beach, which has little waterfalls pouring down onto it from the cliffs. For a good overview of the walk, see here. Just note that you’ll need to do the walk when it’s low tide, so make sure to plan accordingly! The entire loop track should take about 4 hours total.
Three Sisters (Tongaporutu) Beach (about an hour drive from New Plymouth): This black sand beach is an absolutely stunning place to explore. Make sure to go at low tide so you can walk to all of the neat rock formations and natural archways.
We hope this guide has helped you discover some fun things to do in New Plymouth. Between its outdoor adventures and city comforts, there is so much to see and do in this beautiful part of New Zealand.