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Taranaki & Whanganui

Halfway between Auckland and Wellington on New Zealand's underappreciated west coast, Taranaki (aka 'the 'Naki') is the country's Texas, with oil and gas streaming in from offshore rigs. But in New Plymouth free galleries, a provincial museum and dining hot spots attract young families and retirees from Auckland craving a slower pace without compromising lifestyle. Travellers are following suit.

Behind the city the stunning Mt Taranaki demands to be photographed, if not visited. The volcanic terrain is responsible for the area’s black-sand beaches, lapped up by surfers and holidaymakers during summer.

Further east the history-rich Whanganui River curls its way through Whanganui National Park down to Whanganui city, a 19th-century river port ageing with grace and embracing its local arts scene. Palmerston North, the Manawatu region's main city, is a students' town courtesy of caffeinated Massey University literati. Beyond the city, the region blends rural grace with yesterday’s pace.

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