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Taranaki travel guide: must-do sights, sensations and activities

The Pouakai Circuit Reflective Tarn, credit: Callum Snape

Taranaki travel guide: must-do sights, sensations and activities

Taranaki’s taonga – its treasures - reveal themselves long before your plane lands in New Plymouth to begin the perfect weekend getaway. Instagram posts prove the volcanic cone can be seen – on a good day – from as far away as Wellington or Auckland. 

Taranaki travel guide: must-do sights, sensations and activities

Beneath the mountain are lush forests; on the coast, the vivid blue Tasman Sea, Te Tai-o-Rehua, crashing on to the province’s beaches. 

Between the mountain – Taranaki Maunga– and the moana – the ocean – and its buzzy, funky city, New Plymouth, here are MiNDFOOD’s recommendations for your ultimate weekend in the white, green and blue yonder.

We’ve put together this list of must-do sights, sensations and experiences to help you make the most of a Taranaki break.

Whether you’re into exploring the outdoors, art and culture, activities, hanging out at some of the world’s best beaches or tasting amazing cuisine, wines, craft beers and artisan gins and cocktails, the best thing about a weekend here? It only takes an hour’s flight from any of our main centres, giving you plenty of time to enjoy all the region has to offer.

Explore enchanted scenery

Where else on the planet can you walk out of your city office on a Friday afternoon and spend the weekend exploring hiking trails on a perfectly-formed mountain, cruise a surf highway, cycle a coastal walkway, while tasting food from unique eateries and visiting a world-renowned art gallery?

On and around Taranaki Maunga, your opportunities are endless. Explore the Egmont National Park and the base of the mountain to discover the many short walks, waterfalls and enchanted scenery.

Hiking through the Goblin Forest, credit: Callum Snape

Start your journey at Dawson Falls, the magical Goblin Forest with its delightfully gnarled, mossy kāmahi trees, and take a dip in the alpine Wilkies Pools on the Wilkies Pools Loop Trail.

For those wanting a challenge, the 19km Pouākai Crossing is considered one of New Zealand’s best one-day walks; discover towering cliffs, a mighty waterfall, a sphagnum moss swamp and stunning views.

On the way, take an iconic photo of Pouākai Tarn and spend an evening in Pouākai Hut (don’t forget to book online via the DOC website before you set off). To truly experience the beauty of Aotearoa, stay at Ngati Ruanui Stratford Mountain House or Dawson Falls Lodge.

Discover charming villages

Under the mountain are Taranaki’s gems, its villages. Journey to Stratford in the heart of Taranaki. A gateway to the Maunga and the Forgotten World Highway, Stratford is well-known for its Romeo and Juliet Glockenspiel Clock and it’s Shakespearian-themed street signs. Stop at Fenton Street Art Collective for a nibble or sample of Fenton Street Gin, and take a nostalgic stroll through Taranaki’s history at the family-friendly Pioneer Village

Arriving in Eltham, head to The Bank to hunt out antique treasures, or pause at biodiverse Rotokare Scenic Reserve for fresh air and native birdsong. In Hāwera, award-winning Tawhiti Muesum and Traders & Whalers will open your eyes to Taranaki’s turbulent beginnings and interesting pioneering history.

Surf the highway

If everybody had an ocean they’d all be surfing… apologies to the Beach Boys, but in Taranaki they do have an ocean, and they’ve named a highway after it. 

From the south you kick onto Surf Highway 45, a 105km long coastline made up of volcanic black-sand beaches. Stop in Ōpunake to stretch your legs along the Ōpunake Loop Trail, and be pleasantly surprised by Ōpunake’s clifftop garden.

Pop in for a delightful lunch at Sugar Juice Cafe and absorb local art at The Emporium Art Gallery. And, if you time your visit right, take in a flick at 1920s-inspired Everybody’s Theatre.

Driving towards New Plymouth, stop at historic Cape Egmont Lighthouse and check out coastal views (don’t forget your camera!) then crash into Surf City, aka Ōakura.

Ahu Ahu Beach Villas boast stunning views, supplied by Ahu Ahu Villas

Try out vegan goods at the ever-popular Lemonwood Eatery and shop for gifts at Crafty Fox. Rest your head at the seaside Ahu Ahu Villas, but not before indulging yourself in Black Sands Pizzeria’s award-winning wood fire pizza overlooking Ōakura Beach.

Bringing the family? Spend a night in the gorgeous Pukeiti gardens at Pīwakawaka Family Hut (atop the rainforest) or Pukeiti Lodge. Either way, explore the gardens and eat at Rainforest Eatery.

Eat, stay and explore in New Plymouth

OK, we’ve saved the best till last. It has to be said that New Plymouth is one of the great, undiscovered treats to be savoured when you’re choosing a place for a weekend getaway in Aotearoa.

You can do the retro Kiwi holiday thing and stay close to town at Belt Road Holiday Park and have a bath on the deck, soaking up ocean views, or opt for city-style, staying at King & Queen Hotel Suites. 

Get in a spot of shopping at the West End Precinct, opposite the internationally recognised museum of contemporary art, the Govett Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre. Snug Lounge is perfect for that casual drink or social dining, with its Japanese style dinner menu.

Enjoy the delicious fare at the Snug Lounge

There’s an art to New Plymouth, and you’ll find it when exploring art and gardens, from Gover St Art Gallery, Koru on Devon, Kina NZ Design & Art Space to  Pukekura Park , Tūpare Garden, Puke Ariki or the street art.

Take time to stroll the Coastal Walkway and take in the sculptures, including local hero Len Lye’s Wind Wand, and stop for refreshments at the seaside Paris Plage or Rooftop Bar & Restaurant.

New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, credit: Rob Tucker

When the sun goes down there’s no shortage of cool, stylish places to eat: State Pasta, Shining Peak Brewery, Social Kitchen, Proof & Stock, Escape Coffee, Vintage Industries and Frederics to name a few.

Head to Taranaki, New Zealand to check out your Taranaki summer to-do list, grab a friend or two and make a weekend of it. 

Taranaki’s top 10

For the energetic: Pouakai Crossing, Taranaki Maunga.

For the artistic: Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre

For the sensualists: Taste Taranaki Tour with Discover Taranaki   

For the quirky: Elvis Presley Museum, Hawera

For the memories: Tawhiti Museum, Hawera

For the flowers: Pukeiti gardens, Hollard gardens and Tūpare gardens                                                                                                                     
For the browsers: Kina, Percy Thomson Gallery and The Bank Eltham

For the surfers: Surf Highway 45

For the strollers: New Plymouth Coastal Walkway                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Getting to Taranaki

Air New Zealand offers non-stop domestic flights to New Plymouth from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, with connecting flights from most other regional centres.

With all domestic airfares you can choose seat, seat+bag, flexitime or flexidate fare types. Auckland to New Plymouth flight time is 50 minutes, Wellington to New Plymouth takes one hour, Christchurch to New Plymouth is a 90-minute flight.

Click here to book and for more information

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