Highway 45 – The Taranaki Circuit.
Another short and sweet route to piece together a motorhome rental or campervan hire adventure through New Zealand is the Taranaki Circuit on Highway 45. This is another of those routes dedicated to surf enthusiasts, but even if you don’t like getting your feet wet the stunning views and the pumping swells will make you want to have a go.
This isn’t a long route, in fact its only 181 Km, so if you didn’t stop it wouldn’t take that long at all, but that’s not what a motorhome rental or campervan hire holiday is about is it? Take a couple of days to complete this circuit and you’ll have plenty of time to walk, surf or just relax and appreciate views.
Start your journey in New Plymouth voted the ‘Best Small City in the World’, there's no need to drive today, spend time appreciating the centre with its café’s, shops, and bars. If you’re into history you can learn about Taranaki’s past at Puke Ariki, for gardener’s there’s Te Kainga Marire and Pukekura Park, and for artists the gallery of Govett-Brewster. Of course there are lots of outdoor pursuits too, head north and follow the 10Km path from the wind wand sculpture in the centre out to Bell Block, and you’ll be rewarded by some great views and great coffee at the Big Wave Café. Head south towards Port Taranaki, and get more great views, this time over the Marine Park home to the most northerly colony of grey seals. If you want to visit the seals make for Dave ‘Chaddy’ Chatfield’s retired English lifeboat and he’ll take you out there.
You day starts proper today on Highway 45. Travel the coastline down to Hawera with a stop off at Oakura where you can hire surfboards and instructors if necessary! After catching a few waves back on the road again up to the Cape Egmont lighthouse, a perfect photo opportunity of Mount Taranaki. Lunchtime already! What could be better than fish and chips on the beach at Opunake and afterwards a short drive to the Taranaki Hall of Country Music at Manaia or the traditional seaside holiday spot of Kaupokonui Beach which Taranaki families have visited for years. From here it’s no distance at all to some other popular spots such as Dawson’s Falls and Holland’s Gardens, both good places to walk.
Head south again for two great museums at Hawera, the Tawhiti Museum with its Traders & Whalers exhibition, and the Elvis Presley Museum. As you can imagine both these museums are totally different, but worth stopping off for. From here you start heading north on your loop again, so maybe find somewhere nearby to stop over? Why not try Lake Rotorangi, New Zealand’s longest man made lake. The landscape is more diverse here and the lake is nestled between the valleys. Of course there are opportunities for water sports here especially wake boarding and waterskiing.
Fresh and revitalised from a nights sleep head to Stratford named after Stratford Upon Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare. Aptly the town has the Romero and Juliet Glockenspiel Tower which plays scenes from the play four times a day. You can also take a hike up East Egmont for summer walks or winter skiing. From Stratford drive east along the ‘Forgotten Highway’ New Zealand’s oldest Maori trading route and see some incredible historical settlements, bush, wonderful scenery, and natural saddles all the way to Taumarunui.
There are four saddles along the highway, all with fantastic views over the mountains and loads of walking opportunities including the bridges to ‘Somewhere’ and Nowhere’ and spectacular waterfalls. Some of the highlights are the Mount Damper Falls, and the Tangarakau Gorge, which is reached by an unsealed road, the scenery is outstanding.
From here it’s back towards Stratford and onwards to New Plymouth to complete the circuit, but just before you return, why not indulge yourself at the Taranaki Thermal Spa at Lake Mangamahoe near Inglewood.
All these activities in just 181 Km, it seems unbelievable, and there are so many more things too on a motorhome rental or campervan hire holiday on Highway 45.