Travels in Taranaki

As a tourist and then a resident, I’ve spent a lot of time travelling around New Zealand, exploring the country.  There are still a few places that I’ve never been though, and lots that I’ve only been to once.

Like Taranaki. (that’s the bit in green)

Taranaki, New Zealand

Taranaki’s city, New Plymouth, is only 5 hours away from Wellington (the little curvy-in-pointy-bit  at the bottom of the North Island), but I’ve only been once, for a work trip (not that that was too bad – we got to go to Hurworth Cottage) .

So when my friend Rachel (who makes a number of appearances looking utterly adorable in my Art Deco weekend posts from this year) invited me to come up and visit her family farm (oooh!) and to meet with a family friend with lots of old stuff (OOOOOH!) I jumped at the chance.

I am a sucker for farms and old stuff, and Rachel is just a pretty darn awesome person to spend time with, so obviously, I was keen!

We drove up on Friday afternoon, arriving at the farm after dark, and waking up the next morning to a sparkling blue Taranaki day.

If you’re in Taranaki, it’s easy to tell.  There is a mountain:

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It’s called Taranaki.

Or Mt Egmont, if you are a bit old-fashioned and colonial.  But Taranaki means ‘shining mountain’ and Egmont was  just some fancy English guy who gave Captain Cook some money, so obviously Taranaki is a better name.

We were staying on Rachel’s family farm, and not only is it a farm (oooh!), it’s a deer farm (OOOOOH!).  Deer > Cows or sheep.  Obviously.

So Saturday morning I got to hang out with the deer.  The stags had just finished their roar season, so it was safe to be in the pen with them, as long as you were a bit alert.

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Sadly we couldn’t be in the pen with their pet deer, Lucky, because Lucky loves humans SO much that she gets a bit excited when they show up, and she weighs twice as much as we do and has some wicked hooves on her, so we had to snuggle through the wires.

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She was basically like a deer Felicity.  She gets the same expression of utter delight and contentment when you give her chin scratchies.

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She was particularly interested in my wonderful ’70s does ’30s tweed jacket (by Hornes, London ‘by appointment to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, Livery Tailors, natch) which she kept trying to eat.  Good taste that deer! 😉

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(small moment to appreciate the fact that I am wearing tweed and gumboots, like some Country Life fashion plate!)

The weekend wasn’t all country living though.  It turns out we’d come out on the perfect day: after literally decades of planning and arguing the Len Lye Centre had just opened in New Plymouth, and we headed in to join the festivities.

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The centre is…shiny.

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Like, really, really, REALLY shiny!

Light up the whole street, reflect everything going by, warm you up on a cold winter day, make it impossible to tell where the building starts and the street ends shiny.

And FABULOUS.  Way more amazing than it looks in pictures.

Inside it’s all wavy and smooth marble floors that are slanted just enough that you desperately want to get a piece of cardboard and a little bit of vegetable oil and go for a slide.

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It’s got cool lighting:

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And, of course, Len Lye artworks, which are fascinating.  They move and shimmer and make noise.

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And go quite well with the Steampunkers who had showed up for the celebrations.

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Len Lye, btw, was a groundbreaking film and kinetic sculpture artist.  His Water Whirler is a beloved icon of the Wellington waterfront, his Wind Wand has been (mostly lovingly) parodied across the ‘Naki, and his works are held in major museums around the world.  Despite being an American citizen for most of his life, he left his collection to New Zealand when he died.

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I can’t promise his artworks  will come with hovering attendants to wipe away any fingerprints the instant they happen on a daily basis.

After the Centre, we made a quick trip to see another new and exciting New Plymouth landmark:

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Te Rewa Rewa bridge is a cycle and pedestrian bridge that evokes a wave, or the skeleton of a whale.  From the far side, it frames the mountain  perfectly:

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Or, you know, me being silly!

I’ll be telling you more about the Old Stuff  in more blog posts, because it’s very exciting….


  1. Lynne says

    Wonderful photos! I love the way you can dress for any occasion – that’s a fine jacket! And Len Lye – that was unexpected. Looks impressive.

    • Thank you! I’m particularly pleased with the first photo of Lucky at the top!

      And as much as I love dressing up, I’m quite good at dressing down, or dressing up dressing down 😉

    • A bit. I’ve spent three days in Dunedin, and driven all the main roads in Otago a couple of times, plus reasonable chunks of time in the Queenstown area (I’ve blogged some of those visits, and driving through), and reasonable chunks of time around Ranfurly. I’ve yet to visit Lanarch Castle, or to go to Oamaru for a festival (though I’ve driven through many times and stopped for lunch). So much still to see!

  2. What a beautiful, stunning location! And what deer cuddles! Lucky looks very happy to have a visitor! Thanks for sharing a new slice of New Zealand with us.


  3. Shinyyyy!
    I’ve never heard of him, or Taranaki (yes, much better name!); I like that I keep learning things on this blog!
    And hehe, you and Lucky really do make a fine fashion plate.

  4. Ooh, I love Len Lye sculptures! And deer too. Lucky looks like such a sweetie.

    Taranaki is definitely a better name. “Shining mountain” is so much more evocative.

  5. “But Taranaki means ‘shining mountain’ and Egmont was just some fancy English guy who gave Captain Cook some money, so obviously Taranaki is a better name.” Absolutely!
    The one English mountain name that I think is worth keeping is Mount Aspiring (aka Tititea, “Glistening Peak”).

  6. Grace Darling says

    You must get your skates on and do Lanarch Castle and Olveston House!

    Just yesterday, in the Travel section of our Sunday paper, there was a story
    about Baldwin Street in Dunedin; listed in the Guinness Book of Records
    as the world’s steepest street. Billy-cart heaven!

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