Lying at the heart of Taranaki beneath the eastern slopes of Taranaki Maunga is the Shakespearean-themed town of Stratford.
As the gateway to both the maunga and the Forgotten World Highway - a 150km long driving or cycling journey between Stratford and Taumarunui – this is not a bite-sized town. You’ll need at least a few days here to chew on all that is on offer.
Nearly all the streets in Stratford are named after Shakespearean characters, and it's pretty easy to guess why - Stratford-on-Pātea was named to honour Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon. While the 'on-Pātea' part of the name has now been dropped, there are some features in town that actually still have the name Stratford-on-Pātea on them.
Go for a wander around town and admire the glockenspiel standing proud in the town centre – it is one-of-a-kind in New Zealand - with Shakespeare’s most famous star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, emerging for the balcony scene four times a day. The glockenspiel performs for approximately 5 minutes, after the hour chimes at 10am, 1pm, 3pm and 7pm.
Venture into King Edward Park and find the mural of Shakespeare lovingly painted by Taranaki local Elyse Lewis, and while you’re there, head across the swing bridge – if you dare!
Stratford’s plate is full
Stratford has a smorgasbord of things to see and do to keep visitors busy.
Step back in time at Taranaki Pioneer Village and re-live the footsteps of the pioneers during the 1850-1950 era, or head to TET King's Theatre, the first movie theatre in the Southern Hemisphere to show 'talkies'.
There are a some notable contemporary arts and cultural activities in Stratford too, including the Percy Thomson Art Gallery and adjoining Percy’s Place boutique art shop, and the stylish Fenton Street Arts Collective, which is a gallery, distillery, and espresso bar all in one.
And with outdoor activities galore, adventurers won’t go hungry, with the new Children’s Bike Park at Victoria Park, and King Edward Park, not to mention the Stratford Heritage Walkway through town, and Carrington Walkway along the bush-clad Pātea River and streams. If your appetite takes you up the mountain to take advantage of the surplus of tracks and trails, make sure to visit the Ngati Ruanui Stratford Mountain House. Te Popo Garden will delight and amaze the whole family, just a short drive out of Stratford.
But the feast doesn’t end there. Below is a comprehensive list of Stratford’s stay, eat, see, do, and experience.