New Plymouth girl Susan Strongman says there’s more to her hometown than pretty parks and coastal walks.

Type "New Plymouth" into Google and pictures of Mt Taranaki come up. So does one of Pukekura Park, a nice spot with trees, a lake and a manmade waterfall.

When Charles and Camilla visited the city they had to pass on a trip to the park's fernery because of time constraints. This was despite local news reports of a staffer spending $500 on getting his chipped front tooth repaired in anticipation of meeting Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall.

Other things that come up on a New Plymouth Google image search are: a gallery dedicated to kinetic artist and experimental filmmaker Len Lye, a walkway that winds along the city's hectic seashore, now defunct power station's chimney that lords over the coastline (one of Muldoon's "think big" projects), a KFC, a Pak'nSave.

I highly recommend all these things, but behind the tourist attractions, the cows and the oil and gas industry, there's more - much more.


An insider's guide to New Plymouth:


103 Devon St East. Ph: (06) 7597034.

Breakwater: Ocean View Parade (turn right at Ngamotu Beach).

Pig out point: At the sea end of Hobson St, overlooking the coastal walkway.

Drive around the mountain

If you have access to a car and a full day at your disposal, I recommend taking a tiki tour around the maunga. If you take State Highway 45 down the coast from New Plymouth to Hawera, you'll pass by Parihaka, a Maori settlement famous for its passive resistance to British occupation and land confiscation after the New Zealand wars. Patea is also on the way. There you'll find the Aotea waka, and if you so desire, you can buy the local post office, which has been converted into a six-bedroom home and sits on a 1200sq m plot, for just $270,000. The town is also famous for being home to Patea Maori Club, best known for their smash hit Poi E.

Once you reach Hawera, you can return to New Plymouth via Stratford, along State Highway 3. This is the inland route and will take you through farmland and small towns, including Eltham. Eltham's Four Square is so famous for its cheese scones that a while ago, attempts were made to ban them from entering Eltham's cheese scone bake off, because their product was too good.

Route: State Highway 45 will take you along the coast from New Plymouth to Hawera, with plenty of places to stop off on the way. From Hawera, State Highway 3 will take you back to New Plymouth. Check out Egmont National Park along the way.