A Traveller's Guide to Taranaki, New Zealand

There are stunning sights to be seen
There are stunning sights to be seen | © DonnaODonoghue / Pixabay
Joe Coates

Taranaki is a beautiful and varied region of a beautiful and varied country, New Zealand. It’s a place where you can go snowboarding in the morning and surfing in the afternoon, and see a heap of great stuff in between. Here’s our guide to making the most of your travels in, as the locals call it, Taradise.

The main, and obvious, thing about travelling to new and exciting places is that you get to see how other people and other cultures live. This is at the very heart of why we travel.

We want to see how people spend their day to day, what they get up to and entertain themselves with in this place they’ve decided to call home. It’s always fascinating seeing something extraordinary for the first time, when it is all so humdrum to the people who see it every day.

In many aspects, the best way to get the most out of a trip is through the eyes of a local. So, with that in mind, here are the top things you should do, see and experience when you find yourself fortunate enough to spend a while in Taranaki.

Experience Mount Taranaki

Obviously, this is the reason many people to flock to Taranaki. Whether you just want to soak in the sensational mountain views from almost anywhere in the region, or take a crack at hiking it, the mountain will provide the backdrop to practically everything you do. Summer is the time to tackle the mountain if you want to get to the peak. If you set off at about 2am you’ll be able to watch the sunrise from the crater and see the shadow of the mountain stretch over the ring-plain. That’s pure magic.

The view from the summit of Mount Taranaki – that’s Mt. Ruapehu in the far distance, over 150km away

Eat and drink like a local

You’re going to be very busy travelling around this region. There is a lot to see and much to do, so you’ll need to fuel up a lot to keep yourself going. With that in mind, here are a few of our favourite spots around the region in which to, as New Zealanders are fond of saying, get a good feed. We’ve only been able to list a few of the many excellent options here, but if you want some good general advice, when it comes to lunch or dinner, focus on the seafood.

1. Chaos

Cafe, Australian, Vegan, Vegetarian

Smashed Avo
© Katherine Lim / Flickr
Chaos has been a firm favourite with the Taranaki locals for 15 years now. The quality of the food is just incredible, and the Supreme coffee is as its name suggests. If you want a gourmet breakfast, brunch or lunch, then this really should be the first place you visit because the fare is just out of this world fresh and wholesome. In particular, the cabinet food is fantastic – really, really amazing. Sure, the menu is worth perusing, but if you’re in a bit of a rush then it’s nice to know that if you stick out a finger and point at the offerings by the register then you’re going to receive something truly delectable. The wide variety of food choices includes a large selection of vegan, gluten-free and specialty cabinet/menu options.

2. Okurukuru Cafe & Winery

Restaurant, Australian

NZ Lamb
© thefoodplace.co.uk / Flickr

If you want to sit down to lunch or dinner, bask in some of the most breathtaking views Taranaki has to offer while simultaneously treating your tastebuds to a bit of the good life, then look no further than Okurukuru Cafe and Winery. The meals here are constructed of only the finest local and seasonal produce – an example of this are the vegetables and salad greens that come from Kaitake Farm, just down the road, which makes the specials board very much worth a look when you pop in. This restaurant is perched right on the coast, on the clifftops, between New Plymouth and Oakura, and features unobstructed views across the ocean and up and down the coastline.

3. Funk Fish Grill

Restaurant, Fast Food

© Lesley Yarbrough / Flickr

This is fish and chips with a twist. This is fish and chips in the 21st century. Funk Fish Grill is often referred to as the best fish and chips in New Zealand. Now, with the amount of similar shops in the country and the quality of the seafood generally, this might be a bit of an overstatement when it comes to competition, but there can be no denying that these guys and gals have got their fish and chips down to a fine art. If you want authentic Kiwi fare then this little shop in the little town of Inglewood is where you want to go. Absolute quality.

Grab a board

Although it might be a bit chilly at the time of year when this can be done, it’s possible to ride a snowboard in the morning and surf in the evening in Taranaki. Talk about one way to earn your evening beer! Head up to Manganui ski field in the morning and tear it up, then drive the 50 minutes to Back Beach in New Plymouth and enjoy some afternoon waves. On a fine day, and with the correct gear this is one of those things you’ll remember forever.

In the green room off Taranaki

Take a stroll

You’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet while exploring Taranaki. This is due to the kilometres of beautiful walks there are to enjoy, plus the things that it’s best to see by strolling about the numerous towns. Some of our favourite ways to spend a day on foot are at Pukekura Park – the beautiful and extensive botanical gardens that are located right in the middle of New Plymouth – and Brooklands Zoo, climbing through the rainforest tracks of the Kaitakes and walking (or preferably cycling) the very pretty coastal walkway. For this, start off in New Plymouth and rent a bike from Chaddy’s Charters, then cycle along to Rewa Rewa Bridge – an iconic structure modeled on the rib-cage of a whale.

Whale bone inspired architecture

Take a load off and hit the beach

When you need a little bit of downtime there is no better way to spend it than on one of Taranaki’s beautiful, black volcanic beaches. In the fierce summer sun, the black sand quickly reaches foot-roasting temperatures though, so the best way to avoid blistered soles is to run, stop and dig a hole with your feet to expose the cooler sand below. Repeat this process every 100 yards or so until you’ve found your perfect spot to set up base.

Beach by the Three Sisters

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