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Published on : Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Taranaki – a fertile volcanic region on the North Island’s western extremity – has just been hailed as a rising international destination for 2017 by Lonely Planet. The global travel authority has ranked Taranaki second in the world’s Top 10 Regions published today in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017 – the travel guide’s hot tips on where to go and what to do.
And, while a mere 2% of New Zealand’s international visitors currently make it to Taranaki that may be about to change with Lonely Planet’s “unmissable experiences”. “A new motto – ‘A Little Bit Out There’ – offsets the region’s remote location with a deliciously offbeat new gallery dedicated to effervescent kinetic artist, filmmaker, painter and poet, Len Lye,” Lonely Planet says. “In nearby Egmont National Park, meanwhile, a magnificent hiking trail is emerging from the shadows to challenge the Tongariro Alpine Crossing as the country’s finest one-day walk.”
Off the beaten track but far from remote, Taranaki and its main city of New Plymouth sit on the western coast about halfway between the main centres of Auckland (in the north) and Wellington (in the south) of the North Island. Follow SH3 (rather than SH1 through the central North Island) and Taranaki is around 4.5 hours from either city.
This is a region of great natural beauty, remarkable at the very least for its sheer photogenic qualities ranging from volcanic Mt Taranaki – “so damn picture-perfect it stood in for Mt Fuji in The Last Samurai” – which dominates the rainforest and rich green pastures of one of New Zealand’s most productive regions (agriculture on shore and oil and gas fields off-shore), all the way to its wild black sand beaches and the pounding surf of some of New Zealand’s finest surf breaks.
Lonely Planet says the new Len Lye Centre and the Pouakai Crossing are “unmissable experiences”.The Pouakai Crossing,which traverses the slopes of Mount Taranaki, is one of New Zealand’s newest hiking trails. Highlights on this one-day walk include Dieffenbach Cliffs, Bells Falls, alpine tarns and primeval swamps – “volcanic, panoramic and arguably every bit as scenic as its rival [the Tongariro Alpine Crossing],” according to Lonely Planet. The region also has plenty of other shorter walks from the magnificent New Plymouth coastal walkway to strolling some of New Zealand’s most magnificent gardens.
The region’s powerful arts and culture scene has also won accolades with top bill going to New Plymouth’s Len Lye Centre – “a shimmery, stainless steel zizz-fest on the outside, all edgy lines and neck-cricking ceilings on the inside”. This audacious example of contemporary architecture with its mirrored waves of reflections and extraordinary “mind-bending sculptures and eye-popping films” has been pulling the crowds since it opened just over a year ago.
Nearby is the Puke Ariki Museum and further afield there is the arts trail to artist galleries and workshops. New Plymouth also offers an eclectic cafe scene and a fine range of accommodations.