New Plymouth. © Jeff Poole

New Plymouth: mountains and masterpieces

View the map


We get to New Plymouth on dark but the hotel is easy to find and we’re soon settled in and walking up to the centre of town on the hunt for dinner.

It’s a vibrant town and there’s no shortage of options; we eat Japanese then shoot along the road to where local musicians take turns on stage for an open mic night.

On Saturday morning, we walk around a city corner and yell, both of us: “wow!”  Because, like most people coming to New Plymouth these days, we’re visiting the new Len Lye Centre. The wavy stainless steel exterior shimmers and plays; people walk close and back off and look up and laugh at their mangled reflections. It is instantly fun. 

Inside, the new museum keeps up the playfulness. Light dances through tall hidden windows along a sloping ramp. Once in the space where the legendary Len Lye works spring into view, it’s all about – the focus shifts to fountains of coloured light, waltzing steel, rolling plains of shimmering, haunting shapes.

There are masterpieces here – noisy and boisterous; there are quieter works that hypnotise and intrigue.

Short films, a genre of art that, along with his kinetic sculpture, Len Lye was internationally famous for, loop in dizzy repeats. It’s an astonishing world and everyone visiting on the day we’re there seems as energised by the experience as we are.

I’m pleased to learn that the exhibitions will change three times each year, to encourage repeat visits. There will also be collaborations with other artists and with musicians, to keep up the energy level of this infectiously happy art.

Next door, the Govett-Brewster Gallery has had a makeover and shines with renewed life. 

We walk over the road for an excellent coffee at Icon café, feeling a bit jealous of this cool community’s genuine respect for culture and creativity. 

Holding this mood, we drive south to Ōakura Beach and build flimsy sculptures with driftwood, dried seaweed and carefully balanced stones. 

Then, feeling the need to get close to Mt Taranaki, we drive inland to Stratford, grab some sandwiches and drive uphill to park with a view for an in-car picnic. It’s very cold out. We walk a little, in the snowline, but we’re not equipped so we keep it short.

One of my favourite shots taken in New Zealand. Probably because it took a bit of time to plan.... The difficulty of this location is not really to access it but to get the correct conditions. The weather in Taranaki is highly unpredictable and when you have to take a plane to get there this makes it an expensive challenge.... After more than 3 years lurking at this location, all the stars seemed to align: long weekend, perfect weather window (no wind and no rain) and still snow on the top. So I took a chance... and got only one evening where the weather allowed me to take a picture... but what an evening! . . . . . . . . . ################## Camera: Nikon D600 ISO: 100 Aperture: f8 Shutter: 1/30s Filter : #formatthitech soft grad .9 ################### . . . . . . #NewZealand #newzealandguide #newzealandvacations #NZ @travelnewzealand #destinationNZ #ig_NewZealand #discover_NewZealand #BestNewZealand  #splendid_earthpix #explorewithfriends #nature_obsession_landscapes #lake #reflection #nature #explore #travel #mountains #adventure #wild #wildernessculture #exploremore #welltravelled #lonelyplanet #travelstroke #passionpassport #cntraveler  #natgeotravel #igshotz #ourplanetdaily

A post shared by Nico BABOT - Alberta Canada (@thekiwifrog) on Oct 5, 2017 at 9:54pm PDT

On the way back to New Plymouth we stop to photograph the mountain, which is glowing clear and clean against the pink of the evening sky. Initially stark, like a simple silk-screen print, the cone becomes more three-dimensional as the light fades. 

It’s one of many images we take home with us.  


Story by Kath Webster.

Explore more...

More stories like this

Find out more

Get outdoors

Taranaki: like no other

Taranaki’s catchphrase, that it is 'like no other' – is, at first glance, nonsensical: after all, no place is quite like any other. But let’s see... Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Things to do

Mount Taranaki: picture-perfect peak

Taranaki is about as close as you can get to the ideal of volcanic beauty – almost perfectly round, its nearly symmetrical cone rising to a pointed summit, with a single crater. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Events and festivals

WOMAD: a world of music, art and dance

New Plymouth has hosted WOMAD since 2005. And, to use a quaint and formal term, it goes off.  Read the story . . . 

Find out more


Len Lye Centre: a remarkable building for a remarkable artist

Celebrate Modernist filmmaker, sculptor, painter and poet Len Lye in this striking single-artist gallery in New Plymouth's art and cultural precinct. Read the story . . . 

AA Members save on selected accommodation with
AA Traveller

AA Members
Book now
Non Members
Book now