While vacationing in New Zealand why not check out this very special province? Taranaki has fast become a must see part of many itineraries. Flowing from the snowy cone of its postcard perfect volcanic mountain peak, across rich pastured plains and inland into untouched native forest; this is a region in which a marvelous concentration of wilderness activities and points of interest are too be had.
New Plymouth is Taranaki’s main hopping off point for discovering the areas many attractions. This bustling port city with its myriad boutique bars and cafes offers a wide selection of accommodation for every budget.
Air New Zealand has direct domestic flights to and from the main centres of Auckland and Wellington daily. State highway 3 serves New Plymouth from the north (Auckland) whilst those arriving from the south (Wellington) follow State Highway 3 until it converges with State highway 1; funnelling travellers into Taranaki’s southernmost volcanic plains.
Pukekura Park – New Plymouth
Pukekura Park hides nestled within a sprawling 52-hectare (128-acre) strip of New Plymouths inter-city wilderness. It seamlessly integrates meticulously tended collections of indoor plants with majestic native flora. The park envelops all that enter with a sense of tranquillity far removed from the lively port city that surrounds it.
World Renowned Sports Arena
A beautifully sculpted natural arena greets visitors as they first pass beneath the parks main gate. Terraced hillsides provide stadium seating for cricket enthusiasts as they look down upon the beautifully groomed sports ground below. A magical place that not even Hollywood has failed to notice; it served as a colonial era parade ground in Tom Cruise’s, The Last Samurai.
A large central lake offers tranquil rowboat rides amongst nonchalant ducks and oversized goldfish. Numerous easily traversed walkways lead visitors beneath dwarfing collections of lush foliage, snaking through the park before connecting with adjacent Brooklands Park.
Brooklands Park and Zoo
Brooklands offers a still further array of renowned attractions. Here an outdoor amphitheatre emerges directly from its native forest backdrop, a performance stage that has over the years attracted acts the likes of R.E.M, Fleetwood Mac, Santana and Mark Knopfler; this the beautiful ‘Bowl of Brooklands’.
The quaint Brooklands Zoo enchants children and adults alike with its raised capuchin monkey viewing-platform. An additional ground level panoramic Plexiglas wall allows virtual face to face encounters with these fascinating creatures. Eclectic selections of readily approachable animals and birds complete the zoo and play area – entry to the park and all its attractions are free of charge.
Pukekura Park – 7.30am – 7pm during standard mean time, and 7.30am – 8pm during daylight savings.
Zoo – Daily 8.30am-5pm including Christmas Day.
Mount Taranaki – Pouakai Circuit Trek
The 25km Pouakai Circuit is a 2 – 3 day hiking experience that loops Mt. Taranaki’s rainforest sub-alpine tussock whilst passing through dramatic volcanic terrain. Here the Kokowai Stream runs red as the dormant mountain bleeds manganese oxide into its flow and the Ahukawakawa sphagnum moss wetlands lay fragile and untouched. Rustic overnight accommodation is to be had at the well kept ‘Holly Hut’ before awaking to pristine vista’s and decent to the Kaiauai stream and Waiwhakaiho river swing bridge below.
Forgotten World Highway 43
The Forgotten World Highway transports travellers from the central Taranaki township of Stratford directly into the North Islands pioneer heart. The term Highway here is a definite misnomer as this is about as far from the congested masses as anybody is ever likely to get.
150 kms of unspoilt native rainforest are navigated along with rolling scrub-lands and numerous tourist points of interest. These expel spectacular vistas and still echo with the remnants of New Zealand’s early heritage. Teal and Yellow sign postings easily guide throughout out this very special driving experience.
Accommodation and Food
Midway, the iconic Whangamomona Hotel is a welcome respite for any icy cold beer and hearty kiwi lunch. Camping accommodation and Farm stays are available within a number of sites that dot the Highway, such as:
Ohinepa Recreation Reserve
Whangamomona Hotel Camping Grounds
Te Wera Forest Camp Farm Stays
Travel time by car estimates at approximately 2.5 to 3 hours, those travelling by Campervan or towing should allow at least an extra hour. Two full days should be set aside if all of the Forgotten Highways features are too be truly appreciated. The journey terminates at the central North Island town of Taumarunui from which ongoing travel can easily continue to all points.
A Taste of Untouched Taranaki
When seeking holiday accommodation it is sometimes refreshing to pull away from the mainstream. For an idyllic slice of genuine kiwi hospitality then ‘The Croft’ Homestay/ Bed and Breakfast offers something very special, set deep within the lush Taranaki countryside. Even so it is just a mere 30 minutes from New Plymouth City and is a place of truly effortless natural beauty.
Here a lovely homestead is set amongst a large country garden; complete with wonderful natural stream (A waterway into which visitors can readily feed its ever-hungry wild eels).