Home > The Road Trips > Taranaki - Wellington

Taranaki - Wellington

Manawatu region is a big drawcard for people who enjoy the outdoors, there's a strong emphasis on rural lifestyle and an exciting choice of outdoor adventures await. Journey through New Plymouth, known for it's events and gardens; the historic river city of Whanganui; the dazzling Kapiti Coast, and on to the capital city of Wellington with its culture and cafes.

Taranaki to Wellington
Total Distance 385 Km
Approx driving time 5 hours
Today New Plymouth17°

Starting out in New Plymouth, this road trip kicks off in the shadow of Mt Taranaki. As you head south you'll encounter the Taranaki Aviation Transport and Technology Museum, opposite picturesque Lake Mangamahoe, which offers spectacular picnic spots and a variety of forest walks. The museum houses a vast array of agricultural, printing and maritime machinery, aircraft, telecommunications and military equipment. Many of these artefacts are in full working order.

A left turn will take you up the Forgotten World Highway to the Republic of Whangamomona and on to the Central Plateau.

Just up the road is Egmont Village; turn off here to visit the North Egmont Visitor Centre and on a clear day get great photos of Mt Taranaki's postcard-quality summit. If you've got kids to entertain, or you're still a kid at heart, check out the Fun Ho! National Toy Museum for classic Kiwi toys in Inglewood.


Heading south from Inglewood, the road passes through prime dairying country to Shakespearean namesake Stratford, where a left turn will take you up the Forgotten World Highway to the Republic of Whangamomona and on to the Central Plateau, and a right turn will lead to the Stratford Mountain House and Mt Taranaki's Manganui Ski Area. Not to be missed just south of Stratford is the Taranaki Pioneer Village. This outdoor museum showcases life in a pioneering Taranaki town, complete with cottages, businesses and a fascinating hospital museum.

Hawera: Tawhiti Museum

Whanganui's Riverboat Centre

Palmerston North: New Zealand Rugby Museum

Wellington's Zealandia- New Zealand's ultimate nature experience

New Plymouth Coastal Walkway is an award-winning 11km walkway that stretches almost the entire length of New Plymouth, and gives visitors a close-up experience of the Tasman Sea.

Visit the Tawhiti Museum in Hawera if you're after a taste of Kiwi-style 'Madame Tussauds'. This is a must-see for locals and visitors alike.

The iconic Cable Car transports passengers on a short, but steep journey to the top of the Wellington Botanic Gardens where you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the harbour.

Camping Country

Every nook and cranny hides a camping spot

In the days before easy air travel, summer camping was a national past...

Mount Taranaki

From mountain snow to surf in a day

It sits majestically and picture-perfect in the centre of this region,...

Whanganui National Park

Home of the Whanganui River

Cloaked in dense rainforest, Whanganui National Park has one of the la...

Kapiti Island

Flora and fauna sanctuaries

Have you ever had a kaka steal a biscuit, or a weka scurrying for crum...

Te Papa

New Zealand's national museum in Wellington

The last thing you'd expect a country's national museum to encourage y...

If you carry on straight ahead, you'll pass through Eltham, home to a great cheese factory (with attached cheese shop) and eclectic op-shops. A left turn from SH3 will take you out to the stunning Rotokare Scenic Reserve, a protected environment complete with lake, wetlands, forest, walkways and an abundance of native species.


Just down the road is Hawera, the bustling centre of South Taranaki and where you will find the renowned Tawhiti Museum, Taranaki's premier heritage attraction. Winner of seven separate Tourism Awards, its super-realistic, life-size figures and scale-model displays are simply stunning. Adjacent to Tawhiti Museum is the remarkable 'Traders & Whalers', where you'll be taken on a dark ride back in time. Another of South Taranaki's icons is the Hawera Water Tower. Its 215 steps can be climbed for an incredible 360-degree view over the district.

Driving further southeast brings you to Patea, home of the Patea Maori Club, famous for its number-one hit 'Poi E'. Also here is Aotea Utanganui - Museum of South Taranaki, and if you're keen on learning more about the history of this region, stopping here is a must.

Next stop is Waverley, Taranaki's southern town and home to a rich and varied history. In the Moeawatea Valley, 40km inland from Waverley, is the cottage of famous New Zealand writer and educator Rewi Alley; the cottage is a Category II Historic Place.


Back on the road and heading south, you'll soon find yourself in the charming and historic river city of Whanganui, resting near the sea on the banks of the renowned Whanganui River. Early Maori settlers flocked to the region, and today it still provides a home for tangata whenua (people of the land). The Whanganui Regional Museum has one of the country's finest collections of Maori ancestral treasures and houses a Maori Court and traditional waka (canoes). A highlight of any trip to Whanganui is a visit to the Chronicle Glass Studio and Sarjeant Gallery, one of the most beautiful buildings in Whanganui, with an extensive collection of contemporary art and touring exhibitions.

Pottery studios and private gardens, lavender farms with handcrafted cosmetics classes, cookery schools, and handmade basketry boutiques, mosaic makers and seaside cafes.

The green-fingered will be impressed with the city's generous collection of public gardens: Moutoa Gardens, Bason Botanic Gardens, Glenlogie Rose Gardens and Bushy Park Scenic Reserve and Homestead are popular attractions.

Don't miss the Durie Hill Elevator, the only earthbound elevator in New Zealand. Take the pedestrian tunnel that leads 205metres inside the hill and then ride the elevator, 66 metres to the top of the hill. The climb to the top of the nearby Durie Hill War Memorial Tower will reward with spectacular views.

Inside the historical Whanganui Riverboat Centre you will find a fascinating display on the history of the riverboat era on the Whanganui River. You can also take a leisurely cruise aboard the Waimarie, New Zealand's last operating paddle steamer.

From Whanganui continue along the route to Palmerston North via Bulls and Feilding.


Bulls is an unforget-a-Bull town like no udder. Their museum is memor-a-bull and visit-a-bull and their Information Centre is very inform-a-bull. The town boasts several eat-a-bull places, a number of antique stores, all afford-a-bull and collect-a-bull.

Having won New Zealand's Farmers Market of the Year two years in a row, Feilding offers exquisite parks, well-kept gardens and preserved Edwardian heritage buildings, all adding up to a very appealing town to visit.

Palmerston North

Palmerston North ('Palmy') is a vibrant, cosmopolitan university city. The large town square provides a base for exploring the shopping district, a heritage theatre, the New Zealand Rugby Museum, and Te Manawa - a museum, gallery and science centre all rolled into one. Take a drive up the winding scenic roads to the Te Apiti Wind Farm Lookout where you can take in the views and stand under a wind turbine with its huge 35-metre blades.

The moody west coast beaches at Himatangi, Waikawa, Hokio, Waitarere and Foxton provide a dramatic backdrop to the roaring ocean and untamed beachscape. You can also spend some time exploring the windmill and mix of old and new at Foxton, the Manawatu's first settlement. The dune lakes of Horowhenua and Papaitonga, near Levin, are rich in Maori history.

Kapiti Coast

The Kapiti Coast has something in store for every type of road tripper. Motoring enthusiasts won't want to miss out on the Southwards Car Museum, while trampers have a treat in store with the native bush walks in the Hemi Matanga Scenic Reserve.

Kapiti Island is an internationally renowned bird, wildlife, forest and marine sanctuary located off the Kapiti Coast. The island is home to endangered native species of birds including takahe, kokako, the little spotted kiwi, and kakariki. Visitor numbers are restricted and a permit to land on the island has to be obtained from the Department of Conservation.

This route boasts pottery studios and private gardens, lavender farms with handcrafted cosmetics classes, cookery schools, and handmade basketry boutiques, mosaic makers and seaside cafes - stop in and try everything; you'll be glad you did!


Further south and just 20 minutes north of Wellington City, Porirua is the proud home of Pataka Art and Museum. It also boasts great shopping with its 12-hectare Mega Centre, North City Shopping Centre, shopping under the canopies and the vibrant Saturday morning market.

Your final destination, Wellington, is New Zealand's capital city and thoroughly deserves its distinguished title. This diverse hotspot really does have it all - loads of annual events, history, wine and food and a reputation for the best nightlife are all integral features of Wellington's make-up.

As well as being the political capital, Wellington is dubbed the creative and cultural capital of New Zealand. This city is jam-packed with intriguing art galleries, interesting museums (including the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) and theatres, as well as great dining options. Did you know there are more cafes and restaurants per head in Wellington than in New York City?

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If you're a fan of rafting then Rangitikei River is sure to exhilarate; its majestic canyons with boulder-strewn gorges of violent white-water won't disappoint.

Well known for its heart-pumping white-water rafting, the Rangitikei peaks with its grade 5 rapids, which are found just east of Taihape and Pukeokahu, where the water descends through a maze of boulders in a spectacular canyon.

This free-flowing river combines world-class rafting with amazing scenery and provides a serious test for mind and body. But there are several companies, with experienced guides, that will ensure you have a safe and memorable trip.

Whether you wish to be out on the water for several hours or several days, the Rangitikei River is a must for rafting.

It's often described as one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world and it transports about a million passengers a year. Take the 92km Interislander ferry trip between Wellington and Picton and see for yourself why this three-hour trip is considered one of New Zealand's most iconic tourist activities.

From the wide decks of the ferry, take in the spectacular views of Wellington harbour, the wide expanse of the Cook Strait, and the majestic vistas of Queen Charlotte Sound. You may even be lucky enough to catch sight of a dolphin or three as you cruise along.

As well as offering some fantastic views of the great outdoors, Interislander has plenty to keep you entertained indoors as well. You can catch a new release movie in the on-board cinema and, for the kids, Interislander's children's play area will keep them amused for - well - the whole voyage.

Interislander has three ferries, Arahura, Kaitaki and Aratere. With over 5000 sailings each year, there will always be a crossing that fits in with your schedule. Go on; get on board!

After a busy day sightseeing, kick back and enjoy one of Wellington's superb restaurants or cafes - after all, there are more eateries per capita here than in New York City. The range includes everything from elegant fine dining and top-quality ethnic restaurants to funky laid-back cafes and takeaway joints. The Courtenay Place and Cuba St areas are constantly abuzz with a fine collection of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, theatres and cinemas. Oriental Parade, with its expensive-looking homes clustered on or above it, gives magnificent views of Wellington and its harbour. You can indulge in one of the nearby restaurants here too.

Some cafes and restaurants worth checking out in Wellington include:

Fidel's Cafe, Cuba St. It's known as a Cuba Street institution, and with eclectic Cuban decor, a relaxed vibe and impressive food it's not hard to see why. The milkshakes alone make this cafe a must-visit.

The White House, Oriental Parade. This restaurant is fine dining at its best. Its elegant dishes are always impressive, and chef Paul Hoather is among the best in the country. The fantastic view over Oriental Bay adds to the appeal.

Duke Carvell's, Swan Lane. A tapas-style restaurant offering culinary gems of the Mediterranean, Duke Carvell's is great for sharing a social meal with friends. Plus, the service is consistently fantastic.

Wake magazine has described it as "possibly New Zealand's greatest wakeboarding location", and they're not wrong. They describe a wakeboarder or water-skier's dream: "miles and miles of glass, not a house or boat in sight and big steep hills with intricate rocky cliff faces plummeting from lush big green expanses of land on both sides protecting the glassy water in the valleys".

Lake Rotorangi, the longest man-made lake in New Zealand at 46km, is a serenely beautiful location in a forgotten world and perfect for water sports. About an hour inland from Hawera, this lake is more like a wide stretch of long, uninterrupted river. And that means long, uninterrupted rides - so long as you don't bail!

With plenty of space and distance to practice all your dips, flips and tricks, Lake Rotorangi is not only the perfect playground but also the ultimate training ground for wakeboarders and water-skiers alike who want to get some solid time on the water and improve their skills.

The Wellington Writers' Walk earns its spot as one of the AA's 101 Must-Do's For Kiwis; it's the perfect self-guided tour for those with a taste for well-chosen words and phrases, and a passion for the capital city.

The waterfront path will take you on a journey of the mind and the senses as it pairs harbour views with text sculptures of poems that resonate with the essence of the city.

Cast in stone are quotes from the pens and keyboards of 19 distinguished and accomplished writers who, at some point in their lives, have called Wellington home.

They include literary greats such as Katherine Mansfield, Robin Hyde, Denis Glover, Bruce Mason and Vincent O'Sullivan.

Look out for the sculpture of James K Baxter's poetry, which appears to float on the surface of the Te Papa pool.

You can't help but be inspired by the images these literary gems evoke.

A 225ha valley of regenerating forest and wetlands with only the sounds of native birds - it's hard to believe Zealandia: The Karori Sanctuary Experience is just a 10-minute drive from the Wellington city centre.

The sanctuary is surrounded by a predator-proof fence and has more than 30km of walking tracks, so there's ample opportunity to spot endangered animals: birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Among these are tuatara, kiwi, hihi, saddleback, geckos and giant weta.

You can take an independent look around the sanctuary but it's well worth paying a bit extra for a guided tour. Not only are the guides loaded with entertaining information, their thorough knowledge of bird species and their calls add to the enjoyment.

Alternatively, stroll around independently, using signposted information and displays. To enhance the visit, check the kaka-feeding times.

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