In the Maori language, Taranaki means ‘Gliding Peak’, a name that ties to the legend of how the mountain came to its location. As the story goes, Taranaki once lived with the North Island’s other great volcanoes (Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe) but was banished for falling in love with Tongariro’s wife, a smaller volcano called Pihanga. After a battle between Taranaki and Tongariro, Taranaki decided to flee west towards the setting sun and carved out the Whanganui River as he went.
Mount Taranaki is a huge, dramatic volcanic cone with a snowy top. The mount is a spiritual and physical force in this region. It is the source of over 50 rivers and streams, the home of many botanically unique plants, and the subject of many stories and legends. On sighting the mountain in 1642, explorer Abel Tasman said it was “the noblest hill I’ve ever seen”.
Taranaki is a coastal and mountainous region on the western side of New Zealand’s North Island juts into the Tasman Sea and is half way between Auckland and Wellington.
The Egmont National Park encompasses the mountain and the land around it. Hiking is the thing to do here. Lush rainforest covers the foothills of the mountain, but the landscape changes the higher you go—from tall rimu and kamahi trees at lower altitudes through dense subalpine shrubs to an alpine herb field with some plants unique to the park.
The forest on Mount Taranaki’s middle slopes is sometimes known as ‘Goblin Forest’ because of the gnarled shape of the trees and the thick swathes of trailing moss. In winter, Mount Taranaki becomes a place to ski.
The area around the sunny city of New Plymouth is well-known for its black sand surfing beaches and glorious parks and gardens, particularly the dazzling array of rhododendrons and azaleas on display in spring. Many magnificent private gardens are open for public viewing year round.
In contrast with its outdoorsy lifestyle, New Plymouth has an artsy side—it’s home to the acclaimed Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Zealand’s only contemporary art museum with a permanent collection.