Strolls In, Around and All Over Stratford
Stratford is known for its quirky love affair with Shakespeare and its close proximity to Egmont National Park. For sure, its a great base for your backpacking adventures in Taranaki. However, you don’t have to venture too far to find some excellent places to stretch your legs and go for a Stratford walk.
Even within the city are a number of walkways through the best of the towns’ parks and gardens, while showing some of the heritage buildings the town is proud to display. A short drive out of Stratford can bring you to riverside tracks, bush walks, one of New Zealand’s highest waterfalls, and even a mountain hike. With all that in mind, here are the walks in Stratford you can’t miss!
Things You Have to See in Stratford
- Mt Damper Falls
- The performance at the Clock Tower/Glockenspiel
- Te Rerepahupahu Falls, deep in the Waitaanga Forest
- The calming Waingongoro River on the Cardiff Centennial Walkway
- The gardens in spring on the Carrington Walkway.
Mt Damper Falls Track (40 Minutes Return)
At 74 metres (243 feet) high, Mt Damper Falls is one of the highest in New Zealand. Don’t miss this impressive sight while you’re in the Stratford area! Access the track is from Okau Road, a short distance from Forgotten World Highway 43.
The Mt Damper Falls Track can be tackled in any footwear with its even surface. Starting from the car park, take the stair stile and cross the farmland toa steel beamed bridge into forest. Now you meander between rimu, tawa, silver beech and other native trees. There’s an option to take a super scenic route at the junction for Mt Damper Track (see below), however, this should only be done if you have an extra day to spare!
Once you reach Mt Damper Falls nestled in the Taranaki forests, take in the sights from a high viewing platform before descending to lower levels to get closer to the falls and its plunge pool. When you’ve seen enough, return the same way.
For more awesome waterfalls to check out, see 12 Most Wonderful Waterfalls in New Zealand.
Mt Damper to Te Rerepahupahu Falls (8 Hours One Way)
If you have backcountry hiking experience then this overnight hike is well worth the trip to see the spectacular Te Rerepahupahu Falls and the isolated Waitaanga Forest. Take camping gear, as there are no facilities but a small camping space near the falls.
Start this hike from Mt Damper Falls and follow the signage and white poles to the entrance of the Waitaanga Forest. There are disc markers to lead the way, as well as never-ending views of the forest and Kotare Scenic Reserve.
Prepare for some climbing for around 3 hours before you reach the summit of Mt Damper. You should see the summit marker on the left of the track.
Now descend in the Waitaanga River Valley. A lengthy walk will bring you to the edge of a high bluff with more excellent forest views to feast your eyes on. Further down into the river valley is a swing bridge to cross. Turn left and walk to the next junction in about 45 minutes. There, you will turn left again to the sight you have been waiting for: Te Rerepahupahu Falls! You can camp in a clearing beside the falls, however, there are no facilities here just you and the wilderness.
The next day, when you’re well-rested and feeling awesome, return on the same track.
Carrington Walkway (4-hour Loop)
Situated in the heart of Stratford, the Carrington Walkway encompasses bush, gardens and urban areas, all the while capturing the view of the mighty Mt Taranaki not too far in the distance.
There are many access points to the Carrington Walkway so there is no need to walk the whole loop and all its sidetracks if you don’t have the time. If you are not one for doing things half-heartedly, start the walk from Malone Gates at the corner of Fenton Street and Portia Street. Follow the signage to a choice of routes. One of the places you’ll come across is the McCullough Rhododendron Dell, which obviously best seen in spring. On the northern side on the Dell is a native arboretum. Seriously, you’ll get your plant fix in Stratford!
The riverside track winds its way through the town and over a few bridges, from which you’ll get views of the steep riverbanks awash with vegetation. If you cross the Broadway State Highway and under the rail bridge you’ll find the Windsor Park with more plantations to wander through. At the east side of the park is yet another arboretum, which aims to show plants from primaeval forests.
Some sections of the walkway are on the farmland boundaries meaning you’ll get delightful countryside views with rolling hills. Not to mention a whopping great mountain. You can also see if you can get the cows attention.
Stratford Heritage Walkway (30-minute Loop)
Ok, heritage trails might not have the wow-factor that many of New Zealand’s trails do, but there’s an obsession with Shakespeare in this town that cannot be ignored. Stratford, in particular, has some quirky buildings that reinforce that Kiwi town charm.
You can start the Stratford Heritage Walkway from the same location as the Carrington Walkway (see above). We’ll point out the key points of interest.
The Clock Tower/Glockenspiel
Every day, at 10am, 1pm, 3pm and 7pm, you can watch a 5-minute rendition of the Shakespearian play, Romeo and Juliet.
This tower was built in 1981, to revive the original bell tower that was built in 1924 commemorating the WW1 and Boer War soldiers.
Malone Memorial Gates
The gates’ claim to fame is that they’re the largest war memorial for an individual soldier. They were erected in 1924 for Lieutenant Colonel W G Malone of Stratford.
Kauri Tree and Lone Pine
Ever wondered how long it takes for one of the largest trees in the world, a kauri, to grow? Course you have! Just come and see this tree’s progress, as it was planted in 1954 for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillips visit to Stratford. Good times.
Its a swing bridge; what’s not to love? This old boy was installed in 1902.
Another claim to fame for Stratford, the King’s Theatre was the first theatre in the Southern Hemisphere to show talking pictures in 1925.
Cardiff Centennial Walkway (1h30min Loop)
A riverbank walkway with a mix of steep slopes and river flats, the Cardiff Centennial Walkway follows part of the Waingongoro River. If you have the time, be sure to combine this walk with the nearby Dawson Falls walk in the Egmont National Park.
The walk is approximately 6km (4 miles) from Stratford and starts at a car park on Opunake Road. Stroll through native bush and farmland to visit two sites of weirs built to dam the river. You’ll also cross a swingbridge.
Make sure you take the short sidetrack to a cliff-top lookout to get views of the river, surrounding countryside, Mt Taranaki and a 55-metre (180-foot) natural gas pipeline bridge.