Taranaki's hemispherical coast collects 180 degrees of ocean swells. You can be almost certain that the surf will be pumping between New Plymouth & Hawera.
It would be hard to get lost on Surf Highway 45 - the route simply follows the coast. Side roads take you down to the sea or up to the mountain. If you begin in New Plymouth, you'll pass the settlements of Oakura, Okato, Pungarehu and Oanui before you reach Opunake, the largest population centre before Hawera.
Taranaki has some of the best surfing beaches in New Zealand, and surf competitions are regularly staged in the region. If you've never learned to ride a wave, join a surf school or try tandem surfing (they guarantee to get you on your feet in the first session or your money back!). If you're not up to man-handling a long slab of fibreglass, body surfing and boogie boarding can be just as rewarding. With a good wetsuit, the waves are there for the catching in any season.
The best wave venues on Surf Highway 45 have names that you'll never forget. There's Back Beach, Kumara Patch, Graveyard and The Dump, just to name a few. Komene Beach, five minutes from Okato, has the added attraction of bird life - black swans, oystercatchers, ducks, gulls and pied stilts.
Ever-present on this journey is the looming shape of Mount Taranaki, a huge volcano which last erupted around 250 years ago. The mountain sits at the centre of Egmont National Park, which has a comprehensive network of hiking tracks.
Trails that aim up the mountain let you observe vegetation changes from sea level to summit. You'll begin in low altitude kamahi rainforest, which is interspersed with tall rimu and rata trees. Above 900 metres is a belt of mountain cedar (kaikawaka) and mountain totara.
Sub-alpine scrub is next, followed by tussocks and alpine species - daisies, lilies and orchids; many unique to the mountain. If you want to climb to the summit, it's recommended you go with a guide - weather conditions can change very suddenly.
In winter, the Stratford Mountain Club welcomes visitors at its ski field. The field is a brisk hike from the car park, just enough to warm your muscles nicely for the first run.