If you’re ever in New Plymouth around Christmas/New Year time then you MUST, absolutely must, visit the Festival of Lights.
We have been to the F.O.L. (TSB Festival of Lights) on several occasions. Held in the extensive grounds of Pukekura Park in New Plymouth the annual festival runs for around six weeks every December/January.
It’s completely free of charge to look around the fun and lively light installations that turn on every night from 8.30pm – 11pm. Plus the organisers put on a whole array of other entertainment throughout the festival, with musical performances, kids activities, an outdoor cinema, roller skating, food vans, and of course the popular row boats on the lake.
We discovered it several years ago and since then have made the trip back to New Plymouth JUST to see the lights and come home the next day! Now of course we have a campervan again it gives much more flexibility on taking a Taranaki trip 🙂
We had been parked up at the popular Lake Rotomanu but decided that was a little too far away from the CBD and Pukekura Park so we drove into New Plymouth to park up elsewhere. As members of the NZMCA (strongly recommend this) we discovered they had one of their wonderful Members’ Parks in New Plymouth so we headed over there to see if there was a space for our van.
The NZMCA Parks have a range of basic facilities, most do not have toilets etc as they are intended for self-contained campers, so you might find they just have fresh water and rubbish bins – which for the grand price of $3 pppn is an absolute bargain! We signed in and found a suitable spot amongst the other campers. We’d considered going straight to Pukekura Park in the camper and THEN going to try and find a campsite space but didn’t want to risk being left high and dry with no space at the inn once we left the festival later in the evening. What we hadn’t really considered, but will be taking action to prepare for now, is that once members have paid and secured a space at an NZMCA Park, you can then reserve your space and go back out in your vehicle – Excellent scheme!! There are a few rules and conditions around this including leaving a RESERVED sign and registering in the site book, so we will be sure to be set up and ready with our signs and traffic cones in the van for future use!
As it is, it was a fine evening and the site wasn’t *too* far from the Park so we decided to walk. It may also have been to help walk off some of these Christmas calories as we’d bought a few leftovers and goodies with us!
Here are a few pics from the Festival – I didn’t get one of each light installation but hopefully enough to whet your appetite!
Those interested in a bit of history might like to learn that the Festival of Lights came about in the main due to Queen Elizabeth II.
A fountain was installed in the park’s Fountain Lake in 1953 to commemorate the Queen”s coronation. Lights were also installed on Poet’s Bridge and around the Main Lake. Lights were added to the fountain two years later when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited New Plymouth.
Fast forward to 1970 and music and entertainment become a feature of the annual lights event and in 1993 it was officially named the Festival of Lights.
Coming up next.. ..our trip continues around South Taranaki and beyond.