Pukeiti, New Plymouth- a Rain forest with Rhododendrons🌺

I’ve recently got back from a great week, spent exploring New Plymouth in Taranaki, New Zealand.  I have been to New Plymouth a couple of times for WOMAD (World of Music and Dance) which is an incredible festival, but I hadn’t actually done any real exploration of the area. I have my partner’s family here from Wales at the moment, and whenever they come over we like to rent a bach (that’s NZ for holiday house) and explore a region they (or we) haven’t been to, or don’t really know. I suggested Taranaki which I knew they hadn’t been to, and which has- mountain biking, an amazing coastal cycle/walkway, a gigantic mountain (Mt Taranaki), good surf, the wonderful Pukekura park (currently hosting the festival of lights and outdoor movies!), a compact creative city hub full of great cafes and independent stores.  Something for everyone you could say!

A highlight of my trip was discovering and visiting Pukeiti, a rhododendron garden set among New Zealand native trees and plants at the base of Mt Taranaki. This garden was set up by an incredible visionary person named Douglas Cook who famously established Eastwoodhill Arboretum in Gisborne. Douglas set up not one, but two incredible and huge public gardens! I was familiar with the Gisborne arboretum and story but I had no idea he set up another one!!! Pukeiti covers 360 ha of regenerating native forest and includes 21 km of walkways, including 26 ha of planted exotic garden. Apparently, and I love this part he was searching and searching for the perfect place to grow rhododendron and found it here at the foothills of Mt Taranaki. P.s the best time to see rhododendrons is not summer!😂

At the entrance to the park you will find a wonderful cafe and beautifully done information panels. We also discovered (much to our glee!) that they do a “kids tree-house trail” ! You even get an Activity bag containing 4 activities and a map. We had such a fun time exploring the gardens, doing our activities and finding tree-houses. I can’t recommend visiting Pukeiti and the Taranaki region enough! Did I mention it’s all FREE!

NB: We tried to take the stroller along the tree-house route but it was a bit tricky in places. I feel there’s still so much to explore here. We will definitely be back!

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