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Surf Highway 45: Taranaki things to do

Are you ready for fun? Gravel roads lead to quiet beaches where the pounding surf is a place of joy. Surf Highway 45 runs parallel to the sea with small towns offering entertainment away from the beach. Together with the myriad attractions of Taranaki and its regional centre New Plymouth it is a year round treat for the dedicated surfer to wander the surf highway. The magic starts with Mt Taranaki as a key ingredient in blocking or funnelling wind creating atmospheric pressure on the ocean. The Taranaki peninsula adds to the mix creating the land of offshores and a consistent swell inviting surfers to sample the beaches strung along the surf highway.

Several days to a week
Several nights

Trip Overview

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Consistent year round surfing conditions
  • Plenty to do and see regardless of weather conditions
  • Small hospitable towns guardians of beach culture
  • You are never far from the next break
  • The pounding ocean is always in the rear window
  • Lots of activities for non-surfers
Start Either New Plymouth or Hawera
Finish Either New Plymouth or Hawera

BEST TIME TO GO

Any time is great: sunshine for the scenery and surfing. Winter storm power is exhilarating and there is plenty to do indoors if you want. Winter clouds might shut down vistas of Mt Taranaki, but there’s still plenty to see along the highway and back around the coast to New Plymouth.

Start Either New Plymouth or Hawera
Finish Either New Plymouth or Hawera

Route map

Oakura, New Plymouth, Okato, Opunake, Hawera, Etham, Stratford, Inglewood

Oakura

@Oakura Village Taranaki
@Oakura Village Taranaki

One of the world’s biggest surfboards graces the entrance to Vertigo surf shop and sets the laid back beach vibe for a summer favourite destination in Taranaki. Hire a board from Vertigo and hit the beach, the waves and buy a burger from one of the many pop up foodie trucks in town. The town has an interesting art trail, a shipwreck and is satisfying close to the urban heart of New Plymouth for a night on the town.

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New Plymouth

Aerial view on a beautiful bridge across a small stream with Mount Taranaki on the background. New Zealand

Next on the surf highway is New Plymouth. New Plymouth is a great year round destination with indoor activities for the cooler months. Cultural attractions are world class with innovative architecture featuring on many holiday photos. Together with stunning contemporary outdoor sculptural representations of New Plymouth past and present the visitor is spoiled for choice where to go and what to do. New Plymouth offers the visitor a comfortable hub for exploring Taranaki from the iconic Mount Taranaki to regional towns and settlements with their quirky personalities.

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Okato

Hempton Hall, Ōkato, New Zealand @Phillip Capper
Hempton Hall, Ōkato @Phillip Capper

Next the surf highway leads to Okato. Okato is the surfing destination with the Kumera Patch, Graveyard and Rockies as calling cards for the initiated to wax the boards and find the breaks. Want to explore further, there is a fascinating detective trail for botanists interested in the blue rata tree to find and observe the tree in its natural setting. The Hangatuhua Stony River is a local secret favourite swimming spot to enjoy.

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Opunake

Opunake, New Zealand @windows_down_photo
Opunake @windows_down_photo

Surf Highway is about families and kids with Opunake the drawcard. Surfers will want to stop at Stent Road with the reputation of a consistent right-hand wave over a shallow reef. Other nearby surf spots include Green Meadows, Arawhata Road, Dumps and Mungas.

Families and kids enjoy Opunake as a classic summer beach destination. Murals welcome visitors creating a sense of colour and the glorious art deco community owned cinema is a study in cuteness with classic movie stars, Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe front row pinups.

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Manaia

Manaia bread sculpture @Little Peppe
Manaia bread sculpture @Little Peppe

Manaia is another surf town and Manaia is home to one of New Zealand’s largest bread factories with the town motto, ‘Bread Capital.’ Mana is where you hear the beat at the Country Music Museum, take a selfie with an enormous bread sculpture and read the story of George, a heroic Jack Russell dog.

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Why travel the surf highway?

Ahu Ahu beach surfing, New Zealand @Jeff Sutton
Ahu Ahu beach surfing @Jeff Sutton

Action, wetsuits and skill are on display for the non-surfer and surfer alike. The road has a laid back beachy vibe with a lick of town sophistication New Plymouth style. The perfect combination of town, country and beach is appealing to all holiday makers. Surfers will know all about Kumera Patch, Stent Rd and Rocky Point yet stop for a coffee, check the quirky and unusual and enjoy the highway.

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