Day 1: Wellington to New Plymouth – Self-drive Itinerary. Its certainly a whirlwind 4-day trip from Wellington to Auckland. But no worries, we’ll still have enough time to stop along the way to take in the sights.  The Rhododendrons are out in full bloom at this time of year. So there’s always plenty to look forward to. We collected our Thrifty New Zealand rental car at Wellington Airport. We’ve got into the habit of activating the GPS straight away. Its a fabulous drive through the Mt Victoria tunnel to the beautiful Kapiti Coast. We urge all travellers to stop along the coast.  You’ll love the views out to Kapiti Island.  In fact, Kapiti Island is one of New Zealand’s most precious birdlife sanctuarys.  If you’ve got time, we’d definitely recommend that you take a guided tour of the island.

Day 1: Wellington to New Plymouth - Self-drive Itinerary

Looking out to Kapiti Island

Day 1: Wellington to New Plymouth – Self-drive Itinerary – Southward Car Museum

Just 65 Kms out of Wellington, between Paraparaumu and Waikanae is the Southward Car Museum. Now, let me just say, this museum is not just for the males in the family. The Southward Car Museum has the largest private car collection in the Southern Hemisphere. The sight 400 pristine automobiles is awesome! Look out for the “Nazi Car”. It’s a giant among the other cars and also a chilling reminder of the past.

Day 1: Wellington to New Plymouth - Self-drive Itinerary

The Nazi car

This was my favourite car and not only for its bright green colour! There are cars from so many different eras right up to the present time.

Southward Car Museum Green car

Day 1: Wellington to New Plymouth – Self-drive Itinerary – Otaki Sunday Market

We reluctantly made it back into the carpark to continue our drive.  Our next stop was Otaki and for a lazy Sunday afternoon, this little town was buzzing. Sundays seem to be a great time for the whole community to enjoy the Outdoor Otaki Market This is where the ‘local’ experience really kicks in. Spices, wines and vegetables –  it’s all here and all locally grown. We passed on through the sleepy main street of Levin to Patea. The South Taranaki Museum at Patea was closed for a Sunday.  But we did come across this very well known Aotea Waka monument.

Aotea Waka monumet Patea

Not long after Patea, we passed the famous tramping area of the Tairua Ranges. Serious trampers need to be aware of the fickle weather this area is known for.  ‘Be prepared’ is a good motto to have!

Day 1: Wellington to New Plymouth – Self-drive Itinerary – Whanganui

There was not quite enough time for us to visit the Ohakea wing museum so we travel on to Whanganui. The city of Whanganui is enhanced by the Whanganui River that flows through it. It actually has quite a pretty layout.

Whanganui Town across the river

Whanganui has the fabulous Chronicle Glass Studio. Chronicle Glass Studio and gallery occupies part of a 1912 building that was originally home to the city’s newspaper. If you visit this place, you’ll get to view the glassblowing pit from the mezzanine floor.  There’s also a retail gallery and believe me, the glass art is stunning.

We really loved the Whanganui CBD where there are many well preserved historical buildings

Whanganui Town Centre

The people of Whanganui are enjoying a fast-growing cafe culture – bit of a welcomed change from our last visit. By the way, top accolades for keeping and restoring the good old red telephone boxes.

Whanganui Cafe Scene

Day 1: Wellington to New Plymouth – Self-drive Itinerary – Durie Hill Elevator

There’s just enough time to head across City Bridge from downtown Whanganui. We took the Durie Hill elevator for a rattling good ride to scan the horizon for Mt Taranaki and Mt Ruapehu. Whanganui is moving ahead and so are we.  Next stop, the city of New Plymouth for a 2-night stay. Hidden and not-so-hidden ‘gems’ await us!

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