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- 21 Jan 2021, 3 nights
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Gleaming modern buildings against the towering peak of a snow-capped volcano: that's what you'll get in New Plymouth. On the western shore of New Zealand's North Island, this major city combines urban fun with a windswept coastal backdrop. Stroll around botanical gardens and cool art galleries in town or head straight to the beach to surf and look for penguins. Further afield, you can delve into New Zealand's famously jaw-dropping natural sights with trips to forests, waterfalls and national parks.
Stay in a New Plymouth hostel that first opened as a hotel in the 1920s or pick an ultra-modern place with communal spaces for meeting other travellers. To be close to nature, choose a hostel in seven acres of lush valley. Lots of New Plymouth backpackers hostels offer free Wi-Fi, so it's easy to keep in touch with home. You can grill yourself some burgers at a hostel with a barbecue or grab a cold beer at a spot with its own on-site bar.
The centre of New Plymouth has everything you need to get to know the town. Come here for surf shops, cool bars and new art galleries. Okato is a small village not far away if you'd prefer a rural spot with access to swimming holes along the Hangatahua River. For something a bit different, the Sugar Loaf Islands were once a volcano but today play host to canyons, reefs and sandy beaches just waiting for visits from explorers.
Get a view of the town from above at Paritutu Rock, a popular place with climbers. You can also tackle 12.7km of Taranaki coast by foot or bike on New Plymouth's famous Coastal Walkway. Learn about Maori history at the Puke Ariki Museum, where free entry makes it an ideal option for budget backpackers. The mirrored facade of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery alone is worth a photo, not to mention the work by local artists inside. Grab a surfboard and head to either Fitzroy Beach or Back Beach for the best of the waves.
From New Plymouth Airport, it'll take you around 12 minutes to get to the city via taxi or hired car. If you're coming from Auckland or beyond, intercity buses will drop you at the main New Plymouth bus station in the centre of town. To get around, you can go green and hire a bicycle, hail a local bus or rent a car.