We decided to take the hot hatch for a spin, destination Auckland to see the whanau, then to Tauranga for some summer sun – and got rained upon there most days, but that’s another story!
However, the drive to Auckland is along one, and we decided to make it longer,as you do! It seemed like a good opportunity to visit some places we hadn’t ventured to before, so we added Whanganui and New Plymouth to the itinerary!
I picked up the Kiwi from the office and we set off for Whanganui, and in less than three hours we were there. We have had continued success with booking accommodation using Air bnb and the place was 1km from the centre of Whanganui, so we dropped off our bags and headed in to the city for a wander and to get something to eat.
For a New Zealand town, Whanganui has a good share of old buildings (I’m from Edinburgh, I use the word “old” loosely as we are probably talking buildings just over 120 years old) and has the mighty Whanganui river running through it. There is a considerable artistic feel to the town, and on the weekend there is apparently a very good market, however we missed it. After dinner we made our way up to Durie Hill to take in the view of the sunset sky out over the city and to the Tasman sea. If you have kids, or are just a big kid yourself, there is an epic park to be found on the river’s edge.
The eventful New Zealand summer weather meant we didn’t stick around the following day, Christmas Eve, we just headed to our next stop of New Plymouth. With low cloud and rain, we knew we wouldn’t see Mount Taranaki and it wasn’t beach weather so no point detouring to visit the many surf beaches along the Taranaki coast, so straight to New Plymouth it was.
We were surprised to find such a busy, bustling town. We headed for The Market Patisserie & Cafe for lunch – a must do! Lovely fresh bread and baking are on offer.
Wandering down through town we found the Puke Ariki museum, which also houses the library and visitor’s centre. The museum is a mini-me version of Te Papa, found in Wellington. It has some great interactive displays, particularly in the basement, that kids big and small can enjoy. Notably for visitors, there are power points and free wifi too!
There are great surf beaches, one notably has an old shipwreck that is slowly decaying to oblivion.
After dinner we searched for the Len Lye Centre or Govett-Brewster Art Gallery it is part of, surprised to find it open at 8pm on Christmas Eve, so we had a bit of banter with the lovely, helpful staff. The new centre is an incredible feat of architecture. Walls wave in and out, and provide a cathedral of space, so even if you aren’t taken by the art it exhibits, the building itself it worth experiencing!
Having been entertained by the “Fountains” exhibition in the Gallery, we sought Pukekura Park to take in the Festival of Lights. We arrived while it was still a little too light, so we scouted the various installations then did another circuit at dusk. It’s fun, clever, intriguing and worth experiencing. It changes each year and uses sound and visuals to entertain.
The Mountain and the bridge
The following day we were driving to Auckland, but we woke up to blue sky and hoped this meant we would finally see The Mountain, and we did, …and how! Our destination was the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge that forms part of a pedestrian and cycleway, known as The Coastal Walkway, funnily enough, along the coast and bridges the Waiwhakaiho river. The bridge alone is worth seeing, reminding me of a breaking wave but more of a whale’s rib cage. However, we got the money shot – the bridge with it’s curving ribs framing the fabulous Mount Taranaki. Stunning.
Seeing the Mountain isn’t a given, we met a man who visited his in-laws in New Plymouth regularly over the past 14 years and this was the first time he’d seen Mount Taranaki! We felt privileged.
If we’d had more time we would have happily wandered along the walkway but time was moving on and we had to get to Auckland for lunchtime.
We followed the coast along State Highway 3 heading north to Auckland, passing amazing surf beaches and the beautiful and enchanting Elephant Rock. The tide was coming in, so we couldn’t take a walk out to have a look at the caves and rocks up close and personal, but I’d love to another time. One thing that struck us was the black beaches, and I mean black! The Kiwi spent his childhood and youth visiting Auckland’s west coast beaches of Muriwai, Karekare and Piha and all are considered black sand beaches but they have nothing on the sparking, jet black sand of some of these beaches! It was extraordinary and beautiful.
We just had a quick taste of what Taranaki has to offer, and we liked what we saw and the fact that it’s fairly approachable from Wellington I can easily see us taking another trip in summer to explore more of the coast and walks the area has to share. Add to that the roads are fun to drive in the hot hatch, we have a winner road trip on our hands!