Taranaki reasures

Brook Sabin and Radha Engling The writer’s trip was supported by Venture Taranaki. Visit taranaki.co.nz. This story was produced as a part of an editorial partnership with Tourism New Zealand.



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Taranaki is home to arguably the country’s most beautiful mountain, and that tends to absorb much of the attention if you are visiting the region. But look a little deeper, and you will find a collection of lesser-known attractions, which includes a new luge track, fantastic food trucks, and wonderful coastal walks. Here are Taranaki’s seven secret spots that won’t stay off the radar for long. An unexpected safari Tucked away in Taranaki’s hinterland, I am staring at three elephants. Around the corner, a hippo emerges from a pond. No, I’m not in Africa. But Africa has come to Taranaki at Te Popo Gardens. This sprawling 13-hectare garden and woodland is a 15-minute drive from Stratford, and is a majestic wonderland of native and exotic trees and shrubs. But what makes it unique is 40 (many life-size) sculptures of African animals dotted around the property. Children will love going on a safari to find them all. There is also a fairy forest with three large doll houses, where children can enter and play inside. If you have little ones with a sense of adventure, the $5 entry fee is perhaps the best money you will ever spend. But remember to bring cash, as it operates on an honesty box system. Food truck heaven Hidden in central New Plymouth is one of the country’s best foodie secrets, Liardet Street Projects, a food truck heaven. The small courtyard is home to everything from exceptional burgers, Spanish treats, poke´ bowls, Californian-inspired pizza, extraordinary South Indian and a popular Vietnamese option. You can eat your way around the world in just a few steps. Make sure to try a burger from Gamma Ray’s – we tasted the Take MOO to your Leader cheeseburger, and it rivals some of the best we have had in New York. The post office palace The tiny inland town of Eltham is home to one of the country’s most extraordinary bed and breakfasts. In the centre of town is a building known as The Old Post Office, which dates to 1905. Inside is a palatial suite, complete with grand chandeliers, a freestanding bath, an enormous shower, and one of the comfiest beds you will find. The suite has been immaculately designed, effortlessly mixing the building’s character features with European flair. For example, a former telephone booth once used to allow customers to ring around the world, now sits in the corner of the suite as a coatroom. The extraordinary refit was completed last year by hosts David and Maria Hancock, who even offer to bring a home-cooked dinner to your suite. It is one of the best bed and breakfast experiences to try. It’s playtime Taranaki is home to a new luge, especially popular with younger kids. Hideaway Luge Taranaki can be found at the Hillsborough Holden Museum, which is home to the county’s largest collection of Holden cars and memorabilia. Steve and Joy Fabish spent the past couple of years designing and constructing the luge, which is 240 metres long so best suited for children. After the ride, the luge carts are ferried to the top courtesy of a ski lift, while you can catch a Thomas the Tank Engine train back to the start, or walk up. The mini-putt that runs alongside the luge is very popular, with a cafe to enjoy up the top of the course when your round is complete. Keep your gin up New Plymouth is taking the gin scene by storm, with a fast-growing startup called Juno leading the charge. It is run by Jo and Dave James, who met at a New Plymouth kindergarten and, decades later, they are a growing force in the gin world. Their small city-based distillery is open to the public for a tour and tasting, and at just $25 a person, it offers exceptional value. You will be taken on a sensory journey through gin-making, and gain a new appreciation of the botanicals that bring this spirit to life. You can upgrade to the Full Distillery Tour, which includes cocktails, canapes, and a wider array of gins. At $59, it is a fun-packed 90-minutes with friends. Don’t miss trying the seasonal gins, such as the Juno Winter 2021. It is described as ‘‘intense and juicy with tiny mandarins of perfection, matched with toasted coconut, lime blossoms and a whisker of cinnamon’’. That is not just marketing fluff – you really do get a sense of those flavours. Luxury on a budget Fancy unwinding in a freestanding stone bath on the deck of your waterfront room while watching the sunset? Sounds like an expensive night away. But New Plymouth’s Belt Road Seaside Holiday Park has a series of deluxe waterfront motel units with super king beds and rooms that overlook the sea. But the piece de resistance is an outdoor bath, complete with bath bombs. And you can be there for less than $200 a night. The units are just a few minutes’ stroll to the city’s popular coastal walk, which will take you to the centre of town for dinner in just 15 minutes. Then return for a bath under the stars, before an early night. Wonderful walks People travel from all over the world to visit Victoria’s Twelve Apostles, but we have a version of the Australian landmark: The Three Sisters. This short beach walk, which is only accessible at low tide, involves a stroll along an estuary to reach the beach, where you will find three towering rock formations. There are also caves to explore, which children will love. Further south, explore the magnificent Whitecliffs Walkway loop. Head along the beach on the outgoing tide to enjoy the jagged cliff-lined beach, before returning through a farmland track to your car. You must only attempt the walk on the outgoing tide, or you will get trapped. Ensure you read the Department of Conservation tips for the walk before attempting it. On a fine Taranaki day, you are in for a treat. Staying safe: New Zealand is under Covid-19 restrictions. Follow the instructions at covid19.govt.nz.