Anybody who’s watched Lord of the Rings can see New Zealand knows mountains. Some are famous on the tourist trail like Mount Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom), or Roys Peak, others are only appreciated by locals, domestic tourists and the odd international visitor, like Mount Taranaki (also called Mount Egmont) found on the west coast of the North Island.
Photographing Mt Taranaki free of cloud is all about luck, so allow yourself a few days in the region to catch a clear day. We see our fair share of rain here, so while summer may offer up more chances at clearer days, the Mountain always looks better with a dusting of snow (June to October).
In this guide I’ve offered several options on where in the region you could go and how difficult it is to reach (some require a long drive or hike – but are well worth the effort).
So where could you go to capture Mt Taranaki’s good side?
Lake Mangamahoe – easy
A short drive south from the town of New Plymouth along Junction road will bring you to Lake Mangamahoe (just look for a sign pointing off the highway). Drive right around to the far side of the lake to photograph Mt Taranaki over the lake – or take a short 15 minute walk up to the lookout.
Te Rewa Rewa Bridge – easy
A pedestrian bridge that crosses the Waiwhakaiho River that represents both a whalebone and a breaking wave. Drive through Fitzroy and follow the sign for the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge.
Mokau – easy
A great photograph all the way from Mokau (80 kms away) requires a very clear day but if you’re driving into Taranaki from the north, this will likely be your first sighting of the Mountain.
From on the Mountain – easy
There are a few options from on the mountain to photograph – one is from the North Egmont visitor centre (take Egmont Rd south from Egmont village) this is where you’ll go if you plan to climb the mountain. Another is from the East Visitor centre on Manaia Road which has hikes to Dawson Falls and the Mountain Lodge. The last is from the Ski Field carpark on Pembroke Road (pictured above).
Three Sisters and the Elephant Rock – moderate
This is a little tricky because not only do you need a clear day for this shot – you’ll need to time the tides right because Tongaporutu Beach is blocked by high tides. I haven’t managed this shot yet, but it’s been on my to-do list for a while. To get here, head north from New Plymouth and keep an eye out for a Three Sisters signpost between Mount Messenger and Mokau.
White cliff walkway – moderate
A decent 40-minute hike to the top of these lush green hills, the white cliff walkway can offer a really gorgeous shot of the mountain and surrounding fields and farms – unfortunately I didn’t actually get any shots with Mt Taranaki in them – he sits just slightly left of this shot here (sigh). Drive north along Highway 3 (Mokau Road) and turn off at Mimi town (just past Mike’s Brewery) onto Pukearuhe Road – follow to the end.
South Taranaki - moderate
If you’re looking for rural shots of Mount Taranaki, you’ll want to head south of the Mountain (like the town of Kaponga) and drive around until you see a shot you like. If you need to pull off the road, try and find as quiet a street as you can manage and park as far off the road as you can. If you want, you can approach one of the farms in the area and ask if you can photograph on their land, they usually won’t mind.
Pouakai Tarns – very difficult
This involves a two-hour uphill staircase climb up to Pouakai hut on the ranges, from there an extra twenty minutes past the hut will bring you down into the marshes and you’ll eventually see the lake pond. It really is so much smaller than it looks in the photographs (but that’s between us). For a great shot, you want a clear day so the wind won’t disturb the reflection of the Mountain in the water. To get there, drive down Mangorei Road from New Plymouth all the way to the end of the road, once there you’ll see the track entrance.
Mount Taranaki is a fickle beast to capture – the weather can change within an hour or two and planning ahead can be pointless, just be ready to head out with your camera on any morning you wake to find the sky clear. Sometimes locals can go for days without seeing even the silhouette of the mountain because it’s completely masked by cloud. In which case, you might just have to return to Taranaki another time!
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