Four years ago the Wilkinson family of Palmerston North came to New Plymouth for the first time. Now they count it as one of their favourite places in New Zealand.

“We’d come here three or four times a year,” says year 7 and 8 teacher Kirsty Wilkinson.

For the last three summers, the family of four have stayed at Fitzroy Beach Holiday Park with their friends from Wellington.

They’re just days into this year’s stay, but it looks like they will be back for a fourth, with the two families already getting strategic on what sites they’d opt for in 2025.

It’s the weather that keeps them coming back, says Kirsty, and the fact there is so much to do for free, like the Coastal Walkway, the TSB Festival of Lights, the beaches and the library.

“We are going to go to Brooklands Zoo for the millionth time later today,” she says.

As well as that, Kirsty raves about the medical services on offer in the city. With someone often needing attention during their summer break they’ve had frequent cause to test them out.

“I can say the staff at Taranaki hospital are so lovely. Last year, second day here, my daughter Rosie broke her wrist and we needed a few follow-up visits. They were so good.”

Kirsty says they loved the city so much they came here to getaway three or four times a year, and had been most impressed by the Winter Festival of Lights.

They had even considered moving from Palmerston North, something their Auckland friends (who they had met at the campground) had already done.

“Everyone here is just so friendly,” Kirsty says.

The Wilkinsons are just one of dozens of families and groups staying at the holiday park, which manager Jenn O’Connell says has been at or near full capacity since Christmas.

It will be a few months yet before O’Connell gets a holiday herself, though she did confess to sneaking away to one of the other campgrounds around Taranaki for a long weekend now and then.

“We’re spoilt for choice around here.”