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Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki

A New Zealand campervan holiday through the Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki region offers an unforgettable experience. Rich in natural beauty and cultural significance, this special part of New Zealand offers travellers a unique blend of urban charm and rugged wilderness. If you love exploring arts and culture, you’ll be spoilt for choice in this region. You may even like to follow the Coastal Arts Trail which spans 300 km between New Plymouth to Palmerston North. The trail is peppered with galleries, sculptures, studios and more. Don't miss the opportunity to visit the mystical Bridge to Nowhere, accessible through the verdant Whanganui National Park, offering an unforgettable journey into New Zealand's remote backcountry. 

Transitioning westward, the landscape dramatically changes as you enter Taranaki, dominated by the iconic, conical shape of Mount Taranaki. This region is a magnet for adventurers and nature lovers alike, with New Plymouth at its heart – a coastal city known for its sunny climate, thriving arts community, and surf-friendly beaches. The coastal walkway stretching from Bell Block to Port Taranaki offers spectacular sea views, perfectly complementing the city’s dynamic cultural venues and eateries.


Why explore Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki by campervan

Exploring Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki by campervan offers an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the heartland of New Zealand's North Island. It also makes it easy to change your itinerary on the fly. Whether it's spending an extra day enjoying the surf in New Plymouth, exploring the hiking trails around Mount Taranaki, or parking beside the scenic Whanganui River for a spontaneous picnic, the choice is yours. The ability to set your own pace and schedule makes a campervan ideal for discovering the hidden gems of these regions.

Travelling by campervan not only brings the comforts of home on the road, such as your own bed, kitchen, and living space, but also eliminates the hassles of constant packing and unpacking. This is especially valuable in regions like Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki, where attractions are spread out. Having your necessities with you means you're always ready for the next adventure. 


Things to do in Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki

Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki offer activities for all ages, from nature excursions to authentic cultural experiences. Explore Palmerston North's gardens and arts scene, Whanganui's historic riverboat cruise, or brave the surf at New Plymouth's beaches. Immerse yourself in the local culture with visits to museums, galleries, and artist studios. Whether it's outdoor excitement or cultural enrichment, this fascinating region provides something for everyone.



Popular Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki road trips & itineraries

Stretching down the lower west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki are prime destinations for road trippers seeking a mix of culture, nature, and adventure. Easily accessible from major urban centres like Wellington and Auckland, the drive itself showcases the dramatic shift from urban landscapes to the lush, green countryside of Manawatu and the striking volcanic features of Taranaki. These routes not only offer breathtaking views but are dotted with a variety of attractions, making every stop an opportunity for discovery. 


Ultimate 7-day South Island campervan itinerary Ultimate 7-day South Island campervan itinerary

Ultimate 7-day South Island campervan itinerary

Thinking of hitting the top of the South Island on a campervan road trip? Great idea! From the lively vibe of Christchurch to the stunning beauty...

Great savings on your New Zealand road trip

Apollo offers a fantastic selection of deals and specials for those looking to explore Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki by campervan. From hot deals and last-minute discounts to long-term hire benefits, you’re sure to find a deal designed to help you make the most of your campervan road trip. 

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Long Hire Offer

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The drive from Apollo Christchurch to the Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki region sets you up for a scenic journey across the South Island, including the picturesque ferry crossing at the Cook Strait, and onto the North Island. 


Keen to make the most of your road trip and explore the South Island before heading north? Book your camper with our Queenstown branch and spend a few days taking in some of the great southern highlights before crossing the Cook Strait by ferry.


Set off from Apollo Auckland and kick off your exploration of this region in New Plymouth – just a few hours drive away. Make your way down the west coast taking in the charming townships, rolling rural landscapes, and rugged coastline as you venture south.  

Auckland City Skyline


New Zealand’s multi-cultural hub of food, music, arts and culture.


Christchurch City, New Zealand


 One of the world’s most unique destinations.



Breathtaking scenery and adrenaline-pumping adventure activities.


Helpful tips for visiting Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki


Climate and seasons in Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki

Stretching hundreds of kilometres, this expansive region offers distinct seasonal experiences, making it an attractive destination year-round for visitors looking to enjoy a variety of landscapes and activities.

Manawatu-Whanganui enjoys a mild, temperate climate with moderate rainfall, making it pleasant for travel most of the year.

  • Summers (December to February) are warm with temperatures averaging around 22°C, ideal for exploring the great outdoors and the region's rivers and parks.
  • Autumn (March to May) brings cooler temperatures and a beautiful change in foliage, particularly in the bush-clad hills, providing perfect conditions for hiking and photography.
  • Winter (June to August) can be cooler, with temperatures dropping to around 10°C, but it is generally mild compared to other regions, with occasional frost in sheltered areas.
  • Spring (September to November) sees the landscape rejuvenate with bursts of flowers and greenery, making it a lovely time for visiting the many gardens and reserves.

Taranaki is known for its more dynamic weather patterns, due to the presence of Mount Taranaki, which can attract clouds and cause quick changes in weather.

  • Summers here are pleasant with temperatures similar to Manawatu-Whanganui but expect more frequent rain showers that keep the surroundings lush.
  • Autumn sees stable weather, ideal for outdoor activities as the forests display a vivid array of autumn colours.
  • Winter in Taranaki can be wet, with more pronounced rainfall, and the mountain often receives snowfall, offering spectacular views and winter sports.
  • Spring brings a rapid growth of new foliage and is particularly spectacular as rhododendrons and other blooms erupt around the mountain's base.




What to pack?

Preparing for your campervan journey through Manawatu-Whanganui and Taranaki requires thoughtful packing to make the most of the diverse climates and activities available in these regions. Here’s what you should consider bringing along:

  • Outdoor gear: given the varied terrain from river valleys to volcanic mountains, pack versatile outdoor gear. Lightweight, breathable clothing will serve you well during warmer months, while waterproof and windproof layers are essential for the unpredictable weather near Mount Taranaki. Sturdy hiking boots are a must for exploring the rugged landscapes and numerous walking trails. With the stunning natural beauty and wildlife in both regions, a good camera can help you capture memorable landscapes and native birds. Binoculars will also enhance your experience, especially when visiting coastal areas and bird sanctuaries.
  • Campervan add-ons: Enhancing your campervan experience can significantly improve your comfort during the trip. Consider including a portable heater for the cooler evenings, especially during winter months in Taranaki. A reliable GPS and physical maps can help navigate the more remote areas. Additional camping chairs and a table can also be handy for scenic stops along the coast or in forest parks.
  • Sun protection and rain gear: The regions' varying weather conditions call for both sun protection and rain gear. Pack a high-SPF sunscreen, UV-protection sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to shield against the strong New Zealand sun. Also, include a durable rain jacket and waterproof trousers to stay dry during sudden rain showers, particularly prevalent in Taranaki. For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.

For more helpful ideas, check out our guide to what to pack for your campervan road trip.



Nearby attractions and day trips from Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki


Whanganui River cruise or kayak

Experience the tranquil beauty of the Whanganui River by taking a leisurely cruise or paddling a kayak. This historic river offers stunning views of lush landscapes and provides a quiet escape into nature, perfect for a relaxing day on the water.

Whanganui National Park

Home to native forests and scenic waterways, Whanganui National Park is popular with hikers and walkers. The park is also home to the Bridge to Nowhere Walk, a 3 km return (around 1.5 hours) easy walk popular with visitors to the area.

Forgotten World Highway

The Forgotten World Highway, running through remote, mystic landscapes, offers a journey back in time. This historic route passes through rugged terrain, dense forests, and small forgotten towns, making it a unique adventure for road-trippers.

Bushy Park

Bushy Park Ecological Sanctuary, near Whanganui, is known for its rich biodiversity and protected native forest. The 100-hectare reserve is home to some of the tallest and oldest trees in the region, including a 500-year-old rata. The park's predator-free status allows visitors to encounter rare and endangered birds such as the hihi and saddleback in their natural habitat.

Nearby attractions and day trips from Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

Dominating the landscape, Mount Taranaki offers challenging hikes and spectacular views from its summit. The symmetrical volcano is a striking feature of Egmont National Park, drawing climbers and photographers alike.

New Plymouth Coastal Walk

The New Plymouth Coastal Walkway is a spectacular 13-kilometre path that stretches from Ngamotu Beach to Bell Block, offering panoramic views of the Tasman Sea. This award-winning walkway is ideal for walking, jogging, or cycling featuring iconic landmarks like the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, which resembles a breaking wave or whale skeleton.

Pukekura Park

New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park is a beautifully landscaped garden featuring lakes, waterfalls, and exotic plants. It hosts the famous Festival of Lights, transforming into an enchanted evening wonderland.

Dawson Falls in Egmont National Park

Dawson Falls is a spectacular 18-metre waterfall located within Egmont National Park. The area around the falls offers picturesque walking tracks that wind through lush native bush, ideal for a short, scenic hike.


Where to stay in Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki with a campervan

When it comes to finding the perfect spot to park and rest in Manawatu-Whanganui & Taranaki, there's no shortage of picturesque, comfy campgrounds. Here are a few worth checking out:






Alyssa Tresider
/ Categories: NZ blog

Fun family things to do in New Plymouth.

Planning a campervan road trip to New Plymouth with the family? Need some great ideas on what to see and do while you’re there? We’ve got you covered. From museums and mini-golf to shipwrecks and goblin forests, this North Island city is packed full of family fun. In this handy guide, we share 10 of the top New Plymouth activities worth adding to your road trip itinerary planner. 


Why New Plymouth is a good place to visit

New Plymouth is an exceptional destination for families, blending rich cultural experiences with stunning natural landscapes. Located around 4.5 hours drive from Auckland, it's an ideal spot for both quick getaways and extended holidays. The city boasts expansive green spaces like Pukekura Park, where families can enjoy everything from quiet walks to row boat rides on the lake. At Puke Ariki Museum, interactive exhibits not only entertain but also educate visitors about the region’s history and natural world.

The renowned Coastal Walkway offers miles of scenic paths perfect for biking or strolling while soaking in ocean views. For younger adventurers, numerous playgrounds throughout the city provide imaginative and safe play areas. With its compact urban layout, New Plymouth allows families to explore a variety of attractions within a short distance, minimising travel time and packing in maximum fun.


What’s the best way to explore New Plymouth?

Exploring New Plymouth by campervan offers the ultimate in flexibility and comfort for families. Wake up to a different beachfront or lush landscape each day then take your time exploring the highlights and hidden gems. Renting a campervan allows you to unpack once and relax, with all your travel necessities in one place, moving at your own pace. It’s cost-effective too, reducing the need for motel bookings as you travel. 

The New Plymouth region is well-suited for van travel with excellent campgrounds offering facilities that make a campervan road trip convenient and enjoyable. Plus, Apollo campervans come with everything on your family camping checklist: space, comfort, and the essentials for life on the road. There’s no better way to explore Plymouth! 


Our top 10 favourite family things to do in New Plymouth

Let’s take a look at some of the best New Plymouth activities for families travelling by campervan.

1. Enjoy a picnic at Pukekura Park

Step into the natural beauty of Pukekura Park, a 52-hectare wonderland of lush gardens, tranquil lakes, and extensive walking paths. This park is the perfect New Plymouth attraction for families who love the outdoors. Enjoy a peaceful walk over the iconic Poet's Bridge or watch the kids play near the historic waterwheel. For a special treat, visit during the six-week Festival of Lights in summer, when the park sparkles with vibrant light installations and becomes a scene of nightly festivities. 


2. Hit the trails at Egmont National Park

Keen to take the family on a walk into nature? You’ll find plenty of great options at Egmont National Park. The park is rich with geological and natural treasures, from the snow-capped peak of Mt Taranaki, known for its near-perfect symmetrical cone, to the lush rainforests that drape its lower slopes. Enveloping the majestic Mt Taranaki, this park offers over 300 km of walking tracks that cater to every fitness level. Whether you're up for a 15-minute scenic stroll or a challenging three-day Pouākai Circuit, Egmont is a playground for walkers and hikers. 


3. See the sights on the Coastal Walkway

Embrace the sea breeze along New Plymouth’s Coastal Walkway, an award-winning 13.2 km stretch that winds from Pioneer Park at Port Taranaki to Bell Block Beach. This paved pathway is perfect for families, accommodating everyone from walkers to cyclists, and even those on skateboards and scooters. The journey from the Wind Wand to the architectural marvel, the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, is particularly picturesque, featuring expansive views of the ocean and a framed view of Mt Taranaki. The walkway is dotted with access points and parking, making it easy to explore sections at a time or commit to the full distance. 


4. Catch a wave on Surf Highway 45

Hit the waves on Surf Highway 45, a must-visit for any surfing enthusiast exploring New Plymouth. This 105 km stretch of coastline offers some of the best surf spots in New Zealand, with beaches suited for every level of surfer, from beginners to pros. Each coastal town along the highway adds its unique charm and variety of waves. Not just for surfers though, Surf Highway 45 is an adventure for anyone who enjoys scenic drives and coastal beauty. The route is dotted with small galleries, cafes, and viewpoints that provide stunning ocean vistas. 

Image: Tourism New Zealand


5. Step back in time at Puke Ariki Museum

Check out Puke Ariki if you’re looking for a spot where learning comes alive for the whole family. Nestled in the heart of New Plymouth, this cultural gem combines a museum, library, and visitor centre all in one. It’s the go-to place to uncover the rich stories and vibrant heritage of the Taranaki region. The interactive displays make history accessible and fun for kids, while adults will appreciate the depth of information on local culture and natural history. It's an ideal destination for a family day out, offering a mix of education and entertainment that caters to all ages. 


6. Meet the wildlife at Brooklands Zoo

No family holiday is complete without a zoo visit, and Brooklands Zoo doesn’t disappoint! This charming (and free!) attraction is located within the lush Brooklands Park. The zoo is a fantastic place for visitors of all ages to get up close with an array of exotic mammals, colourful birds, reptiles, and farmyard animals. From playful capuchin monkeys and curious meerkats to chattering parrots and slow-moving tortoises, there's a fascinating variety of wildlife to meet. The kids will get a chance to learn more about conservation too, thanks to the engaging talks given by passionate zookeepers. 


7. Admire the art at Govett-Brewster Gallery

Step into the world of contemporary art at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Zealand’s premier venue for innovative art. This popular New Plymouth attraction also serves as the home of the Len Lye Centre, dedicated to the works of the pioneering filmmaker and kinetic artist, Len Lye. From interactive installations to thought-provoking sculptures and multimedia presentations, each visit offers a new perspective on contemporary issues through the lens of art. The gallery's dynamic programming ensures there is always something new to discover, making it an ideal destination for those looking to immerse themselves in cutting-edge artistic expression.


8. Goblin Forest Walk

Take a whimsical journey through the Goblin Forest, also known as Kamahi Walk, located on the slopes of Mt Taranaki. This enchanting forest, reminiscent of a scene straight out of a fantasy novel, features kamahi trees that have grown in twisted and gnarled forms around the trunks of other trees, creating an otherworldly atmosphere. The dense foliage is adorned with hanging mosses, liverworts, and ferns, adding to the otherworldly feel of the forest. Just a short walk from the Goblin Forest are the Wilkies Pools, a series of natural plunge pools formed by the erosive power of sand and gravel carried by water over centuries. In the summer months, these pools offer a refreshing swimming spot.


9. Spend a thrilling day at The Hideaway

Make your way to The Hideaway for a day packed with family-friendly activities in New Plymouth. What started as the Hillsborough Holden Museum has expanded into a dynamic attraction that includes Mount Panorama Mini Putt, the adrenaline-pumping Hideaway Luge, and the cosy Hideaway Café. Holden fans will be right at home checking out the unique collection of Australian Holden cars and memorabilia. Afterwards, challenge the family to 18 holes of mini-golf, where the entire course is themed after the famous Bathurst race track. Then, for a dose of extra excitement, race down the 240-metre Hideaway Luge track, weaving through the scenic surroundings. After your adventures, relax and refuel at the Hideaway Café. 


10. Explore the Gairloch shipwreck

Venture to the remains of the SS Gairloch Shipwreck by heading down Lower Timaru Road or taking a scenic walk along the coast from Ōakura Beach. The SS Gairloch, once a part of the Northern Steamship Company's fleet that sailed between Onehunga, New Plymouth, Whanganui, and Nelson, met its fate on the night of 5 January 1903. The ship ran aground on Timaru Reef during a storm, though fortunately, no lives were lost. Today, the shipwreck offers a glimpse into the past, with the rusted iron skeleton of its bow protruding from the water. A short wade into the sea reveals the ship’s engine remnants and bottom plates, evocative of whale bones emerging from the depths. Best viewed at low tide, this site combines historical intrigue with a unique coastal experience, making it a compelling stop on your New Plymouth adventure.


Where to stay in New Plymouth

New Plymouth has some excellent campsites and holiday park options for families travelling by campervan, each with its unique charm and amenities. Here are a couple worth adding to your travel itinerary:


Fitzroy Beach Holiday Park

Settle in for an idyllic family getaway at Fitzroy Beach Holiday Park, uniquely positioned right on Fitzroy Beach with direct access to New Plymouth's scenic Coastal Walkway. The park is equipped with facilities like a jumping pillow and a children's playground, ensuring fun-filled days for the younger guests. Its prime location offers easy access to surf, sand, and the extensive walkway, making it a perfect spot for families who love to explore the outdoors. 


Belt Road Seaside Holiday Park

Also located right on the Coastal Walkway, Belt Road Seaside Holiday Park is a top choice for a family getaway in New Plymouth. This holiday park boasts not just a prime location but also spectacular ocean views that can be enjoyed right from your doorstep. Conveniently situated close to some of the best New Plymouth attractions on offer, this lovely holiday park has everything needed for the perfect family holiday. 


Plan the perfect family holiday with Apollo

There you have our list of some of the best things to do in New Plymouth as a family. And when you travel by Apollo campervan, you can take your pick and create a travel itinerary to suit moods, weather, and budget! Spend a day at the zoo or wander the gardens. Explore a shipwreck or escape into nature. There’s something for everyone!  

Ready to experience the best of New Plymouth with your family? Book your Apollo campervan hire online today and start planning an unforgettable road trip adventure!


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