Taranaki is a treasure trove of New Zealand history reaching back over 1000 years with heritage Pa sites to explore, blockhouses from the NZ Land Wars and remnant bush reserves capturing a sense of the landscape before wholesale forest clearances. There are fascinating museums filled with stuffed animals, quirky shops in largely abandoned towns, beautifully sculptured bridges, functional industrial water towers complete with a homage to the farmer’s clothing Swanndri. Taranaki is worth a detour.
Manutahi Taxidermy Museum, extraordinary collection of animal heads at Manutahi Museum. The entire farm shed is occupied with animals forever poised to leap or fly from their perch. The prominently displayed CITES certificate on endangered species makes the polar bear exhibit acceptable. The collection’s speciality is birds. The birds are behind glass to ensure feathers and colour is maintained in pristine condition. For visitors interested there is an opportunity to view parts of the workshop and get a detailed explanation of taxidermy and its role in the scientific community. The museum is open on the weekend.
The Rewa Rewa bridge has its own Wikipedia entry which is impressive. Te Rewa Rewa Bridge is part of the well known Coastal Walkway with its sculptures and outdoor installations. The bridge connects New Plymouth with Bell Block. A historic pa is the site of a battle during the Musket Wars; the site is a burial ground Rewa Rewa. The bridge is 83m in length and the beautiful sweeping frames reflect images of breaking waves or a whale skeleton. It was designed and built by a consortium led by local company Whitaker Civil Engineering Limited and included Novare Design, CPG and Fitzroy Engineering. The bridge is a fabulous spot for photographers with Mount Taranaki as a backdrop, the entrance to the bridge or the bridge positioned to frame a sunset. And the Coastal walkway is a great way to get there, either cycling or walking from New Plymouth’s CBD.
The Swanndri Collection at Puke Ariki Museum. Swanndri has featured in an article on How to channel your inner tourist and here is a chance to visit a collection of wool felted clothing, in particular shirts. The Swanndri origins lie in Taranaki and quickie got known as the swannie. The garments are now unisex worn by practical outdoors enthsiastics to farmers and people relating to the iconic form. The clothing continues to be manufactured from kiwi wool and shrunk in a secret process. The best way to wear a Swanndri is with jandals. Purists continue to wear only the original olive green version of the long shirt.
Short walks, less than an hour is a journey through the history of New Zealand bush. The area is a remnant of native lowland bush, complete with a picturesque waterfall and relics from a period of sawmilling. Similar to Opepe Reserve (Taupo) the area has witnessed its share of military action from the New Zealand Land Wars. The name Ratapihipihi is derived from a traditional Maori hunting method. Hunters would attract kaka and other birds by sitting in a tree and making a “pihipihi” call by blowing through a leaf placed in the mouth. The birds attracted were then killed with a short club and eaten.
Hawera Water Tower was built in 1914. Hawera’s now iconic Water Tower was a defence against fires which had ravaged the townThe structure later became redundant as other, more efficient, water supplies were developed for the town. The deteriorating tower was restored in 2004 although the slight tilt remains. Currently open to visitors with the entry key obtainable for the local visitor centre. It provides a panoramic view of the town and district. Nothing like a functional building becoming a tourist attraction as well as earning its place on the historic register.
EC Dallison & Sons, Waverley is an attractive home decorating store with a sense of thrive and survive behind the doors. Trading over ninety years with the same family it is worth a visit to walk on the three worn wooden steps to enter. The Victorian facade is present in the tongue and groove ceiling lining, long wooden counters and wooden deep drawers where merchandise was stored. For shoppers it is a pleasure to purchase well known shoe brands from the store in Waverley. And you will definitely pick up some design tips.
Te Korua Pa, Oakura one of the earliest documented sites of human occupation. The earthworks, the use of river boulders and stones to fortify the banks as well as provide a base for fires, the use of underground tunnels and extensive food storage pits are very evident. A visit is one where you feel as though you are in the presence of the former occupants. The Pa was abandoned in the mid 1820’s due to tribal warfare.
A historical oddity occupies a golf course. The Manaia Blockhouse is a surviving example of a substantial, strong double layered defensive building. Between the outer and inner walls are gravel to impend bullets. Teara NZ describes, “Within the present-day Manaia golf course are the earthworks and blockhouses of the Manaia redoubt, erected by the Constabulary Field Force in 1880–81 during the military advance on Parihaka. The concrete tower is a 1912 replacement for the original wooden structure, which was known as ‘the watchtower of the plains’. The two blockhouses are the original buildings.” source, The watchtower of the plains’ – Taranaki places – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Plus check out What’s so great about Manaia, for two delightful instagram photo moments.
The Bank, Eltham another shopping favourite housed in a former bank. The small settlement of Eltham is part of the cycle of abandoned or closed main street businesses and rural depopulation however there are bright lights burning in Eltham. An eclectic collection that will gladden the heart of any shopper, check The Bank Eltham, NZ opening hours and enjoy afternoon tea (scones with dollops of cream) at the local general store. More on Eltam can be found in our Eltham guide.
Goblins walk is magic for families with imagination triggered by curved, bent and shaped trees, moss covered trunks, the sound of dripping water and the meandering path to a scenic waterfall. The prosaic name Kamahi loop track is the official destination for this place of fairy stories, Full details of the walk are available on Kamahi Loop Track: Walking and tramping in Egmont National Park, Taranaki region. The walk is less than 30 minutes encouraging even the smallest kids to explore nature.
Travel pack information
Unique journeys, personal adventures.