Sunrise at Paritutū Rock. © Skyview Photography

Taranaki Kiwi Gems


A hidden waterfall, a breathtaking rock climb, a serene lake, a nomadic lighthouse and a luge – just some of these 10 Kiwi Gems you'll find in Taranaki.

Elvis Presley Museum

Hāwera, yes, Hāwera – the small Taranaki town best known for its dairy farming – is testament to a long and rather extreme obsession. To call KD an Elvis fan is a wild understatement. He’s been besotted since childhood and has collected everything Elvis since 1959, creating a tribute to the King in his suburban garage. Everything Elvis: records, covers, photographs, ties, outfits, mugs, glasses, books… from floor to ceiling. But his Elvis Presley Museum is not a mess, it’s organised, fascinating and impressive. And incredibly, he’s more than happy to share the passion. If you’re keen to visit the museum call ahead; KD will welcome you, telling stories relating to each treasure, honouring his hero and keeping the magic alive.

Lake Mangamāhoe

One of the best places to take in the beauty of Mount Taranaki is from Lake Mangamāhoe, nestled at the base of the dormant volcano near Egmont Village, 10 kilometres south of New Plymouth. The 262-hectare lake and surrounding forest isn’t just a pretty sight; the lake itself provides all the drinking water for New Plymouth, so boating, swimming, horse riding and camping in the immediate vicinity of the lake are prohibited. The lake itself was created in 1932 when a dam was built, submerging 79 acres. There’s rainbow trout in the lake that you can catch by fly fishing, but you will need to pre-organise a fishing licence. There’s a dedicated five-kilometre bridle trail, as well as a six-kilometre circuit walk around the lake that takes around two hours. There are two trail options in the circuit; be forewarned as the undulating ascents and descents require a decent level of fitness. You’ll be able to see a small collection of redwood trees planted in 1931 – not quite as high at their 100-metre Californian cousins yet, but impressive nonetheless. There are also purpose-built downhill and cross-country mountain biking trails accessed via Plantation Road, just south of the lake's main entrance. 


For a small town, Whangamōmona is packed with personality. This is a town that’s had both a goat and a dog serve as president (residents declared Whangamōmona a republic after local council planned to split it into two districts: Taranaki and Manawatū-Whanganui). Every couple of years, this independence is celebrated on Republic Day where visitors come to partake in extreme sports such as sheep racing, gumboot throwing and whip cracking. It’s certainly off the beaten track on the aptly named Forgotten World Highway and refuelling at the historic Whangamōmona pub and hotel is a must. Gumboots lay scattered outside its wooden doors; the parking metre outside jokingly reads ‘no time limit.’ But make sure you document your time by having your passport stamped with the town’s own bespoke inked impression.

Cape Egmont Lighthouse

Cape Egmont Lighthouse has had a nomadic life. First erected in 1865 on Mana Island near Cook Strait, it was often confused with the Pencarrow Lighthouse, so was dismantled and taken to Cape Egmont in 1877. First lit at its new site at Pungarehu, the westernmost point of Taranaki in August 1881, the Cape Egmont Lighthouse was initially protected by armed constabulary as the land wars raged through the region. The light was electrified in 1951 and eventually automated, with no need for a lighthouse keeper, in 1986. 

Stratford Clock Tower

As the small Taranaki town of Stratford shares its name with Shakespeare’s birth and resting place, it’s not surprising that the playwright’s influence can be felt here. The most noticeable attraction is the black and white glockenspiel clock tower in the centre of town that performs scenes from Romeo and Juliet four times each day. Wooden figures made by Nigel Ogle from the famous Tawhiti Museum in Hāwera emerge from the doors of the tower accompanied by lines from the famous play and Elizabethan music. The best place to watch is from the footpath along Broadway across the road from the tower. Stratford also has 67 streets named after Shakespearian plays and characters, including Montague Grove, Capulet Place and Hamlet Street. 

Hillsborough Holden Museum

Did you know that Taranaki has a luge? Just 15 minutes’ drive from New Plymouth you’ll find the Hillsborough Holden Museum, which has evolved from being a seriously impressive collection of classic cars to include enough attractions for a great day out. Think an onsite mini golf course based on the classic Mount Panorama race track at Bathurst, and now the 240-metre-long, family-friendly luge track. The museum itself is testament to owners Steve and Joy Fabish’s passion for Holdens, with a collection ranging from immaculate classics to gleaming late-model vehicles. You’ll also fid memorabilia to browse through and an onsite café. The Hillsborough Holden Museum, Mini Putt and Luge is open on weekends. 

Fenton Street Arts Collective

New Plymouth is renowned for its creative vibes, with the world-renowned Govett Brewster Gallery and Len Lye Centre taking centre stage. But there’s art to be found on the outskirts of New Plymouth, too. Visit the Fenton Street Arts Collective, an art gallery-cum-café-cum-gin-distillery in Stratford, opened in 2018 by artist Jo Stallard and her husband Stuart Greenhill. Here, you can enjoy local art, grab a bite to eat and and sample a trio of local gins – named The Artist, The Novelist and The Poet – at the same time. Housed in the Egmont Chambers building, the Fenton Street Arts Collective also sells a range of crafty and creative wares from local artisans.  


They call it a 'rock,’ which is bit of a misnomer for this giant craggy outcrop on the New Plymouth coastline. Sitting between the black sands of Back Beach and Ngāmotu Beach is the 156-metre-high Paritutū Rock, a short, steep, exhilarating climb that rewards the brave with outstanding views over the Taranaki region. Good footwear is advised – do not attempt this climb in jandals, because as you get higher, it gets scarier. For the last section of the 15-minute clamber you’ll be hauling yourself up almost vertical rock using chains. Paritutū was originally occupied by local Māori who flattened the top to make shelters and storage pits. Today, this level viewing platform allows you to absorb the 360º vistas over the ocean punctuated by Ngāmotu, the Sugar Loaf Islands and north to the mountains in Tongariro National Park. 

Mount Damper Falls

Mount Damper Falls, at 74m, is the fourth highest waterfall in the North Island. In the Waitaanga Conservation Area near Urenui in North Taranaki, take a short, easy walk through farmland and bush, following the creek to reach the two viewing platforms. While you can’t get down to the base of the falls, you can observe the picturesque waterfall tumbling over pale rocky cliffs into the Mount Damper stream. Be aware that as the track crosses private pasture there may be seasonal closures until the end of October each year for lambing. 

Jam Roll Bay

This delightfully named gem is found just north of Tongapōrutu on the Taranaki coast. This is a real off-the-map spot and it's an intrepid adventure to reach the rugged beach, including a steep, slippery scramble down a cliff. The ‘jam roll’ is a unique rolled rock created by an ancient undersea landslide, with waves causing layers of soft mudstone to curve over on themselves forming the layered pattern resembling a jam roll. The coast here is also home to similarly layered sea stacks, kororā little blue penguins and a lush waterfall that pours straight onto the beach. The beach is only accessible during low tide, otherwise it disappears under the wild surf that reaches the base of the cliffs.  

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