Taranaki isn't just the sunniest region in New Zealand, it is also home to several top-10 spots for the key ingredients of the perfect summer holiday.
This month, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) released figures showing Taranaki had enjoyed the most sunshine - 2592 hours - in 2021, and now five spots in the region have been named in a New Zealand Herald top-10 list.
The Herald asked readers to nominate their favourite campgrounds, fish 'n' chip shops, playgrounds, beach walks and icecream or gelato shops, producing a top-10 list of reader favourites from the nominations, with Taranaki locations appearing in each of the category top 10s.
Voting to find the best of the best is now open, so Stratford Press editor Ilona Hanne went for a drive to explore the Taranaki spots in the running for the title of Best of the Best.
Voting is open until 11.59pm on Monday, January 24. The Best of Summer winners will be announced on Sunday January 30. You can vote for your favourites here.
It's probably no surprise to anyone to see New Plymouth's Iona Dairy making the top 10 when it comes to icecream. The dairy is renowned for the size of its icecreams and in just a 15-minute timeslot on Sunday we observed over 20 customers walking out with icecream in hand. Our own taste test (one berry sorbet, one cookies and cream) was further proof this dairy has the competition licked when it comes to iced treats, an opinion shared by young customers Taylor-Khalani, 6, and his brother William, 3. They were there with their mum, Steveie Katene, who said the dairy's icecreams are a popular treat with her children, as are its thick shakes.
Fish and chips:
A true Kiwi summer always comes with at least one serve of fish and chips, best eaten on the beach watching the waves come in while you fend off hungry seagulls. It's not just seagulls who might want to steal your supper if you get it from Ōpunake Fish, Chips and More, however, as it's no secret these are some of the best fish and chips money can buy.
Owner Alison Hayward says she would like to think it's her special home-made chips that keep people coming back from more, and she's probably right. She's there well before opening on the Sunday we visit, cutting the potatoes herself and getting ready for hordes of hungry locals and visitors. Potatoes have been small this year, she says, so she has created her own "chunky chips", which are fried in beef fat to create the perfect, home-cooked taste and crunch. They come served as para ti karo - high tide (full scoop) or tai timu - low tide (half scoop). Using surfing terms and te reo on her menu is a way to reflect the community and culture around her, says Alison.
Over the past three or four years, Alison has dealt with a fire that gutted the store, leaving her operating out of a trailer for a while, and then had to deal with Covid-19 lockdowns soon after.
"It's been a tough few years," she says, yet she's still smiling and serving plenty of hungry customers daily. Now she is ready to retire and the business is on the market for someone else to take on. Whoever does buy it will have some big shoes to fill, with Alison's fish and chips attracting customers from near and far, all who will be hoping to enjoy some of the freshest fish in Taranaki for many summers to come.
It wasn't hard to find some happy campers at Fitzroy Beach Holiday Park willing to talk about why the campground is so great. On Sunday afternoon there were plenty of campers to choose from, from families and groups of teens, couples and friends, tents, caravans and campervans, the place was packed.
Desree Morrison and Georgia Hickey had parked their campervan at the site the night before and were looking forward to a couple of days of sunshine and relaxation, said Desree. They were visiting from the Kapiti Coast and had picked the campground because it was so close to the beach, she said.
"It's a really nice campground, it's got a clean tidy kitchen and it's quiet, nice and peaceful here."
The beach is just a two-minute stroll from their campsite and on Sunday afternoon the beach was a popular place for many of the campers as well as people enjoying the sun and sand for the day.
Finding the perfect playground is a key part when it comes to family holidays, and Pukekura Park playground is certainly deserving of its top 10 spot this year. With everything from a flying fox to mini trampolines as well as a very popular water play area, the playground has the added advantage of being in the picturesque Pukekura Park itself. Take a walk and watch the ducks in the water for a while before heading to the playground where you can then enjoy a relaxing hour or two as your tamariki work off their endless energy exploring the variety of play structures there.
Aria Arbuckle, 5, was there with her mum, Elise, on Sunday and having a great time exploring the playground. The family, of Lepperton, enjoy visiting the playground, says Elise.
"It's beautiful here."
With miles upon miles of beach walks available in Taranaki, this was always going to be a category we expected to see the region feature in, and New Plymouth's Coastal Walkway didn't let us down. The award-wining walkway consists of a 13.2km path that stretches from Pioneer Park at Port Taranaki all the way to the eastern side of Bell Block Beach. It was hard to choose which bit to photograph for this article, but we eventually settled on the supremely Instagrammable Te Rewa Rewa Bridge. Pick the right moment here and you can capture the quintessential Taranaki picture with the beautiful maunga perfectly framed by the bridge. Even when Taranaki has a cloud cover, as the maunga did when we were there, the view is still beautiful of course, and, as with every part of the coastal walkway, you will find yourself stopping to take a photo every few minutes as you walk, run, or cycle along the path.