New Zealand is a wondrous place to visit, with its beautiful beaches to its epic mountains, and Mount Taranaki is one of the most famous nature destinations out to the west of the North Island. ‘The Naki’ is it is affectionately known, is often overlooked as a destination due to its distance out west, but this little hub has so much to offer.
Like most of New Zealand’s North Island, the landscape is shaped by its former volcanic activity, a near perfect cone mountain, the second highest in the North Island. Maori legend says that Mount Taranaki used to live with the three mountains near Taupo, but fled west after losing a battle with Mount Tongariro. Thankfully the last time this volcanic peak erupted was in 1755 but has a deep spiritual and cultural connection with the Maori people in the region and a great way to explore.
Taranaki was the start of the passive resistance against the European Settlers at the confiscation of their lands (you can read about the Treaty of Waitangi here) and there are numerous Pa sites around the coastline. These former village sites, have historical importance of the regions past fortunes. The musuem, Puke Ariki, in New Plymouth gives an immersive experience of this history of this region.
Being on the coastline, New Plymouth and Taranaki have a history with trading and whalers. One of the most ‘interesting’ ways to experience this history is at the Tawhiti Museum with its models and life-size exhibits in Hawera. A truly engaging and immersive experience in what is regarded at the best private museum in NZ.
This lighthouse at Cape Egmont has been shining since 1881, watching over the first Whalers and European settlers, at one of the North Island’s most easterly points, giving stunning panoramic views over the Tasman.
The walks around Mount Taranaki and Edgmount Reserve are a must do (and one I sadly missed out on due to the most outrageous weather!). Starting at the Egmont National Park Visitor Centre (Egmont Village) there are 10 Great Walks, including the stunning Pouakia Crossing (which I had planned to complete, but due to severe weather was unable). With tramping and hiking in NZ, always check the DOC website for availability of trails and bookings for huts.
New Plymouth Coastal Walkway
New Plymouth is the largest town and capital of the region. With its boutique bars and restaurants it is a great place for a night or two (especially if you are looking at hiking Mount Taranaki). From the city to the sea, you can follow the coastal walkway, stretching almost 13km and can be joined at various different points, including the iconic Te Rewa Rewa bridge. This bridge is reminisence of whale skeleton or a wave breaking and has the incredible backdrop of Mount Taranaki.
The Forgotten World Highway from Stratford to Taumarunui is New Zealand’s oldest hertitage trail, at 155km long and about a 3 hour drive. Passing through the frontier town and now republic of Whangamomona, even getting your own passport at the post office. This trail is mainly made up of unsealed roads, so be careful especially if you are in a hire car.
State Highway 45 is also known at Surf Highway 45, is a much shorter trip from New Plymouth to Hawera following the coastline (taking about 1 1/2 hours) and soaks up so many of New Zealand’s best surfing spots such as Fitzroy Beach.