Introducing Taranaki & Whanganui
Halfway between Auckland and Wellington, Taranaki sits out on a limb in more ways than one. Somewhat off the main drag, the region relies upon the fat of the land and the natural riches offshore. Indeed, Taranaki is the Texas of New Zealand, with oil and gas streaming in from the rigs, plumping the region with an affluence and stability that’s the envy of many – if only they knew. It’s not only overseas visitors who miss the turn-off to Taranaki; lots of Kiwi travellers do, too.
This is remarkable when you consider what it is that puts the region on the map: the moody and magnetic volcanic cone of Mt Taranaki, standing smack-bang in the middle of Egmont National Park. It demands to be visited.
In the shadow of the mountain are many small towns, mostly sleepy and rural, but friendly to boot. On the eastern boundary of the province you’ll find NZ’s only republic – Whangamomona – a bushy little settlement, stranded in paradise.
New Plymouth is the bustling hub of the ‘naki (as they call it), home to the fabulous Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and an excellent provincial museum. It also has enough decent espresso to keep you wide awake: you may or may not need it, depending on how long you’re staying and how resourceful you are.
Taranaki has a glut of black-sand beaches, and the summer months see the region swell as a wave of surfers and holidaymakers hit the coast. As for the rest of the year, there’s plenty to see and places to visit – as long as you’re as laid back as the locals.