With 180 degrees of ocean swells, the spectacular Surf Highway along Taranaki's hemispherical coast is a surfer's dream.
But waves aren't the only reason to follow this touring route. Along the way, explore Egmont National Park (always within reach) or browse the region's enviable collection of galleries, artists' studios and beautifully manicured gardens.
If you're here to surf, spend today exploring the beaches around New Plymouth. Hailed one of the best mid-city surf spots in the world, Fitzroy Beach is renowned for hollow waves. On the southern edge of New Plymouth is Back Beach, which overlooks Sugar Loaf Marine Park and offers great swells on the shifting sandbanks.
If you'd prefer a hike, head for Mount Taranaki at the centre of Egmont National Park. With 13 entrances, the park offers walks for all levels and abilities. For something less physical, check out Puke Ariki Museum, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Pukekura Park, before wandering along the Coastal Walkway with its dramatic Te Rewa Rewa bridge.
Only half an hour's drive from New Plymouth, Oakura is a small coastal town best-known among surfers. Alongside Oakura Beach, other surf spots such as Ahu Ahu, Komene Beach and the famous Kumera Patch are all within easy reach. Access to Kumera Patch is across private land; make sure you ask the owner's permission first. Komene Beach is also popular among learner surfers, as the waves are gentle and small at the south end. Non-surfers will enjoy a swim and a spot of bird-watching.
While in Oakura, wander along the Oakura Arts Trail and explore artists' studios, jewellers and craft workshops.
Travel around the coast to Opunake. On your way, take time to visit the historic site of Parihaka. In the late 1800s, Parihaka Maori used peaceful resistance to protest the Crown's confiscation of their lands.
Surfers will want to stop at Stent Road, just south of Warea, which has a nice right-hand wave over a shallow reef. Other nearby surf spots include Green Meadows, Arawhata Road, Dumps and Mungas. Non-surfers can enjoy Opunake's small-town charm and scenic beauty. Walk the 7km Opunake Walkway ending at Te Namu pa site, once a fortified Maori village. Learn more about the region with a visit to the Cape Egmont Replica Lighthouse & Museum and the historic Everybody's Theatre.
Just before the town of Manaia, you'll reach Kaupokanui Beach, another good surf spot. Manaia itself is home to a small museum dedicated to country music. A short detour will take you to the Normanby Dam on the Waingongoro River, popular for the local phenomenon of "dam dropping" - kayaking down the face of the dam in a rush of whitewater. Alternatively, head over to Ohawe, the most popular beach in South Taranaki.
From here, it's another 10 minutes and you're in Hawera, the end of your journey. Take some time to explore this small town with a visit to the iconic Hawera Water Tower and the unique Tawhiti Museum. If you haven't yet had a chance to visit Mount Taranaki, it's within an hour's drive.