Taranaki Road Trip

Words by Irena Brooks

At LIVE, we wanted to do something a little special for our fellow citizens of Aotearoa, who have ventured out to Taranaki for their holiday.
Plus locals who already know about ‘Taradise’ and want to discover a little bit more.

We’ve come up with some Taranaki road trip options to explore parts of Taranaki you haven’t been to before, or not for a very long time.

We reveal ‘secret spots’ and perennial favourites. Mix and match for an awesome day out, or support local accommodation operators and stay at some of the fabulous boutique options we have in the region.

NORTH TARANAKI

Take a 25 minute drive north of New Plymouth to Urenui, or, if you’re feeling fit, you can cycle (distance – 28kms). 

There’s three cafes in the town and an ice cream shop and five kilometres away is Urenui Beach, where you can have a game of golf, or break out a ball for some mud soccer (check tide times first as mud flats are only available on a low tide).

Body surfing and swimming are on offer at the beach, but remember to stay clear of the cliffs — they are constantly eroding and a real danger. Don’t go into any “caves” — you may not come out.

Load up the kayak and paddleboards for a trip up Tongaporutu or Mokau River, just a bit further up the road. Visit the Three Sisters rock formations, which these days have a 4th sister.  

Drive the Five Tunnel Tour — a circuit of five single lane tunnels through North Taranaki back roads. You can stop off and see Mt Damper Falls — especially if there has recently been rain as the falls are most impressive then. If you have the whole day spare, you could do a complete circuit, taking in Whangamomona and the Forgotten World Highway to Stratford, and then head back to New Plymouth.

SURF HIGHWAY 45

The ribbon of road that hugs the Taranaki coast is known as Surf Highway 45.

Turn down any of the country roads that lead to the sea and you’ll find beaches of differing characters. Some are popular for swimming and are patrolled in summer (Oakura and Opunake), while others are a mix of volcanic rock, silver sand and driftwood. Many are empty and you can revel in enjoying a piece of paradise all to yourself, while enjoying spectacular surf conditions.

Inland is an ever-changing panorama of Mount Taranaki.

Along the way you’ll find The Oakura Arts Trail, funky cafes, access to the Egmont National Park (and Pukeiti gardens), various walkways, the Cape Egmont Lighthouse, Parihaka Pa and Yarrows’ famous bakery at Manaia.

At Okato, hunt out the 4km Stony River Walkway, which boasts excellent views of Mt Taranaki and the Pouakai Range plus some of the clearest river swimming you will ever experience. Beginning at Hickford Place in Okato, the walk starts with a swing bridge, then passes through the William Corbett Scenic Reserve. The loop walk takes two hours and offers plenty of sparkling clear swimming holes to try.

Pick up a Surf Highway 45 brochure from PukeAriki i-SITE, and spend a day exploring this area of our region. You can return to New Plymouth via SH3, and complete the full 180km circuit of the mountain.

ROUND THE MOUNTAIN

From Opunake you can duck inland to Kaponga, and then up Manaia Road, which takes you to Dawson Falls and Wilkies Pools.

Then head down to Stratford and visit Fenton St Arts Collective for food, coffee, art and to try their gin.

See LIVE’s Spring 2021 issue, starting page 54, for our recent feature on things to do in and around Stratford: livemagazine.co.nz

The latest attraction in Stratford is the fantastic family-friendly Stratford Bike Park (see ad page 83).

NEW PLYMOUTH

West Side

Start the day with a bike ride to Paritutu Rock, climb it and enjoy a spectacular view of not only Mount Taranaki, but on clear days, you can also see My Ruapehu. Once you’ve descended, go south to the first car park, turn right and you’ll find the famous Back Beach sandhill. Tackle it on your boogie board or a piece of corflute (or just run). Be careful though … the sand can get very hot!

Swim or catch some waves between the islands — I’ve swum with seals and orca here at different times — it is a tropical paradise right in the city. 

If you’re a competent swimmer, try the lagoon on Pararaki Island (you’ll see it where it is when you get to the top of Paritutu).

After your swim, climb up the recently re-installed staircase (between the sand dune and Paritutu), then head down to Breakwater Bay for a feed from one of three cafe/restaurants (at the town end of Oceanview Parade).

Feeling really energetic? Walk along the sand from Back Beach to Oakura (only ever do on a low outgoing tide). It’s a distance of about 8kms and takes around 3 hours, and of course, you’ll need to sort a ride back into town.

For flat water swimming, try Ngamotu Beach, which is a great spot for younger children, with a handy playground and space for impromptu cricket and soccer matches. 

The popular Seaside Market is held here on the first Sunday of each month from 9am — 2pm.

There are also free barbecue spots for you to set up your own picnic area plus the local soft serve ice cream van usually pays a visit.

In the afternoon explore the art at White Sail Gallery or try Chaddy’s Charters for a wildlife cruise to the seal colony. They also have bikes, kayaks and paddle boards for hire. 

Downtown

Exploring the central city is an ideal option for a day that might be too wet or windy for the beach, or if you just want to escape the sun.

The Coastal Walkway is a great place to start … go as far as you like along the 13km trail. Just head for the Wind Wand and you’ll find the Walkway.

PukeAriki is a fabulous free option to learn about the region’s history and see current exhibitions.

Stock up on some summer reading at the library. 

Try out Laser Tag, mini putt or ten pin bowling at Bowlarama, or do one of the escape rooms at Escape Masters or Decipher — we’ve done them all and they’re a blast.

Govett Brewster Art Gallery and the Len Lye Centre are always worth a look — make sure you check out the latest Len Lye installation ‘Convolutions’.

Restored art deco buildings and brightly painted murals add vibrancy to the downtown area … once you start looking it’s amazing how many there are. 

The local Farmers Market operates every Sunday morning at Huatoki Plaza and excellent boutique retail options abound down the main street.

Up the hill in the eastern end of town, indulge in gourmet ice-cream from State Gelato then wander over to Gover St Gallery to view local art for sale.

You’ll discover a congregation of international flavours at the eateries at this end of town: State Pasta, State Bistro and Joe’s Garage, Bella Vita or Agra Restaurant, Mike’s Brewery, Takasago Sushi, Polpetta and Hourglass.

After dinner, take in one of the summer blockbuster movies at Event Cinemas.

Eastern New Plymouth

Take your rollerblades, bike or skateboard and try out East End Skate Park — floodlights keep the action going until 11pm each night. 

Cool off at East End or Fitzroy Beach, or roam up Te Henui Walkway, with its plethora of swimming holes and picnic spots.

Organise a game of touch, football or cricket on the reserve.

Try Federal Store or Bakehouse for some lunch, or Petit Plage, across the bridge from Te Henui playground. There’s also The Kiosk at Fitzroy Beach plus several lunch options in Fitzroy Village, and some lovely boutique shops.

At Fitzroy Beach you can get surfing lessons with Learn To Surf, and make your way up to the Waiwhakaiho River, where you’ll find Te Rewa Rewa Bridge and Lake Rotomanu. Just past lake Rotomanu there’s a BMX bike park where you can watch riders take on some impressive jumps.

The Waiwhakaiho Walkway starts at the river mouth and leads to a range of different swimming holes, including the popular ‘Telecoms’ (you’ll find it at the very end of Rimu St, then about 25m along the walkway and it is to your left). You’ll know you’ve found it when you see Taranaki’s youths leaping from the top of the bank into the river hole below. There is a track to the bottom and you can enjoy about an 80 metre stretch of still freshwater swimming.

If you want a swimming hole to yourself, just walk up the Waiwhakaiho Walkway a bit further.

Want a beach to yourself? Go over the iconic Te Rewa Rewa Bridge and take in the boardwalk and secret beaches between here and Bell Block. You’ll get to the Bike Park, where you can test your bike-riding skills, and the next door BMX track. Further along are some beautiful wetlands and then you reach Mangati Walkway. You can bike up here and then head out into the country on the way to Lepperton, and the surprising menu at Lepperton Store Cafe (it’s owned by a chef).

Schedule a round of golf at Ngamotu Links — they have a fabulous cafe, plus fantastic views of the mountain and sea from various spots on the course.

Finish the day in Fitzroy Village with a cold wine at Vin Bar or try out new restaurant, Ember (see story page 91).

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