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New Plymouth Festival of Lights

24 Hours in New Plymouth

Our last stop on our whistle stop road trip of the Central North Island was New Plymouth. The kids had chosen to stay at Flamingo Motel which comfortably slept all 5 of us (no mean feat) and most importantly for the kids, had two swimming pools.

We’d been on holiday for 3 weeks by this point so our funds were running low, tempers were frayed, and added to that it had started raining (one of the few times it rained on our whole trip).

Festival of Lights at Pukekura Park

We had heard about the Festival of Lights at Pukekura Park and desperately wanted to check it out but weren’t too sure how it would be in the rain. The answer is wet, but apart from that, still utterly magic.

The photographer in me wishes that I had of bought my tripod so I could take some amazing pictures, but the traveller in me was happy just to stroll around with the kids in the rain, taking in this beautiful illuminated night-time wonderland.

The kids were so enchanted by the 52ha of parkland that they wanted to come back first thing the next morning when the sun was out but there is nothing quite as magic as seeing it all lit up so if you are going – go at night first and keep that magical first impression.

The Social Kitchen

Now this is going to be controversial advice but when we travel like this (living out of hotels and on the road) I like to eat good food. I find the difference between an average restaurant meal and an exceptional one is only about $5-10 per person so I choose to pay the extra. We’ve found restaurants in small towns that rival any I’ve found in Auckland – like The Bistro in Taupo and Mission Estate in Napier.

So when we arrived in New Plymouth I set about finding something different and The Social Kitchen certainly fit that bill! It was quirky with enough gore (pigs heads with hats and cigars hanging in the window) to make it utterly cool for the kids and with sharing plates there was plenty of variety.

All up dinner and drinks (including wine for James and I) for 5 of us cost us $150 and we still didn’t manage to eat it all! You can find out more about them here.

Coastal Walk

Our last thing to do in New Plymouth was to explore the Coastal Walk. There is loads to see and do on the walk and if we had more time we would have hired bikes for the kids.

As it was we took a stroll down the walkway. The kids tried every angle they could to get splashed by a rouge wave to no avail.

We spent ages playing in the mirror that twisted and contorted our bodies.


We slid down the bright colourful slides from the playground to the path below and stopped there for a picnic lunch.


We walked through Te Rewa Rewa bridge (which is designed a the skeleton of a whale) and looked through to Mount Egmont which still remained stubbornly surrounded by clouds for the duration of our stay.


And then that was it, the road trip was over and it was time to begin the journey home. The road up to Waitomo from New Plymouth is another stunner – in fact it was James favourite road of the journey. Loads of native bush, rugged coastline, gorges and two absolutely magical short tunnels that cut through the mountains.

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