Egmont National Park
Mount Taranaki, standing at 2517 m, extends above the North Island’s west coast like the huge reminder of an earlier volcanic era. Its cone forms the center of the circular national park.
Hikers should not underestimate the hiking trails on Mount Taranaki. It’s subject to rapid changes in weather conditions, due to its proximity to the coast. You are advised to take along waterproof clothing for longer hikes.
The excellent trail leading around Mount Taranaki has become something of a tradition among keen hikers. It can be done in two phases. The complete tour takes three to four days, often passing through very rugged terrain with splendid views of the volcanic plains and the green countryside.
It’s also possible to undertake a hike through the flat bushland on one of the trails from the Puakai and Kaitake Ranges on the mountain’s northwest flank leading to the sea. The Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust is situated between these two mountain ranges. It is most beautiful when its eponymous rhododendrons are in full bloom.
The park is acessible from North Egmont, about 30 km from New Plymouth. For those approaching from the south, there are comfortable places for overnight stays in Dawson Falls on the eastern slopes of Fantham Peak. There’s a convenient approach to the park a bit further on the eastern slopes, near the small town of Stratford. From here you can reach the little ski-slope at the end of the road leading uphill. Far away from the tourist resorts, this park is usually deserted, so it’s possible to enjoy the rugged and dramatic scenery of this region at its best.
But even if you are traveling by car, Mount Taranaki can best be enjoyed during a day trip. In New Plymouth you should purchase everything you require for a good picnic, so that you are ready to start your trip around Taranaki. If you first stop at Stratford, you can take the above-mentioned turn-off to the national park. Or you may want to visit the nearby Pioneer Village, after which you can follow the Wiremu Road to the volcano. From now on there are numerous possibilites to turn off onto one of the roads marked “no exit” to the right and drive to the foot of the mountain. Hiking tracks often lead all the way up to the summit of the mountain. However, the weather can change very suddenly here. The farmers follow the rule of thumb, that the southwest wind brings rain, while the north wind brings sunshine and warmth.
The vast, flat Taranaki farmland has a large number of ideal picnic spots. The Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust is the perfect place to stop for afternoon tea. But to get there involves decifering the way through a labyrinth of roads, and everyone is certain to lose his way at least once before finally arriving at the coveted destination. Tea is served in the Trust’s luxurious garden. The best time to visit is in November when the flowers are in bloom. This is also when New Plymouth celebrates its Rhododendron Festival, at which more than 60 gardeners open their gates to the public.
Ferns as high as trees line the next 29 km of the route all the way from Pukeiti to New Plymouth, accompanying the weary traveler at the end of a most recommendable day trip.