Mount Taranaki is New Zealand's most perfectly formed volcano. It is around 120,000 years old and last erupted in 1775 and volcanologists agree that the mountain is 'dormant' rather than extinct. Often described as ‘New Zealand’s most climbed mountain’, Mt Taranaki provides non-mountaineers with an achievable summit challenge.
At lower altitudes you'll walk through tall rimu and kamahi trees; higher up the volcano, sub-alpine shrubs and herbfields are found above the snow line. Lush rainforests can be found on the mountain’s slopes and are a result of the area’s high rainfall and mild coastal climate.
The walking track network in this national park is extensive, ranging from a 15 minute stroll along the Kamahi Track to the three-day Pouakai Circuit. There's a veritable maze of tracks around the Dawson Falls area, including the walk to Wilkies Pools, a series of eroded rock pools connected with gentle waterfalls.
Taranaki is linked by legend to the mountains of the central North Island. As the story goes, Taranaki once lived with the other volcanoes of the central plateau - Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. When he made flirtatious advances towards a pretty hill named Pihanga, Tongariro erupted in a jealous fury. Taranaki fled to the west, gouging out the Whanganui River on his way. Today Taranaki is still venerated and its summit is sacred to the Maori people of the area.
There are three entry points to the park - Manaia Road, Egmont Road and Pembroke Road.
The Carrington Walkway is a looped urban bush walk encompassing native bush into which European and American species have been introduced. Along the walkway discover some impressive views of Mt Taranaki which rises 2,518 metres (8,260 feet) and dominates the western.
Start at the Malone Gates located on the corner of Fenton and Portia streets. These white marble gates were erected in 1923 as a tribute to Lieutenant Colonel William George Malone, who was killed after successfully leading the Wellington Battalion in an attack on the Turks at Chunuk Bair on 8 August 1915. Follow the signage from here.
This section provides a choice of routes, which adds interest for those doing the round trip or subsequent walks. Stratford’s climate and soil provides ideal conditions for growing. Visit the McCullough Rhododendron Dell in spring. Formed in the 1960s, these gardens contain several hundred rhododendrons and include some propagated from seed sent from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland as well as some from Lord Rothchild’s gardens in England.
The landscaped garden
Tūpare is a premier landscaped garden with a unique homestead, originally developed by Sir Russell Matthews and his family from 1932.
Sculpted from a hillside overlooking the Waiwhakaiho River, the plantings and landscapes remain true to its heritage. As you walk the winding paths cut into the hillside, you’ll find stately trees, deciduous maples, copper beeches and dawn redwoods, as well as a stunning collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, and hydrangeas that were all carefully planted by Sir Russell.
The river flat
The river flat retains an idyllic pastoral feeling with simple plantings of specimen trees, complemented by the movement of the wind and water.
Here you will find free gas barbecues and picnic areas, popular with summer visitors who can also enjoy a swim in the Waiwhakaiho River.
The Chapman-Taylor house
Tūpare’s distinctive Chapman-Taylor designed house is a great example of the Arts & Crafts style of architecture.
The Friends of Tūpare host free public tours at 11am on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from October to March. Group tours at other times can be organised on request.
The Riverside School
The Riverside School is a study unit developed by the Taranaki Regional Council outlining the activities available for teachers and classes visiting Tūpare.
The nine activity options include walks, studies focusing on trees and birdlife, and a stream study.
The Waitara valley has a rich and sheltered history, with the countryside scattered with evidence of fortifications reflecting a period of human occupation over many hundreds of years.
With European settlement in North Taranaki occurring from 1841, conflict began to arise over the colonists attempt to gain land for cultivation. This culminated in the first Taranaki War in 1860/61. The town (then known as Raleigh) came into being, with borough status achieved in 1904 when the name reverted to Waitara.
At 74m high the falls are one of the highest in the North Island and have become a “must see” for travellers. Nestled in the northern Taranaki forests just off the Forgotten World Highway.
The track has a firm user-friendly surface that suits a range of footwear and caters for all types of walkers.
Climb the stair stile by the car park and walk over the formed track beside the creek. The first ten minutes is quite a smooth walk over open farmland. A wheelchair or stroller could be pushed but it may be a little bumpy.
Cross a steel beamed bridge into a lowland forest represented with rimu, tawa, silver beech, rewarewa and manuka.
Meander your way along an evenly graded benched metal track. Along the way you will see the junction to the Mt Damper Track - do not take that track unless you want an 8-hour walk.
From the first viewing platform you will get a view of the falls and valley. The track descends, gradually at first and then down some stairs, to the second viewing platform.
This one offers a closer look at the falls and the plunge pool at the bottom. Return to the car park the same way.
Banner Photo Credit: Flickr - Kathrin & Stefan Marks