The coast and hills of Taranaki whisper of tales from long ago…
In Māori legend, Mount Taranaki lived peacefully alongside the mountains of the central plateau: Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. Nearby Mount Pihanga, cloaked in green, was the envy of the mountain gods. Taranaki dared to make an advance on Pihanga, angering the other three mountains and they erupted, making the sky black. When the battle was over Pihanga stood at Tongariro’s side. Taranaki departed to stand forever alone on the Tasman coast, leaving behind the Whanganui River, made from his tears.
Mt Taranaki in Summer
New Plymouth is a thriving coastal settlement. Paritutu Rock guards the entrance to the port which serves the region’s two main bread-winners, the oil & gas and farming sectors. It is Taranaki’s largest settlement and a natural base to explore the region from. Known as a centre of the arts, it plays host to the annual WOMAD world music festival, the TSB Bank Festival of Lights, and four alternating festivals (two each year) run by the Taranaki Arts Festival Trust - Winter Fest, Spiegeltent Festival, Right Royal Cabaret Fest and the Box of Tricks Festival. This year’s Winter Fest, described as a winter wonderland of ideas, words and stories, runs from August 15 – 25.
Len Lye Centre
The recently renovated and reopened Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is one of New Zealand’s finest, home to works from renowned artist Len Lye, famous for his experimental films and kinetic sculpture. One of Len Lye’s most well-known works – the 45m high Wind Wand – can be incorporated into a stroll along the 11km Coastal Walkway. On the city’s foreshore is Puke Ariki, the world’s first purpose built, integrated museum, library and information centre, where the region’s stories are told in an interactive way.
Egmont National Park
On a fine day it is visible from anywhere in the region. But the weather can change quickly in this part of the world, rapidly enveloping Mount Taranaki in dense cloud. For this reason, those venturing up on the mountain are urged to check the forecast and advise friends or staff at the DOC office of their plans. The two most popular walks are the Around the Mountain Circuit, taking 4 – 5 days, and the Mount Taranaki Summit Track, which can be completed in a day but is only recommended for experienced trampers. Or, an easier option that’s rapidly gaining popularity with day hikers is the Pouakai Crossing.
Surf Coast Highway
Those driving south from New Plymouth have two options. The most direct route runs inland to the east of the mountain, or leave the city heading south-west, past Paritutu Rock, and onto State Highway 45 – known as the Surf Coast Highway. Along this rugged stretch of coastline, you’ll find locals and in-the-know surfers from all around the world making their way in old station-wagons down potholed roads that invariably lead to one of the coast’s many secret surf spots. But there is plenty on offer for non-surfers along SH45, including swimming beaches, the Cape Egmont Lighthouse, the wreck of the SS Gairloch and many areas of native bush and historic Māori Pa sites. The Normanby Dam is home to Dam Dropping – launching from the top of the 10m high dam on a white-water sled. The two main towns along SH45 are known for their eclectic shopping, cafes and art galleries.
Cape Egmont Lighthouse