Road trips: Mt Taranaki to the coast
Te Rewa Rewa Bridge
Forgotten World Rail Adventures
Taranaki means ‘Gliding Peak’ in Maori. Legend has it that Taranaki lived with his volcano brothers, Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngauruhoe, until he fell in love with Tongariro’s wife, Pihanga (a smaller volcano). Sentenced to exile, Taranaki glided west towards the setting sun, carving out the Whanganui River as he went. Once there, he spotted the Pouakai range and moved north, settling where he sits today. Legendary figure Tahurangi is said to have been the first to climb to the summit, lighting a fire and claiming the land for his tribe. Taranaki Maori inhabited the base of the mountain until the 1820s, when they were massacred by Waikato invaders. Maori are said to have looked to the summit surrounded by mist and felt the mountain was weeping. In 1770, Captain Cook reported it was the “noblest hill I have ever seen”. Today Mount Taranaki is a magnet for skiers and snowboarders, hikers and trampers. This is a region that prides itself on its surf and snow cultures, as demonstrated by the spectacular coastal drive of State Highway 45, otherwise known as the Surf Highway, which runs from New Plymouth to Hawera. Another unforgettable Taranaki highway is the Forgotten World Highway (SH43), covering the quiet backcountry between Taumarunui and Stratford. But it’s not all highways and byways. Taranaki has plenty of hustle and bustle, and its main centre, New Plymouth, is a buzzing coastal town that plays host to some of the country’s most-loved events. Topping the list is WOMAD (World of Music and Dance), bringing hundreds of international acts to the local stage for four days of music and dance. At the other end of the spectrum, for peace and quiet, the city offers breathtaking walkways and gardens. Whatever you choose to do, Taranaki will surprise, delight, restore and nurture you in ways you never imagined.