Travel anywhere in the Taranaki region and you will have the constant presence of this striking, dormant, strato-volcano (also known as Mt Egmont).
From most scenic viewpoints the old volcano appears as a perfectly symmetrical cone, tapering to a 2,518 metre summit in the classic style of Japan’s Mt Fuji. The peak rises dramatically, straight out of flat, emerald green pasturelands and wears an attractive skirt of rainforest on its lower slopes.
Mt Taranaki is the focal point of Egmont National Park, which also embraces the older, heavily eroded sister volcanoes in the nearby Kaitake Range. Taranaki means ‘peak clear of vegetation’ in Maori. It is the most accessible and most-climbed major mountain peak in New Zealand, but comes with a built-in hazard of very changeable weather, which means climbers should consult park rangers before setting out.
Three sealed roads provide access to the eastern side of the mountain, linking a network of 140 kms of tramping tracks. North Egmont is the popular route for summit climbs, which start from the excellent visitor centre. In summer the ascent is straight forward, traversing steps, loose scoria and steep rock outcrops to an ice-filled crater (6-8 hours return). In winter, crampons and ice axes are needed on the steep slopes. The views extend across the North Island to the three volcanoes of Tongariro National Park and a dense forested depression that contains the superbly scenic Whanganui River – the ‘Rhine of New Zealand.’
The East Egmont road takes you to ‘The Plateau’ ski-field, with links to the 4-5 day Round The Mountain Track. The Dawson Falls access opens up a selection of ‘Goblin Forest’ type walks in the rainforest, and to the attractive falls.
New Plymouth, the commercial centre of the region, has popular black sand surf beaches and glorious parks and gardens, notably Pukekura Park and Pukeiti Reserve. The city’s Coastal Walkway is a scenic gem, meandering around surfing and swimming beaches and giving views of old sea-girt volcanoes in the Sugar Loaf Marine Reserve.
Whether you scale the mountain, stroll around in the ‘Goblin Forest’ or just admire the views, Taranaki is an awe-inspiring volcanic experience.