I’ve been back in Wellington for a week now, but I suppose there’s one lasting impression I wanted to express about Taranaki and specifically New Plymouth which I’ve now visited quite a few times over the last several years. Even when I haven’t gone tramping, I’ve always found it an easy place to get around and to enjoy walking. New Plymouth was recently named the winner of a Top Town competition in North & South magazine, and part of this decision was thanks to the recreational opportunities. I’m skeptical of these kinds of lists on principle because to me they feel like publicity stunts that get attention without much cost, but I do agree that New Plymouth has a lot going for it. There are plenty of places to escape the asphalt and the one and only shopping mall, and to enjoy natural surroundings.
For outsiders, the obvious nearby recreation area is Egmont National Park, which has the usual range of back-country huts and trees and mountain scenery. Within New Plymouth, however, there are a lot of places where it’s possible to go walking.
In the last few years, New Plymouth’s waterfront area has been renovated to make a 7 km coastal walkway. It’s a good walk in the sunshine, but if you have warm clothes and a decent raincoat, I personally think it’s an even better walk being thrashed by the waves and salt spray of the Tasman Sea crashing every few seconds, keeping in mind that there are safety advisories for walking some parts of it when the weather is too rough. It stretches from the outlet of the Waiwhakaiho River (near Lake Rotomanu which is another nice short walk) on the eastern end to the Port of Taranaki on the western end, passing the town centre at the mid-way point. I included some notes about walking along the Waiwhakaiho River in an earlier post.
On the other side of the town centre, a few minutes from the coast, is on of the entrances to Pukekura Park, which in another town might be referred to as Botanic Gardens. The park exists around several recreational lakes and includes some good short walks. It’s a good place to visit to kill time, or to sit down and read a book. The main gate is near town, but the park reaches quite deep back into suburbia, which makes it a nice route to walk in. It’s actively looked after by volunteers as well as the local council (I’m presuming). The Friends of Pukekura Park have a website which is somewhat more descriptive than the local council.
Half a kilometer away from Pukekura Park, the Te Henui Walkway is another very nice way to walk from the suburbs into the town centre. It’s a river-side walk which follows the Te Henui river under the trees, through picnic areas, and eventually out to the Coastal Walkway east of the town centre.
On this visit, I also went out to see Lake Mangamahoe for the first time, which is a 5 minute drive south of New Plymouth along State Highway 3. Lake Mangamahoe is New Plymouth’s main water supply, but it has a very nice walk around its edge. The walk is labelled as taking 2 hours, although it’s easily do-able in less or more depending on conditions and preferences. There’s a road subjected to pot-holes along the entire western side of the lake, with a carpark at each end.
It was raining when I arrived, and if I’d planned I would have been wearing shorts because although it’s a nice walking track, some of it involves wading through long grass which quickly transfers a lot of water when it’s walked through. Apart from wet trousers and water-filled sneakers, however, the walk was really nice. Perhaps due to the rain, nobody else was visiting at the time except for a couple of people on mountain bikes, who quickly disappeared to the nearby mountain biking area.
I like the rain, and I enjoy walking through it. It brings out an atmosphere of a place which is often missed if one only ventures outside in hot and sunny weather.