The Must-Dos in Taranaki
Looking to get off the tourist trail? Looking to find some true hidden gems in New Zealand? Uncrowded surf beaches, breathtaking volcanic and forest landscapes, lush gardens, thought-provoking museums and art galleries, authentic Kiwi towns… This can all be found in the North Island’s Taranaki region! Find out how with this list of the best things to do in Taranaki.
1. Climb Paritutu Rock
This volcanic outcrop sticks out like a sore thumb between the two New Plymouth beaches, Ngamotu Beach and Back Beach. Paritutu Rock begs to be climbed to get a view over New Plymouth and some of the Taranaki coastline. It’s just one of the awesome 10 Free or Cheap Things to Do in New Plymouth.
Location: Centennial Drive, New Plymouth.
2. Check Out Dawson Falls
This is the most accessible waterfall in the Taranaki region and certainly one of the most impressive. Nestled in the Egmont National Park, Dawson Falls is a 10-minute walk through glorious native forest to these 18m (59ft) high falls! Find out more about the walk in the 6 Hikes You Have to Do in Egmont National Park.
Location: Dawson Falls Visitor Centre, Manaia Road, Egmont National Park.
3. Take a Photo of the Cape Egmont Lighthouse
There’s something about the isolation of lighthouses that are so photo-worthy. The Cape Egmont Lighthouse is on the most western point of Taranaki and is surrounded by hills created by ancient volcanic lahars. And of course, this is just another great angle to Mt Taranaki! The lighthouse is a must-see if travelling on the Surf Highway 45.
Location: Cape Road, Surf Highway 45.
4. Hike to the Summit of Mt Taranaki
A hike up to the summit of Mt Taranaki means discovering volcanic and alpine landscapes while being rewarded with views of epic proportions. We wish we were exaggerating! Needless to say, the summit hike can only be accessed between December and April unless you’re an experienced alpine hiker. Get more information on the hike in our Hikes in the Egmont National Park article.
Location: North Egmont Visitor Centre, Egmont Road, Egmont National Park.
5. Try Out Dam Dropping
Dam dropping is one of the hidden gems of adrenaline activities in New Zealand. You won’t hear the tourism operators raving about this locally invented activity like you would hear about skydiving and bungy jumping, however, taking a kayak or water sledge down the 8m (26ft) Normanby Dam is a much-loved Taranaki activity for both locals and travellers.
Location: Normanby Road on the Waingongoro River near Hawera.
6. Walk Up the Hawera Water Tower
The first thing to do when reaching the South Taranaki town of Hawera is to climb the iconic Hawera Water Tower to get your bearings and a great view over the land and sea. Pay a small fee to the local i-SITE, then climb up the spiral staircase with 215 steps to the top where you’ll get tremendous views of the town, the Tasman Sea and Mt Taranaki on a clear day. For the rest of your time in Hawera, check out these 10 Excellent Things to Do in Hawera.
Location: 55 High Street, Hawera.
7. Hike the Pouakai Circuit
A multi-day hike through varying alpine vegetation and forests, the Pouakai Circuit is a true Kiwi experience. Venture over boarded trails over wetlands with tarns reflecting magnificent views of Mt Taranaki. In between, stay in the Department of Conservation huts. Find out more about this hike in Hikes in Egmont National Park.
Location: North Egmont Visitor Centre, Egmont Road, Egmont National Park.
8. Do Some Surfing
The surf is so good on the Taranaki coast that there is a whole highway dedicated to the sport, Surf Highway 45. The list of surf beaches is endless but the highlights include the beaches at Fitzroy, Oakura, Kumara Patch, Stent Road and Ohawe.
Location: Surf Highway 45 – see the link above for specific locations.
9. Cross Te Rewa Rewa Bridge
Strategically placed across the Waiwhakaiho River and in line with Mt Taranaki, the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge‘s unusual design perfectly frames the volcano in the distance. The bridge is also part of the Coastal Walkway, another recommended walk along New Plymouth’s seafront. Nearby are some awesome surf breaks at either side of the river mouth. While in New Plymouth, be sure to do the 14 Best Things to Do in New Plymouth.
Location: Clemow Road, Fitzroy, New Plymouth.
10. Walk to the Three Sisters
At low tide, walk on Tongaporutu Beach to see three 25m (82ft) tall pinnacles known as The Three Sisters and Elephant Rock [Update: Elephant Rock no longer looks like an elephant after it lost its trunk in an earthquake. Bad times]. Also nearby is the Whitecliffs Walkway.
11. Visit Puke Ariki
Aside from glorious landscapes, Taranaki is also known to be a region rich in history and culture. A great place to start learning all about it is at the regional museum, Puke Ariki. This free-entry museum in New Plymouth has captivating and interactive displays covering Taranaki’s volcanic landscape formation, the Maori history and Taranaki’s pioneering heritage. Find out more about this museum and others in our 10 Best Galleries & Museums in Taranaki.
Location: 1 Ariki Street, New Plymouth.
12. See New Zealand’s Only Glockenspiel
Probably Taranaki’s quirkiest attraction, the Stratford Glockenspiel is the pride of Stratford town. The town is named after the hometown of William Shakespeare, which is commemorated by a giant clocktower glockenspiel which performs “Romeo and Juliet” at 10am, 1pm, 3pm and 7pm each day. Check out more things to do in Stratford here.
Location: Broadway, Stratford.
13. Discover the Forgotten World Highway
Another fabulous road trip in the Taranaki area awaits down the mysterious and isolated Forgotten World Highway. Follow New Zealand’s oldest heritage trail to highlights like the Republic of Whangamomona, the stunning Tangarakau Gorge, rugged tunnels, waterfalls and much more. Find out more about this 155km (96-mile) road between Stratford and Taumarunui in the 15 Places You Can’t Miss on the Forgotten World Highway.
Location: State Highway 43 between Stratford and Taumarunui.
14. Wander Around Pukekura Park
Another highlight of the region is Taranaki’s abundance of vibrant parks and gardens. While we could recommend a whole bunch, which we do in 10 Must-See Parks & Gardens in Taranaki, Pukekura Park in New Plymouth is one of the most popular. The botanical wonderland has a number of walks meandering around a lake, to a waterfall, a historic tea house, a zoo, Japanese gardens, a fernery, children’s playground and much much more!
Location: Fillis Street, New Plymouth.
15. Walk and Watch the Birds at Lake Rotokare
Just outside the town of Eltham is another natural paradise, Lake Rotokare. It’s one of the best places in the region to go bird-watching thanks to the predator-proof fence around the reserve. See what you can spot on the 1-2-hour Rotokare Walk! For more Eltham inspiration, see 8 Fun Things to Do in Eltham.
Location: Rotokare Road, 12km (7 miles) from Eltham.
16. Visit Aotea Utanganui – The Museum of South Taranaki
The South Taranaki district holds many hidden gems, one of which is Aotea Utanganui! This well-appointed museum in Patea holds some of the oldest wooden relics found in New Zealand, from Maori waka (canoes) to tools and weapons. Another impressive sight is the 1.3 million-year-old fossilised baleen whale skull. See more things to do in Patea here.
Location: 127 Egmont Street, Patea.
17. Relax in Opunake
One of Taranaki’s best beach towns is Opunake. Located mid-way on Surf Highway 45, Opunake has an epic surf beach, as well as many other interesting features. Discover them all on the 7km (4-mile) Opunake Walkway, or simply stop by the town for a drink in one of the cute cafes. We have more suggestions in 5 Great Things to Do in Opunake.