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Taranaki

 

Taranaki

Taranaki – on the North Island’s rugged west coast and dominated by Mt Taranaki – has a contrasting landscape and easily accessible, outdoor activities ranging from stunning gardens, to alpine and surf adventures to major arts and cultural events.

 

View Taranaki region maps   

Maps and local travel information for Taranaki.

Mountain to Surf

Mt Taranaki (2518m), with more than 300km of walking tracks, winter skiing and snowboarding, and heritage gardens, is a year-round outdoor destination.

Taranaki has some of New Zealand’s best surf, and the south to north-facing coastline means the surf’s usually up somewhere. Surf Highway 45, a scenic coastline road between New Plymouth and Hawera, travels to the top surf spots.

From early Māori settlement to the land wars and passive resistance, frequent signs of Taranaki’s colourful history give a sense of the struggles and challenges faced by early Māori and Pakeha (European) settlers.


 

Taranaki - Mt Taranaki dominates
Taranaki - Mt Taranaki dominates
 

Heritage

Taranaki is an historically significant region. The New Zealand land wars that opposed Māori and Pakeha started in the town of Waitara, while the passive non-violence movement resisting land confiscation and colonisation originated in the village of Parihaka.

Taranaki - one of New Zealand’s earliest inhabited areas - was settled by four Māori tribes that trace ancestry back to the Tokomaru canoe: Ngati Tama, Ngati Mutunga, Ngati Maru and Te Atiawa. However, in the early 19th century, invasion threats from northern Waikato tribes forced a major exodus of Māori from the region.

The first British immigrants arrived in 1841 and, while the Māori population was down, started buying up land. When they returned from exile, Māori objected to the land sales and the first shots of the New Zealand land wars were fired in Waitara in 1859.


Taranaki - Oakura Beach
Taranaki - Oakura Beach
 

Māori Culture

Mt Taranaki is a spiritually important landmark for Māori, and historic Māori pa (fortified villages) dotted throughout Taranaki tell stories of the region’s culture and history.
Taranaki means 'Gliding Peak'. Māori legend recounts how Taranaki - who once lived with the other great volcanoes (Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe) - was banished after falling in love with Tongariro's wife, a smaller volcano called Pihanga. As Taranaki travelled west towards the setting sun, his path of tears carved out the Whanganui River. According to legend, Taranaki is hiding his tears when cloud covers the mountain.

In the 1860s the Māori passive resistance movement against British colonisation began with Parihaka prophets Te Whiti and Tohu, who are celebrated for encouraging their people to use non-violent resistance to protest land confiscation.

Puke Ariki, on the New Plymouth waterfront, is an award-winning museum and library that holds more than 6,000 Māori taonga (treasures) and tells Taranaki’s complex tales in an engaging way.

Scenic coastal route Surf Highway 45 passes historic battle zones and hilltop pa sites where visitors can explore and learn first-hand about the region.


Taranaki - Puke Ariki Museum
Taranaki - Puke Ariki Museum
 

Nature / Wildlife

Mt Taranaki's almost perfect volcanic cone has a commanding presence over the region. Taranaki is the North Island’s second highest, most-climbed and most accessible mountain. Its steep slopes and volcanic soil are covered in abundant native flora and fauna.

The Goblin Forest, on Mt Taranaki’s southern slopes, showcases the mountain’s unique natural environment - a lush rainforest that thrives in the region's high rainfall and mild coastal climate, where hanging moss, ferns and gnarled tree trunks create a mystical ambience.

The Forgotten World Highway, New Zealand’s oldest heritage trail, travels ancient Māori trade routes through the region's pioneering past. This secluded route follows an evolving landscape, with stunning mountain backdrops and historic sites.

Taranaki is home to acclaimed gardens of national and international significance. Rhododendrons thrive in the Taranaki climate, and the annual Rhododendron and Garden Festival is an international event that is supported by a more eclectic Fringe Garden Festival.


Taranaki - Mt Taranaki in summer
Taranaki - Mt Taranaki in summer
 

Adventure / Outdoors

Taranaki’s diverse natural landscape offers endless opportunities for activity.

The west coast’s consistent waves rival the world's best and provide a natural playground for surfers. Surf breaks on Surf Highway 45 range from fast sandy beaches to epic rocky points, and the geography provides constant surfing opportunities.

Mt Taranaki is located in Egmont national park where there are many walks and alpine treks on the mountain slopes. Snow and ice-climbing experts can reach the mountain top with the help of professional guides. The Kamahi track is an easy 10-minute nature walk, while the Poukai circuit is a three-day trek around the mountain. One of the most popular hikes on the mountain, the Poukai offers impressive coastal views.


Taranaki - surfer near Sugar Loaf island
Taranaki - surfer near Sugar Loaf island
 

Culture / Events

Taranaki's rich heritage has inspired many museums and collections. From the significant Puke Ariki, on New Plymouth's waterfront, to South Taranaki's Tawhiti Musuem, and dozens of smaller private museums in between, there are many opportunities to discover Taranaki's fascinating stories.

The Taranaki region is home to a vibrant visual arts scene, with the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery at its centre. This art museum has been presenting the latest national and international contemporary art since 1970, and holds the collection of pioneering Kiwi film-maker and artist Len Lye - whose 45m Wind Wand takes pride of place on New Plymouth's Coastal Walkway.

Summer months see many world-class sporting and performance events and festivals take advantage of Taranaki's many great parks. The biggest is WOMAD, which transforms Pukekura Park into a three-day global music, arts and dance festival.


Taranaki - WOMAD festival - click for more.
Taranaki - WOMAD festival

DID YOU KNOW

  • Taranaki is often called the ‘garden of New Zealand’.
  • Taranaki is home to 10 of New Zealand’s 31 gardens of national significance.
  • ‘Ginger the cat’ became the first feline alpinist to climb Mt Taranaki unaided in 1917.
  • Whangamomona, the central township on the Forgotten World Highway, declared itself a republic in 1989.