New Plymouth might not be the first place that comes to mind when planning a weekend away with the kids, but this small city is big on family friendly activities. With a beautiful coast on one side and iconic Taranaki Maunga on the other, it’s blessed with natural beauty every where you look, as well as fabulous amenities throughout the city. From a free zoo to beautiful parklands and playgrounds, there’s plenty here to keep the family entertained. Read on to discover some of my favourite spots with kids in New Plymouth – yes, even in winter!
Bring your scooters and bikes because New Plymouth offers one of the best coastal walkways out! This 13km paved walkway stretches right along the city front and is the perfect place to soak in the coastal views and burn off some energy. Bike, scooter, skate, or just plain old foot power – the choice is yours. Don’t miss the iconic Wind Wand, or the Te Rewarewa bridge which makes for a great photo opportunity!
Did someone say free zoo?! That’s right, this wee zoo adjacent to the famous bowl of brooklands is completely free, and a hit for families. Allow an hour or two to check out the otters, squirrel monkeys, kunikuni pigs, and more, as well as a letting the kids loose on the playground while you (hopefully) enjoy a coffee in the sun.
Wilkies Pools + Goblin Forest
There’s a myriad of walking trails around the Maunga, but the 1.9km loop track through the Goblin Forest to Wilkie’s pools is one of the best for young families. This track starts at the Dawson Falls visitor centre, about 45 mins from New Plymouth CBD. It’s stroller and child friendly, and the swing bridge keeps things exciting for young ones. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful views, and natural plunge pools and a rock-slide for those who are keen to brave the icy water.
Todd Energy Aquatic Centre
If the weather’s not on your side, head indoors for some aquatic fun. Great for the whole family, the centre boasts a spa, inflatable obstacle course, rock climbing wall, a wave pool, and fun elements for toddlers. And the price is right, too. An adult plus child under 8 is only $4 combined! Head next door to Kawaroa park afterwards for the colourful slides that head down to the coastal walkway and rockpools.
This classic kiwi dairy is world famous in New Plymouth for dishing up huge ice-creams. Even in winter you’ll see a steady stream of locals heading out the door with towering scoops of tip top goodness. Bonus, they offer a choc dip for only 90 cents extra! It’s the perfect pit stop after a day of exploring. (Or use it as a bribe, we won’t judge!)
This stunning 128 acre park right in the heart of New Plymouth is one of New Zealand’s premier botanical gardens. There’s always a new pocket to explore, and little hidden gems along each path, as well as lakes, waterfalls, and a fabulous playground. Don’t miss the stunning fernery built into a hill side and connected by iconic earth tunnels. And if you’re visiting in summer, you can catch the renowned Festival of Lights which illuminates the park after dark!
It may be winter, but you can still rug up and enjoy a wild west coast beach walk. Fitzroy beach is a great option for kids, who will love building creations out of the piles of driftwood along the way. Back Beach and Oakura beach are also great walking options.
Just opposite the wind wand is the fabulous Puke Ariki Museum. With loads of interactive elements, this is a great spot for kids and adults alike. Stop in at the onsite restaurant Arborio for lunch or hot chocolates afterwards.
State Pasta + Gelato
This family friendly lunch and dinner spot dishes up incredible hand-made pastas and delectable gelato. There’s a tempting array of antipasti and pastas, as well as daily chef specials and a great kid’s menu. Everything comes served with complimentary house made focaccia. Try the roast chicken ravioli in sage butter and thank me later!
Written by Crystal Mann
Former Curator of Social History
Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato
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