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 significent 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.
Taranaki attractions listed by Lonely Planet include:
Govett Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre
Mount Taranaki, Egmont National Park, and the Pouakai Crossing one-day walk
Puke Ariki Museum
Pukekura Park - the expansive central New Plymouth park
New Plymouth shopping and dining
Surf Highway 45 – the 105km touring route around Taranaki's coast
WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) festival – 17-19 March, 2017
TSB Bank Festival of Lights – 18 December, 2016 to 5 February, 2017.
New Zealand destinations and attractions are also featured on three of the book’s other top lists for 2017:
Family Adventure Destinations: #2 New Zealand
“New Zealand’s natural beauty and excellent reputation for outdoor pursuits make it a popular destination for families. Hiring a camper van is not only an economical way to explore the country but also gives you the freedom of the open road and the fun of outdoor life without having to put a tent up each night.”
Best Places to Stay: #10 Whare Kea Lodge & Chalet, New Zealand
“Located at 1750m a short hop from Mt Aspiring National Park, this chalet has simply spectacular views. For four months a year it’s snow-covered; in summer the mountainside is dotted with wildflowers. Guests can go skiing, walking, cycling, canyoning and kayaking in the area.”
Bikepacking: Alps 2 Ocean Trail, New Zealand
“From the shapely ankles of New Zealand’s highest mountain, mighty Aoraki (Mt Cook), the new 301km Alps 2 Ocean Trail cascades through the foothills of the Southern Alps, sending cyclists past great lakes and along rivers wending across the Canterbury Plains, until it reaches the Pacific Ocean at Oamaru. The final sections of this magical mixed-terrain trail are slated to open in 2017.”
Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions 2017 are: Choquequirao, Peru (1), Taranaki, New Zealand (2), The Azores, Portugal (3), North Wales, UK (4), South Australia (5), Aysén, Chile (6), The Tuamotus, French Polynesia (7), Coastal Georgia, USA (8), Perak, Malaysia (9), The Skellig Ring, Ireland (10).
Lonely Planet's Best in Travel
Best in Travel 2017 is Lonely Planet’s 12th annual collection of the world’s hottest trends, destinations and experiences for the year ahead. The best-selling, inspirational travel yearbook highlights the top 10 countries, cities, regions and best value destinations that Lonely Planet’s experts recommend travellers experience in 2017.
The destinations selected for Best in Travel meet specific criteria. It could be that something special is going on in the year ahead, or there's been recent development and a lot of buzz about the place; that it offers travellers new things to see or do; or that Lonely Planet experts think it’s been overlooked and underrated and suggests travellers visit before the crowds do.
Deciding what to include in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel annual selection involves Lonely Planet’s community of writers, editors, bloggers and tweeters. Each year, they come up with hundreds of places that are not to be missed. These are then whittled down by a panel of travel experts who shortlist against criteria such as topicality, excitement and wow-factor.
For all of the Best in Travel 2017 destinations and additional advice on visiting them, visit www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel
The full colour 208pp paperback will be retail in New Zealand for $26.99.