We’re off to a renowned farming region with a special mountain… once commonly known as Mount Egmont, named by Captain Cook after the Earl of Egmont. And a mountain described by him as of a prodigious height, with a peak covered with everlasting snow. An especially fitting description, given its first and now widely used Maori name - Taranaki, Mount Taranaki - meaning… shining peak. And how right that is.
The legend of the mountain
Taranaki, and its beautiful mountain, is equidistant from many other New Zealand centres, and just about the furthest west you can go in the central parts of our North Island.
Legend tells us that Taranaki was forced to flee from its cohorts in the centre of the North Island - Mounts Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngaruahoe, following a desperate battle for the only female, Mount Pihanga. It’s a battle Taranaki ultimately lost to Mount Tongariro (who stands today protectively over this smaller mountain), and so explaining Taranaki’s western outpost, almost exiled to the edge of the coastline.
And, on the days you can see it, the mountain’s ever so peaky peak is like a lighthouse signalling the dramatic coastline nearby.
On the road we go…
It’s an easy flight from wherever you are to New Plymouth, but the drive is a rewarding one, if checking out a bit of New Zealand outside of the main centres is on your to do list. Your journey will take in picture perfect views of farmland and animals, deep gorges and rock formations, lush native bush, New Zealand’s dramatic western coastline, a number of our rural townships, and perhaps a few wee wild goats dancing along as they graze tricky terrain.
You’ll find yourself entering whitebait country, and there’s some wonderful rural cafes and artisans along the way that are well worth a stop.
Love New Plymouth!
Taranaki’s city is New Plymouth, named after the city from where the first English settlers migrated. And time in New Plymouth offers visitors much more than just views of a wonderful mountain (and short walks, or long hikes, if you feel like getting up nice and close).
The city lays claim to a number of attractions… There’s the mirrored magnificence of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. There’s a beautiful coastal walkway and cycleway, dotted with art installations and the Te Rewa Rewa bridge, its ribs yielding to the prevailing wind and on clear days perfectly framing Mount Taranaki on the inland view. There’s Pukekura Park, a premier garden of national signficance right in the heart of the city, and there’s more besides.
You’ll find some striking creativity in this region, but there’s a strong sense of it sitting harmoniously alongside its agricultural roots. And there’s no doubting it makes for the perfect blend, when you’re seeking out wonderful food artisans and cafes.
Look out for famous coffee, cocoa, bakeries, chocolatiers, honey merchants working with local bees, raw milk vendors, organic local produce, free range duck eggs, butchers stocked with locally farmed grass raised beef, fishmongers with fresh local small boat catches… and, if you’re after ready to eat options, there are some truly fabulous local cafes with eat in or to go food that tick all the boxes.
There’s no doubt about it, the road trip getting there is good, and finding what’s on offer once you arrive is super. Thanks so much Taranaki, you’re definitely well worth the drive.
As a testament to the rural backbone of this region, at the end of a long day on the road, a simple burger with some of Taranaki’s Angus beef hits the spot. Click here for more on that. But, if you take home any of their famous local coffee, think about our tiramisu-inspired coffee dessert idea (click here). And perhaps there’s no going past some of that local whitebait (what a treat!) - you’ve entered whitebait country after all - click here to see our whitebait ceviche idea.
And for more...
For more on what to find and enjoy on Taranaki travels, explore food treasures on our North Island Food Travel Guide app - click here. You’ll find all those delightful cafes and artisan producers, and a whole lot more….