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412km (255 miles) W of Napier; 164km (102 miles) NW of Wanganui; 369km (229 miles) SW of Auckland

You get the feeling that being left out on the western tip of the North Island has had benefits for New Plymouth. As if to compensate, residents have surrounded themselves with excellent cultural amenities, stunning gardens, and fabulous nature walks.

Then there are the cows, the milk, the cheese, and the world's biggest dairy factory at nearby Hawera, and some of the prettiest rolling green pasture you'll see anywhere in the country. Above all, literally, is Mount Taranaki, the Fuji-like jewel in the Egmont National Park crown, which attracts hundreds of trampers, mountaineers, rock climbers, and casual walkers. Be prepared to be surprised by this buzzy little city of 72,000 people.