Time to Read: 6 Minutes
Taranaki is one of those best kept secrets in New Zealand. That’s partly because of its isolation on the west coast of the North Island, however, it’s this very isolation that makes it so unique. If you don’t believe me, consider its numerous awards which make this region a quite achiever compared to the more high-profile destinations like Queenstown or Rotorua.
In 2017, Taranaki was a surprise winner of second place in the Lonely Planet regions to visit in 2017. This was the highest ranking a New Zealand destination has ever placed in the world-renowned publication. If that alone doesn’t make you jump on a plane, then we have put together 6 solid reasons you’d want to visit Taranaki.
1. Pouakai Crossing
Since Lonely Planet named Taranaki the number two region to visit in 2017, the Pouakai Crossing has become a fan favorite amounts tourists and locals alike. Dubbed the sister crossing to the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing, this track is slowly becoming one of New Zealand premier day walks. Taking you through the fragile Ahukawakawa Swamp, you’ll see stunning volcanic and alpine landscapes on the spectacular slopes of Mount Taranaki. The 19 km track, which is only a section of the full Pouakai Circuit, starts at the North Egmont Visitor Centre and finishes at the boundary of Mangoei Road, rather than walking all the way back you can check out some transport options here. The Pouakai Crossing has a variety of different aspects to it, such as the towering lava cliffs which have been left as a reminder of Mount Taranaki’s impressive volcanic past. My favorite would be the Ahukawakawa Wetlands, formed 3500 years ago when lava and debris blocked a river through the area, this area is now home to over 260 species of plants and the habitat of the ancient carnivorous giant land snail which can grow up to nine centimeters long. While the Pouakai Crossing isn’t extremely challenging or dangerous you will need relatively good fitness levels. However, if you’re up for the challenge, this spectacular day walk is hugely satisfying and our number one reason to visit Taranaki.
2. The Coastal Walkway
This 12 km paved walkway is one of my favorites attractions in New Plymouth. Stretching from the port to Bell Block, there are so many great stops along the way. On any given day you’ll find cyclist, walkers and families all coexisting on the popular coastal trail. As well as the amazing view of the Tasman Sea you’ll also see many interesting sculptures such as the Wind Wand by famous artist Len Lye, however, Te Rewa Rewa Bridge would be my favorite stop for a quick Instagram post. You’ll find it hard to top a nice sunny day on The Coastal Walkway, in summer Paris Plague Cafe, situated on the edge of the walkway, has a number of comfortable seats and bean bag for all to enjoy a nice cold drink or ice cream. There are several sandy beaches and plenty of playground for the kids along the way, making The Coastal Walkway the perfect destination for families and one of the main reasons you’d want come to visit Taranaki this summer.
3. Dawson Fall & The Goblin Forest
Just like something out of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings. Dawson Falls & The Goblin Forest is one of the places you can let your imagination run wild. Covered in thick moss, these slopes on Mount Taranaki have the distinct characteristics of tree branches and ferns intertwine with one another. Appropriately named, The Goblin Forest is a true gem on the mountain and is the gateway to many of the great short walks in Taranaki. The Wilkies Pool Track is an easy climb and pushchair friendly. The pools themselves were formed by an old lava flow and a great place to jump in for a swim or if your game a bit of fun down its natural form slides, however, do note the water is a bit cold so pack some warm clothing for after. Further down the mountain you also find Dawson Falls, Taranaki’s most iconic waterfall. Not far from the road entrance, Dawson Falls is surrounded by bush and is a real treat for visitors looking for that perfect photograph. If you’ve only got a short amount of time Dawson Falls & The Goblin Forest would be my first choice on Mount Taranaki since there is so much to offer all in one area.
4. The Len Lye Centre
Located in New Plymouth, sets the scene for the international recognized Len Lye Centre which is known for its unique collection of film and kinetic art. The gallery itself was named and dedicated to world famous artist Len Lye and has become a new icon within Taranaki. Not only is this a place to appreciate the arts but the building itself is an eye catching and impressive 14-meter-tall structure. The curved stainless steel makes it one of the most photographed building in Taranaki. The Len Lye Centre currently sits as New Zealand’s only museum of contemporary art and the first ever institution dedicated to a single artist, Len Lye. So, whether you have a passion for the arts, or are just a fan of Len Lye, Taranaki is the place for you. In 1980, Lye gifted his entire collection of more than 18,000 items to be cared for by the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery making Taranaki the home of Len Lye and contemporary art in New Zealand.
5. Surf Highway
Vast, empty and beautiful and some of the worlds that come to mind when visiting the Surf Highway. If you a surfer, this is the place for you as there are so many spots for great surf and best of all, no crowds. The highway itself sweeps south from New Plymouth alone the coastline to Hawera in South Taranaki. The unique characteristic of Taranaki beach can be seen by its abundance of black-sand which is a reminder of Mount Taranaki in the distances. If you’re a seasoned surfer, consider making the pilgrimage to Taranaki. Some of the legendary spot to check out are along Stent Road, Rocky Point, Arawhata Road, Mangahume, Back Beach and Fitzroy Beach. However, its more than just the surf, Surf Highway 45 offers many great cafes, arts, a rich history and plenty of spots to cozy up and enjoy the views.
6. The Republic of Whangamomona
Nestled in the heart of Taranaki lies the strange but quirky town of Whangamomona. A 45-minute drive from Stratford takes you along the Forgotten World Highway which is a spectacular scenic adventure to New Zealand’s only self-proclaimed republic. The entire town is themed around the idea of defiance against the establishment. Whangamomona even has its own President who is elected at their biannual Republic Day which often see crowds numbering in the thousands. Alternatively, you can visit Whangamomona via rail on the old decommissioned railway. The Forgotten World Adventures is an award-winning tourism operation which offers you the experience of riding the rails, jet boat tour and much more. The Republic of Whangamomona is one of those unique experience you won’t find anywhere else in New Zealand, however, remember to bring you passport, after all they might not let you past the boarder.