New Plymouth isn’t the largest of New Zealand cities, but it’s far from lacking in culture. In fact, this crown jewel of the Taranaki Region has quite the reputation as an arts & culture hub: the Taranaki Festival of the Arts draws folk from all around the country with its mix of diverse performing arts and New Zealand’s incarnation of WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) has a faithful international following. Now it looks as if New Plymouth will be adding yet another string to its culturally rich bow: the Len Lye Centre, which adjoins the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and is dedicated to the work of one of New Zealand’s most important and influential artists.
The Len Lye Centre, constructed as a temple for art, reflects the late Len Lye’s penchant for utilising metal in his pieces with curved exterior walls of stainless steel that immediately catch the eye and contrast with the more traditional lines of the Govett-Brewster building. Inside, the space will showcase his startlingly diverse body of work, from kinetic sculpture to film, photography to batik. There’s even a state of the art 62-seat cinema which will be used to screen both Lye’s films and a range of other works - local and international cinema, arthouse and experimental films, festival programming - the brand new theatre will accommodate them all.
One of the exhibitions that will be on display to the public when the Len Lye Centre launches this Saturday is Len Lye: Four Fountains. This is a classic and much loved Lye piece; one of his earliest forays into kinetic sculpture - only this version enriches his original with three more variations (hence the “four fountains”) based on his extensive notes and designs.
This new centre for decidedly modern art will hopefully go some way to restoring New Plymouth’s reputation as a must-see destination. Many road trippers head straight south from Auckland to Taupo and beyond without ever considering what lies to the west - which is a real shame, considering what the area has to offer.
While New Plymouth is well known for its arts scene, the Taranaki region presents travellers with a breathtaking array of activities and pastimes to choose from. Mt Egmont National Park, which includes Mount Taranaki, gives you the opportunity to get out and about in some of the most spectacular country New Zealand has to offer. Walking routes range from ten minute strolls through nature to an ascent of Mount Taranaki itself which in winter time requires previous snow and ice climbing experience.
Don’t forget that Taranaki is also on the coast - this is prime surf territory, and even if catching waves isn’t your idea of a great time (especially at this time of year!) there’s still plenty to see and do along the wild west coast. Head to Sugar Loaf Marine Park to see seals and other marine life, take a trip to the beautiful Cape Egmont Lighthouse or take a day trip down the White Cliffs Walkway to discover striking natural rock formations and an epic hand-hewn tunnel.
If you’re after something a little more sedate, New Plymouth is also known for its serene gardens and lush green spaces. The kids will love the children’s zoo at Pukekura park while you can enjoy the forest walks and fernery. Tupare is one of New Zealand’s finest heritage gardens. And if you head to Taranaki at the right time of year, you can catch the Power Co Taranaki Garden Spectacular - a celebration of spring that will leave you dazzled by the sheer vibrancy and variety of the flora on display.
So while the Len Lye Centre may draw attention to the region once more, there’s no doubt that Taranaki is a treasure trove for the intrepid road tripper and family holiday maker alike. Shake the trend and start planning your Taranaki adventure today! Take a look at our Campervan hire NZ options on offer. You could rent a car from Wellington, Rotorua or Hamilton to get to this beautiful region.