In Maori legend Mount Taranaki once stood next to the central mountains of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapahu but, in a battle between the mountain gods over the seductive Mount Pihanga, moved west and was entrapped by the local Pouaki Ranges. This volcanic peak is now the prominent feature of the western North Island, a striking symmetrical protrusion out of the surrounding lowland, and nearly constantly topped with snow, ensuring that it remains as intriguing today as it always has been. The flanks of the mountain are covered in native bush and provide a haven for wildlife and walkers alike, with a six-mile radius of National Park providing a buffer from the heavily farmed agricultural land around it.
The two main towns in this region are New Plymouth to the north and Hawera to the south, both largely service towns to the rural population of the region. However, New Plymouth has over time carved itself a reputation as a centre for the arts and there is more than a generous handful of arts, design and cultural galleries around the town, along with some interesting installations created by perhaps New Plymouth’s most famous artist, Len Lye. Alongside this you will find pretty parks and botanical gardens whilst further afield the wild and sweeping coastline is dotted with good surf beaches and remote homesteads. Taranaki isn’t high on everyone’s wish list to visit but it has the wonderful, unassuming appeal of being an area largely oblivious to its charm.