Six Natural Wonders of Taranaki

If there was a list of the Six Natural Wonders of Taranaki, what would feature on that list?

This is the question we asked Taranaki's Facebook (www.facebook.com/TaranakiNZ) and Twitter followers (@Taranaki_NZ) to foster a conversation around the region's many natural wonders.

Based on the fantastic suggestions received from our social media community, we were able to create a list of Six Natural Wonders of Taranaki.

For a region with a wealth of natural wonders to be proud of, cutting the suggestions down to a list of seven was a somewhat impossible task. Take a look through what we've come up with, keeping in mind there are plenty more natural playgrounds to be discovered in this legendary region.

 

1. Mt Taranaki

At the heart of the region, this 2518 metre dormant volcano offers countless adventures through rainforest and alpine terrain, not to mention jaw-dropping views for those of us game enough to make the trek to its peak. Mt Taranaki has great spiritual significance to local Maori - the crater and summit represent the sacred head of Taranaki, the rocks and ridge are his bones, the rivers are his blood and plants and trees are his cloak and offer protection from the weather.

 

2. Sugar Loaf Islands and Paritutu Rock

Just off the coast of New Plymouth, you'll find the Sugar Loaf Islands - the volcanic remnants of an ancient volcano, active nearly two million years ago. Captain Cook named the islands, taking inspiration from the lumps of sugar loaf he added to his tea. To tour the Sugar Loaf Islands, jump onboard Chaddy's Charters for a colourful commentary from local character Happy Chaddy. Or if you're up for a bit of a hill climb, there's a track leading up Paritutu Rock (another volcanic remnant) offering impressive views of the Sugar Loaf Islands, plus the New Plymouth coastline and Port Taranaki.

 

3. Whitecliffs

Explore the Whitecliffs Walkway across North Taranaki's sheer cliffs and bluffs and experience incredible views of the coast and Parininihi Marine Reserve. Set aside around 5 hours for the journey and travel over farmland to Mt Davidson, the Whitecliffs Conservation Area and the Waipingau Stream. Depending on the tide, you can return to your starting point by following the stream to the coast and walking along the beach. You'll find the start of the walkway at the end of Pukearuhe Road, which is off State Highway 3 north of Urenui. Don't forget the Walkway is closed during the lambing season - 1 July to 30 September.

 

4. Three Sisters and Elephant Rock

On the North Taranaki coast, you'll discover two (formerly three) 25 metre rock formations known as the Three Sisters. Next to the sisters is another formation called Elephant Rock which, as the name suggests, looks a lot like an elephant. For spectacular views of this beach scene, turn down Pilot Road on the seaward side of State Highway 3, north of the Tongaporutu bridge. Or if you want to see the formations up close, turn down Clifton Road off South Highway Way 3 south of the Tongaporutu Bridge and park in the riverside reserve. At low tide you can walk alongside the river and around the point where you will find the Three Sisters beach and Elephant Rock.

 

5. Wilkies Pools

A short hike through the eerie goblin forest will lead you to a series of natural plunge pools, scoured from 20,000 year old lava. Be sure to brings your togs have a swim in the pristine alpine water before completing the loop track back to the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre.

 

6. Dawson Falls

Take a 10 minute stroll from the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre through lush mountain rainforest to this stunning 18 metre high waterfall, flowing from the south eastern slopes of Mt Taranaki.

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