Best cheap things to do in Taranaki, New Zealand

Keen on creating a budget-friendly motorhome travel itinerary packed with awesome surf, fantastic walks, and endless exploration? We suggest you visit Taranaki! Sitting halfway between Auckland and Wellington, the Taranaki region makes for an unforgettable campervan road trip. 

If you’re planning on booking a campervan hire and need great ideas on what to do in Taranaki, we’ve got you covered. In this helpful guide, we share some of the best cheap and free experiences to enjoy on a camper holiday in this beautiful region, including:

Visit the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is New Zealand's contemporary art museum and home to The Len Lye Centre. The centre is New Zealand’s first institution dedicated to a single artist; pioneering filmmaker and kinetic sculptor, Len Lye. Located on New Plymouth’s Queen Street, it’s hard to miss this amazing art gallery. The eye-catching curved stainless-steel exterior makes for some creative photography opportunities. You’ll also find a cinema inside, making this gallery the perfect destination for a rainy day.


Head out for a surf

Home to the legendary Surf Highway 45, which stretches 105 km between New Plymouth and Hawera, Taranaki attracts keen surfers from all over the world. Some of the best beaches to add to your travel itinerary include:

  • Fitzroy Beach offers up some incredible barrels and hollow waves. In fact, it’s known as one of the best mid-city surf spots in the world. At the opposite end is East End Beach, another great surf spot with slightly smaller waves and reasonably consistent surf. 
  • About 15 minutes’ drive from Fitzroy Beach, Back Beach’s powerful, punchy waves make it a popular year-round surf spot. 
  • Drive for another 10 minutes to reach Oakura Beach. This beach break offers both right and left-handers and is suitable for all levels. Lessons are available for beginners.
  • Opunake Beach is ideal for all surf levels. The beach offers up a nice-shaped wave with both right and left-handers. The outer reefs on the rocky points can be surfed if the conditions are right.


Wander the Coastal Walkway

Looking for ideas on what to do in New Plymouth? The Coastal Walkway is a great way to enjoy the scenery while getting some fresh sea air. The path spans 13.2 km from Port Taranaki to the eastern end side of Bell Block Beach. One of the highlights of the walk is the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge. This eye-catching 83-metre bridge is designed to look like a breaking wave or a whale skeleton. When you look at the bridge from a certain angle it arches over Mt Taranaki (also known as Mt Egmont) making for a fantastic photo. 


New Plymouth TaranakiImage via Tourism New Zealand - James Heremaia


Visit Three Sisters

The Three Sisters are huge rock formations at Tongapōrutu River mouth, on the North Taranaki coast. To be technically correct, there are only two sisters now, as one has been completely eroded by the Tasman Sea. They’re joined by another fascinating formation known as Elephant Rock. This rock once resembled an elephant, although the trunk has now eroded. For the best views, head along Pilot Road, (on the seaward side of State Highway 3) north of Tongapōrutu Bridge. At low tide, you can walk alongside the river and around the point to the rock formations. While you’re there, explore the nearby caves where you will find Māori petroglyphs carved into the cave rock walls. 


Explore Pukekura Park

This beautiful 52-hectare inner-city oasis is the perfect spot to park up your campervan and enjoy a picnic lunch. Pukekura Park includes two lakes, children’s playgrounds, a fountain and waterfall, and lush, lovely gardens. The park is also home to the famous Festival of Lights each summer. This awesome event is one of the top things to do in New Plymouth and definitely worth adding to your travel itinerary.

Take an adventure through Rotokare Scenic Reserve

Located 12 km from the South Taranaki township of Eltham, Rotokare Reserve is a popular spot for boating and kayaking, swimming, and simply enjoying the beautiful scenery. The 230-hectare reserve is home to many New Zealand native birds including kiwi, ruru/morepork, kārearea/NZ falcon, tūī, and the toutouwai/North Island robin. A good way to make the most of this special spot is to take the 4 km loop walk around the lake.

Check out a shipwreck

There’s something intriguing about exploring an old shipwreck. And a great place to do exactly that is by walking along the coast of Ōakura Beach at low tide. Here, you’ll find the remains of the SS Gairloch. One of the vessels of the Northern Steamship Company, the boat ran aground in stormy weather in early January 1903. Today, the rusted iron skeleton of the bow is all that remains.


Taranaki Falls 

Visit Wilkies Pools

One of the great free things to do in Taranaki, especially in summer, is a walk to Wilkies Pools. The pools, scoured from 20,000-year-old lava, offer a great spot for a refreshing swim. The walk is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. The track begins at the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre and weaves its way through the enchanting ‘Goblin Forest’. 


Get a birds-eye view of Taranaki

To truly appreciate the beauty of Taranaki, we recommend going to great heights. The 156-metre-tall Paritutu Rock is a remnant of an ancient volcanic crater. You can reach the top by climbing a set of stairs on one side. The climb can be done in 15 minutes – give or take! It’s a challenging ascent, but the 360-degree views at the top are worth the effort. On a clear day, you can see the North Island’s central mountains, Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt ​Ngauruhoe​. If you’re up for an early start, the view at sunrise is simply magical.

Step back in time at Taranaki Pioneer Village

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the history and heritage of Taranaki than a visit to the Pioneer Village. Located on State Highway 3, just south of Stratford, this 4.05-hectare village is the largest of its type in New Zealand. The village is home to more than 40 original buildings, including many authentic structures. Take a wander through Stratford Hospital Museum which houses  displays of hospital memorabilia and equipment from yesteryear. To get around, hop onboard the Pioneer Express which will take you on circuits around the village.


Go wild at Brooklands Zoo

Need more ideas on what to see in New Plymouth? How about a totally free, fun day out at Brooklands Zoo. A great spot for families, this zoo is home to an array of animals including capuchin monkeys, meerkats, kune kune pigs, alpacas, and more. After you’ve met the animals, let the kids loose on the playground. Bring along a picnic and relax under a shady tree for lunch. Before you go, treat yourself to a real fruit ice cream at the Wonky Cone.


Image via Tourism New Zealand - James Heremaia

Where to stay in Taranaki

Looking for a great campsite in Taranaki? We’ve got a couple of top recommendations to park up your campervan:

Oakura Beach Holiday Park

This family-friendly holiday park is the perfect spot to base yourself on a Taranaki road trip. Oakura Beach Holiday Park is located on one of Taranaki’s most popular beaches. Take in the awesome sea views, enjoy safe swimming and surfing, and make the most of the relaxed coastal vibe. This holiday park has two full kitchens, coin-operated laundry facilities, barbecues, and a lovely picnic area.

New Plymouth TOP 10 Holiday Park

Looking for a great caravan park in Taranaki? The New Plymouth TOP 10 Holiday Park has everything you need for a relaxing, comfortable campervan holiday. The kids will love the heated swimming pool, playground, and giant chess set. For the grown-ups, the private hot tub is the perfect way to relax after a long day.

Ready to explore Taranaki?

From gorgeous gardens to wonderful walkways, the North Island region of Taranaki is jam-packed with amazing cheap and free things to do. Whether you’re keen on adventure or just need some time out to unwind, you’ll find plenty of great options to choose from.

Ready to get started? Book your Mighty campervan today. Pick up your camper from our Auckland branch then kick off your Taranaki holiday with a road trip from Auckland to New Plymouth.   

For more help planning your Taranaki campervan holiday, download the free thl Roadtrip app. Access handy tips for planning and preparing your trip, find out what to expect on pick up, and see a full show-through video of the campervan hire you’ve booked. 

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