New Plymouth: Smell the salty air

By Jane Jeffries

Amble for hours in any direction, writes Jane Jeffries.

New Plymouth's coastal walkway has brought the ocean to the people, giving the city new energy. So close are the crashing waves to the centre of town you can smell the salt drift in the CBD.

Stretching the entire length of the city, the coastal walkway is 11km. The coastline is now accessible from the port, through the city centre and up to Hickford Park in Bell Block.

The promenade has been built for multiple uses including cycling, walking, running, skateboarding, Rollerblading and even riding mobility scooters, which are available for hire from the aquatic centre.

The visionaries who thought of the idea of extending the coastal walkway north and south of the town centre should be congratulated, as the engineering in parts is no small feat. Sea walls rise metres above the ocean to protect the walkway from the unrelenting Tasman Sea.

The walkway is made of robust yet simple materials, including concrete, wood and magnificent, rounded boulders, blending into the coastline. The strong lines and rugged appearance resemble the hardened character of the west coast.

As much of the walkway is raised above the sea, it is designed without an edge to emphasis the sense of being very close to the ocean. Small finger piers further accentuate this, built out over the sea wall.

There are many points of entry to the walkway but the most popular is in the middle of the town, opposite the award-winning Puke Ariki museum, i-Site and library. If you are in any doubt where this is, look out for artist, Len Lyes Wind Wand reaching high into the air.

This central entry point is like a wooden rotunda protruding over the ocean and fanning out in either direction for kilometres.

Whichever direction you go, there are plenty of things to see and do.

Heading southwest from the centre of town, the promenade winds past the aquatic centre, on to Kawaroa Park and playground then heads to the marina at the port and Ngamotu Beach - a safe swimming beach for the family.

Heading northeast from the town centre is the east end playground and the Te Henui Walkway. Surf beaches at Fitzroy lead on to farmland and the Waipu lagoons before reaching Te Rewa Rewa Reserve and the dramatic bridge built to frame Mt Taranaki.

This bridge spanning the Waiwhakaiho River is the newest addition to the walkway, opening in 2010. Shaped like the rib cage of a whale, this iconic form represents the sacred relationship between the land, sea and wind with the Ngati Tawhirikura tribe. The bridge has quickly become a proud piece of Taranaki with a couple of international awards already to its name.

Allow a half-day but if you're pressured for time, access the walkway from the town centre and walk north to get a feel of the coast. Continue on by driving to the far north and visit the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge.

COASTAL WALKWAY
Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
Distance: 11km
Grade of walk - easy/moderate
Cost - free

- NZ Herald

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