Mount Taranaki, New Zealand, is thought to be the country’s most climbed mountain. This truly spectacular 120,000 year old dormant volcano, which last erupted in 1775, is criss-crossed with walks, hikes and tramps from easy to extreme, making it a drawcard for nature lovers of all ages and abilities.
Mount Taranaki Volcano
Local Maori legend says Mount Taranaki was once a volcano of the central North, but when he was caught flirting with Pihanga (a small but obviously alluring little hill), the volcano Tongariro erupted violently in a jealous rage, forcing Taranaki to bolt, carving out the Whanganui River in his wake. As Taranaki came to a rest, his head became the summit and crater, his bones the rocks and ridges, his blood the rivers and the trees his cloak. Out of respect for Taranaki, climbers are asked not to stand directly on the summit stone.
Taranaki is a stunning, practically perfect volcanic mountain, rising to a snow-capped summit, with New Zealand native rimu and kamahi trees around the base, rainforests along the slopes and herbfields above the snowline. Taranaki’s 2,518 metre high summit can be reached in a day, albeit for fit and able climbers with the proper equipment (the route crosses crater ice, so crampons and an ice axe might be needed).
An altogether different but equally stunning way to enjoy Taranaki is the Pouakai Crossing route, which meanders across the lower slopes. This day walk version of the Pouakai Circuit (two-three days, 25km) the Crossing route is still challenging, with muddy, rough and wet sections along its 19km stretch. Choose a clear day, and as the track winds through Pouakai Tarns, the majestic Mount Taranaki will be mirror-reflected in the still ponds. You’ll also pass by lava columns, a stream tinted red with manganese oxide, wetlands, stands of mountain cedar and have a chance to pit stop at Pouakai Hut, where you can rest and soak up the views before heading back through an enchanted, mossy glade. Pouakai Crossing is a one way track so you’ll need to arrange transport to or from one end. Plenty of shuttle services are available, just book in advance.
After more epic walks around beautiful North Island New Zealand? Look no further!
There are a couple of side trips on this route – the first to Bells Falls/Te Rere a Tahyrangi, an impressive, powerful 31m waterfall, and the second to Pouakai Trig, which offers spectacular views across the park and the coastline.
Egmont National Park
For those looking for something a little more sedate, Egmont National Park, which has Taranaki at its centre, delivers plenty of short walks, strolls and lookouts that make it easy to enjoy and explore the park. For those with strollers or using wheelchairs, there are two accessible paths in the east of the park (Potaema Track and East Egmont Lookout) from which to enjoy the mountain vista.
The New Plymouth Coastal Walkway
There’s no need to stop exploring once you’re back in town. The New Plymouth Coastal Walkway wanders 13km up the coastline, stretching from the city to the sea, and is dotted with access points. Enjoy farmland, surf beaches, public art and playgrounds, art galleries, lagoons and the marina. There’s no better way to get a feel for the town.
About halfway along, and a few streets inland, you’ll find the comfortable and well-appointed Quality Hotel Plymouth International, the perfect place to hang up your boots. A major bonus for weary walkers is the heated 12m salt swimming pool and deep spa, a welcome retreat after a long day’s tramping. If you feel like splurging, indulge in a luxury double spa suite, complete with private balcony and city views – it’s the ideal place to wind up a full day exploring Taranaki.
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