Mount Taranaki and the New Plymouth area of New Zealand is full of tons of opportunity for incredible adventure, hiking, exploration, and FUN! The central feature of this area is, of course, the stunning Mount Taranaki, where you can experience awesome hikes from the Pouakai Reflective Tarns to Dawson Falls and the Wilkies Pools! On top of that, there are tons of free things to do in Taranaki and New Plymouth, including the famous New Plymouth Coastal Walkway. Heck, there is even a free museum for you to learn about the culture, wildlife, and history of Taranaki and New Plymouth! This area is full of adventure and enjoyment. And you can see it all for free! Put that wallet away and come along exploring. Are you ready? We sure are!
Hiking Mount Taranaki
As we said, the best thing about Taranaki is Mount Taranaki, the heart and soul of Egmont National Park. The best way to see all of the beauty in and around Mount Taranaki is to hike. Hiking is free, gets you in touch with nature and the outdoors, and of course is an excellent workout! On top of all that, hiking brings you to the most beautiful places in any particular area. We are going to share with you the 5 best hikes in Mount Taranaki AKA Egmont National Park, each are varying difficulty and length.
Pouakai Reflective Tarns
The Pouakai Reflective Tarns offer one of the best photographs you can get. Literally, when you catch the Pouakai Tarns at the correct time, and they are still (and therefore reflective) the view of Mount Taranaki is unparalleled. The previously stunning Taranaki is now duplicated in the Pouakai Tarns, making for the photograph of a lifetime.
Unfortunately, we were in the Mount Taranaki area in a particularly windy time, and were therefore unable to get the incredible reflective view shown above. However, even though we weren’t able to het the reflection, we still had an incredible view of Mount Taranaki and the surrounding landscape from the Pouakai Reflective Tarns.
The hike to the Pouakai Tarns is no walk in the park, it is a tough 12 kilometers out & back involving a relatively long ascent through the New Zealand wilderness. Once you reach the treeline, you’ll come out to a hike along the relatively bare area of Mount Taranaki. If you’re hiking on a windy day, this is where you’ll feel the wind at its strongest.
Before long above the treeline, you’ll come to the Pouakai Hut, where you can book a stay overnight if you’d like to. This can be a great way to make sure you can visit the Pouakai Tarns at dawn or dusk, when you’ll be most likely to get an awesome reflection. Shortly beyond the hut is where you’ll find the Pouakai Tarns, the climax of this incredible hike.
Pouakai Tarns Hike Details
Distance: 12 km out & back
Time: 5-6 hours
Trailhead: End of Mangorei Road
Dawson Falls is a beautiful waterfall located right in the heart of Taranaki. One great part about Dawson Falls is that it is not a far hike! Low effort, high reward. That means you can do the Dawson Falls hike on the same day as another hike (the Wilkies Poothe most sense, more on that in a minute…).
Dawson Falls is a huge waterfalls that flows out over a cliff right along Mount Taranaki. The falls are stunning, and seem to appear out of nowhere as you make your way along the hiking trail. Along the trail are 2 viewpoints of Dawson Falls, one from the base of the falls and one out from the distance. Since the hike is so short, we recommend making the time to check out both! However, if you have to pick one, the view and experience from the base of Dawson Falls is better in our opinion.
We absolutely LOVE photography, and sharing pictures! These are the cameras we use on all of our adventures. The drone and GoPro help us get cool new perspectives (underwater, in the air, wide angle) and the Rebel we use on a day-to-day basis for most of our shots!
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Dawson Falls Hike Details
Distance: 400 m out & back
Time: 30 minutes
Trailhead: Dawson Falls Visitor Centre
The Wilkies Pools are an awesome hike and have an even better destination at the end of the hike. Along the hike, you’ll get a wonderful view of Mount Taranaki and the surrounding landscapes. However, the real treat awaits you at the end of your 1.5 km hike there: the Wilkies Pools.
The Wilkies Pools are a beautiful set of cascading pools located right in the shadow of Mount Taranaki. The best part about the pools? You can swim in them! The worst part about the pools? They are COLD! However, if you have a hot day to hike, then the Wilkies Pools may be a welcome cooling-off from the New Zealand sunshine!
Between two of the Wilkies Pools sits a natural slide carved in the rocks, a slide that you can use! You can slide down from the upper pool into the icy lower pool. This is incredibly fun, and will be an awesome experience that you will never forget.
After you make the plunge down the slide, you can hike up a bit further up the pools and see the upper Wilkies Pools. These pools are a bit warmer, as they sit still in the heat rather than flowing, and offer a great foreground for a photo of Mount Taranaki, which looms in the background.
Wilkies Pools Hike Details
- Distance: 3 km out & back
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Trailhead: Dawson Falls Visitor Centre
Mount Taranaki Summit
The Mount Taranaki summit hike is the most difficult, but in many ways most rewarding, hike you can do in this part of New Zealand. The hike of course brings you to the summit of one of the most beautiful mountains in the world, and you’ll have the chance to view miles and miles in every direction, from the Tasman Sea to the rest of the North Island.
The Taranaki Summit hike begins at the North Egmont Visitor Centre, and will take the better part of an entire day to complete the hike there and back. Make sure to pack along a picnic as well as more than enough water, at least 2 liters per person.
In addition, you will want to make sure the weather is appropriate for your hike. First off, because you do not want to be caught high up on the mountain in bad weather. This can be very dangerous. Secondly, you want to pay attention to weather because you want to have a great view! If the summit hike takes you into the clouds, then you won’t get the incredible view you’ll get on a clear day.
Taranaki Summit Hike Details
- Distance: 12.6 km out & back
- Time: 8-10 hours
- Trailhead: North Egmont Visitor Centre
The Veronica Loop is the final, and to be honest least exciting, of the 5 hikes on this list. However, if you are looking for a great walk through the New Zealand wilderness, offering a great view of Mount Taranaki, then the Veronica Loop is the hike for you!
The Veronica Loop has some great benefits. First off, it is at a very convenient starting point at the North Egmont Visitor Centre. Next, as the name suggest, the hike is a loop! You won’t have to turn back once you arrive, and you won’t have to duplicate any of your tracks on this hike!
Hiking is our number 1 favorite activity. You get outside, get exercise, see amazing things, and don’t spend a lot of money. It is literally the perfect activity! You do need to have the right gear to go though. Here is all the best gear we use for our hikes.
The Veronica Hike makes for a great first or last hike during your time in Taranaki and New Plymouth. If you have enough time to do all 4 of the above hikes and still are keen on hiking, then the Veronica Loop is right up your alley!
Veronica Loop Hike Details
- Distance: 3 km loop
- Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
- Trailhead: North Egmont Visitor Centre
Free Things to do in Taranaki / New Plymouth
Outside of all of the incredible hikes in Mount Taranaki, there are also heaps of free things to do in Taranaki and the New Plymouth area! Whether you have just a few days in New Plymouth, or are in the area for over a week, we have a plan for you! Heck, maybe you just need a day of free activities because you got bad weather and can’t hike Mount Taranaki until it clears up. Let’s explore New Plymouth for free!
Located on the South side of New Plymouth is a gorgeous, sprawling nature park where you can spend anywhere from an hour to half a day exploring. Pukekura Park is a gorgeous place, and we HIGHLY recommend exploring this area of town if the weather is in your favor.
In the middle of Pukekura Park is a large lake with a walkway around and over (via bridges) the entire thing. Around this lake is a cute little tea house, a forest, and the Brooklands Zoo! There are also a few jungle gyms and playgrounds interspersed in the area as well.
The final reason Pukekura Park is so awesome is the various events and activities that are going on here throughout the year! There is a full event calendar detailing fun things that may be happening at Pukekura Park (or somewhere else in New Plymouth) during your time here. While we visited, there was an incredible light show called Festival of Lights that lit up the park after dark! Pukekura Park was an awesome experience during our time in Taranaki.
The New Plymouth Coastal Walkway is a wonderful free activity that puts on display one of the most beautiful sections of coastline in New Zealand. The Coastal Walkway is, of course, right on the coast of the Tasman Sea, and is a wonderful walk that displays the natural beauty of the sea.
Along the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway are parks, cafes, and many benches on which you can sit and enjoy the view. Heck, you should even enjoy a picnic if you’d like to! Picnics can be another big money saver during your visit to New Plymouth and Mount Taranaki.
Paritutu Rock is located right on the West edge of the city, near the wharf. This is part-hike, part-climb, and offers a beautiful view of New Plymouth, the Tasman Sea, and Mount Taranaki in the distance.
Paritutu Rock is a very short hike/climb, and the view at the top is stupendous. However, the hike/climb can be a bit of a challenge. Much of the track is chain-assisted climbing, where you will be climbing up a steep track. The handholds made it much easier, and we never felt in danger while climbing, but you should know what you are doing while climbing Paritutu Rock.
If you are up for the task, then you’ll be rewarded with the gorgeous landscape views at the top. The top of Paritutu Rock is the perfect place for a picnic, as you have that gorgeous view, and don’t have to hike for hours to get there!
Who doesn’t love camping?? Getting out into the great outdoors, enjoying Mother Nature’s beauty, it is the best! We love waking up with a cup of coffee after camping by the lake under the stars. Here is all the camping gear we use and love!
Lake Rotomanu & Te Rewa Rewa Bridge
Along the Tasman Sea Coast the Waiwhakaiho River flows right past Lake Rotomanu, and makes for an excellent place to explore. There is a beautiful walkway around Lake Rotomanu, where you can enjoy the views, go for a dip, bird watch, and get some exercise!
Also along the Lake Rotomanu walkway is the Te Rewa Rewa bridge. This bridge is incredibly unique, and makes for a great photo opportunity. If you are lucky, on a clear day the Te Rewa Rewa bridge perfectly frames Mount Taranaki. If you have a clear morning or afternoon in New Plymouth, head to this bridge and see for yourself!
Puke Ariki Museum
Right in the heart of New Plymouth is an extremely interesting museum called Puke Ariki. What is so interesting about this museum? Well, first of all, it is free! That makes every activity more interesting in our opinion.
On top of the excellent price tag, the Puke Ariki is a WONDERFUL place to spend a few hours. At this museum, you can learn all about local wildlife, and the enormous animals that used to call New Zealand home. In addition, you can learn all about Maori culture in the past and present. Finally, there are awesome videos and displays of the natural landscape in the Taranaki area and how it has changed over time.
Free Camping in Taranaki
One of the most expensive aspects of visiting Taranaki, and all of New Zealand in fact, is the lodging. However, if you seek out free campsites, then you can save big bucks by camping for free! If you are interested in staying in a campervan while in New Zealand, check out our blog post on everything you need to know about living the campervan life in New Zealand!
Thank you so much for checking out this article on 9 free hikes and things to do in Taranaki and New Plymouth! If you haven’t checked out our Taranaki Youtube Video, check it out now. We know you will have the time of your life exploring this incredible place, we sure did! If you loved this article, please use the below images to Pin It to Pinterest and save it for later!
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