New Plymouth: A home away from home for the Eagles

An occasional series about the sights and sounds the U.S. Eagles and their fans will see during Rugby World Cup 2011.

New Plymouth, in the region of Taranaki, will be where the U.S. Eagles’ spend the largest chunk of their time in New Zealand. There, in the wonderful Yarrow Stadium that was named the third best Rugby stadium on earth, the Eagles will face Ireland, on Sept. 11, and Russia, on Sept. 15.

The stadium, to be known as Stadium Taranaki for RWC 2011, has a capacity of 25,000. On a clear day, Mt. Taranaki, the volcano that was spectacularly featured in “The Last Samurai,” looms in the distance. Snow-covered for much of the year, Mt. Taranaki is an awe-inspiring sight.

New Plymouth, perched on the western side of the North Island, has a population of a little more than 50,000, and is a friendly and picturesque town about a 4 1/2-hour drive from Wellington. The area is largely agricultural, but has a large energy sector presence built around oil and natural gas.

New Plymouth is very excited about playing host to RWC and is advanced in its preparations. The main, oceanfront, drag will be home to an International Village as well as a fan zone and some of the downtown streets will be closed off during games to allow fans more room to celebrate.

While New Plymouth is a little isolated, there is a lot to do in the town. At its heart lies Pukekura Park, the regal and peaceful botanic gardens. At more than a hundred acres, there are miles and miles of wonderful running paths and exotic plants to be seen.

There are plenty of fine restaurants and good watering holes and night life will not be a problem during the RWC. If running is your game, the Coastal Walkway along the Tasman Sea has a perfect 10k pathway. New Plymouth is also known for its Wind Wand, pictured at right. It not only gauges the strength of the wind, but has confused many a newcomer with its eerie red glow at night.

Mt. Taranaki offers a lot of outdoor recreation, from skiing and snowboarding to rock climbing and spectacular alpine walks. The main visitors’ center is just 20 minutes out of New Plymouth.

Numerous events are being planned around the U.S. presence in New Plymouth. We’ll update them on this page as they become finalized. In the meantime, if you’re going to make it over here for RWC, you most certainly will enjoy your time in New Plymouth. It’s a well-kept secret.

- Adrian Pratt, U.S. Embassy Wellington

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