Spend a few hours at Puke Ariki, the world’s first purpose-built, integrated library, museum and information center. Based on innovative design principles, it is a remarkable building inside and out. Highlights include an air bridge between two sections of the gallery, a genuine walk-through cow shed, a multimedia theater show to celebrate Taranaki history and culture and a glass forest displaying the region’s flora and fauna.
Before entering the museum, notice the ambitious modern architecture, which combines angular steel beams and a large glass façade to echo the soft curves of the original bay. The building first opened its doors in 2003 and has since won numerous national awards for design, technology, innovation and architecture. The site was chosen specifically for its cultural significance for both Maori and Pakeha (European-descended) peoples. Under the tall shadow of Mt. Taranaki, an active volcano, the ultramodern design contrasts with the ancient landscape in which it resides.
Delve into the past with Puke Ariki’s heritage collections, which contain a trove of documents, photographs, maps and other objects that connect with Taranaki’s past. Explore the center’s various temporary exhibitions, which feature educational and entertaining collections relating to subjects as diverse as photography and scientific instruments.
Take a break with a tea or coffee and a snack at the museum café. If you would prefer a fine dining experience, try the museum restaurant Arborio, a favorite among locals. Eat with splendid views of the waterfront and city center, but beware that in busy times you should book in advance.
Before leaving, stop by the tourist information center, which provides lots of useful brochures, advice and information for visitors to New Plymouth. Review options for diving companies, kayak or canoe rentals and boat tours.
Puke Ariki is open daily and has no admission fee, although there may be a fee for special exhibits. Find the building in the city center of New Plymouth, a short distance from most accommodation and dining choices.