A kaleidoscope of modern and old
Stuff NZ Newspapers
Built in 1886, the White Hart Hotel is the dominant feature of what is now New Plymouth’s West End Precinct, a city block filled mainly with gustatory treats. The White Hart’s splendid Victorian facade with a bullnose veranda, and topped off by a statue of a white stag, is eye-catching and elegant. Inside, a glass-roofed courtyard is surrounded by eateries, each run by dedicated enthusiasts and catering to every whim, taste and appetite. Why go? Because its former notoriety as an occasional den of iniquity has morphed into well-deserved architectural and culinary fame. Although the White Hart is no longer a hotel, you can stay in artily boutique splendour next door in the adjoining King and Queen Hotel Suites which offer uncluttered modern rooms and elaborate suites. Then you have all those temptations in the Precinct. Among the options are proper Italian pizza, Asian fusion sushi, classic meat and vegetables, or doughnuts, pastries, gelato, plus coffee, craft beers and wine, to enjoy in the bright and busy courtyard. Linger longer to browse the stylish fashion in Et Vous. Insider tip While you relax in the Precinct, reflect on the horror of the night in 1893 when Robert Wallath, in his highwayman costume of mask, military uniform and long sword, threatened the barman at the White Hart with a pistol, demanded money, then, clutching a bottle of whisky, rode away on his horse. On the way/nearby You can’t miss the strikingly rippled, reflective walls of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre across the road, and nor should you. Pop inside for emphatic modern art and to be mesmerised by Len Lye’s kinetic sculptures. Allow enough time to enjoy it all. Take a wander to discover some of the colourful street art tucked around the city streets. Puke Ariki is nearby. It is a well-presented museum where quirky exhibits engage you, and you will learn more than you realise about all sorts of things, including Taranaki’s DIY history. Did you know New Zealand’s first farm bike was built there? And so was a device for practising brass instruments quietly. Combine appreciation of art and nature on the Coastal Walkway, where Lye’s hypnotic Wind Wand is just one of the installations, but note the photogenic Te Rewa Rewa Bridge is being renovated. You could go to Pukekura Gardens for more conventional, but equally lovely, outdoor delights that include the pretty and photogenic Poet’s Bridge, with its unexpected racehorse connection. How much? Free to wander the Precinct, but you won’t be able to resist stopping for something to eat or drink, so you can soak up the atmosphere. Best time to go When you are hungry. Visit westendprecinct.nz.