Taranaki is the region that surrounds Mt Taranaki, a towering snow capped volcano that sits on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Originally named Mt Egmont by Captain James Cook in 1770, the mountain is now usually referred to by its Maori name, Taranaki. The region is one of New Zealand’s largest dairy farming areas and is also home to the country’s biggest natural reserves of oil and gas. Taranaki’s wild west coast is a haven for surfers and windsurfers; it’s beaches accessible from Highway 45, the ‘Surf Highway’, which hugs the coastline.
The main centre of the region is New Plymouth, which sits on a deep water port to the north of Mt Taranaki. The city has attractive parks and gardens and a number of other attractions such as an art gallery, museum and historic buildings. It is an excellent base from which to explore the Egmont National Park, which encompasses Mt Taranaki. The National Park has a network of tracks and huts and an excellent visitors centre.
The region’s other main centres are Stratford, Opunake and Hawera. Stratford lies to the east of Mt Taranaki and was named after Shakespeare’s birthplace. It is home to the Taranaki Pioneer village which features restored and recreated buildings from the region’s past. Opunake on the southwestern coast has one of the region’s best swimming and surfing beaches. There is a picturesque walkway around its coastline and nearby lake. Hawera in the south of the region is at the heart of Taranaki’s dairy industry. Dairyland, to the south of the city is the largest dairy manufacturing site in the world. It has an excellent visitors centre and a revolving restaurant. The town is also home to Tauhiti Museum, which reflects early life in Taranaki, and to Hollard Gardens.