Mount Taranaki; New Zealand's most perfectly formed volcano. If you haven't looked at Mount Taranaki on satellite maps, I would really encourage you to go and have a wee look! It's quite fascinating seeing the incredible symmetry of the volcano cone!
I love driving around the North Island and suddenly spotting the perfectly formed peak of Mount Taranaki peeping out. From all the way out in Tongariro to driving around the rolling farmland in New Plymouth, it's really quite magical seeing the powerful volcano everywhere. In fact I love it so much, I've decided to put together a quick blog outlining some of the spots that I think offer the best views of Mount Taranaki.
But before I get into it, I'll quickly add the typical 'mountain weather' disclaimer! Mount Taranaki tends to do its own thing more often than not, so I would really recommend checking the weather forecast before you plan on visiting the area. Of course, you need to take the forecasts with a pinch of salt as the mountain weather changes as quick as Caramilk sells out in Australia. I can't tell you how many times we have been monitoring a weather forecast, eagerly watching all the beautiful high cloud erupt in the sky and then find the sky fill with grey thick fog in the last ten minutes before sunset. You just have to take whatever you get!
Tip: when checking the forecasts, I would suggest paying attention to the fog percentages as this can really make or break the visibility. We use this forecast when planning trips to Mount Taranaki as it provides estimated percentages for different cloud types and also offers fog and wind speed. Remember high cloud is the best and typically tend to light up/fill with colour at sunrise/sunset. Low cloud often affects visibility.
Alright, fingers crossed you get some glorious weather and this blog will offer you a few good spots to visit :)
1. Pouakai Tarn
Probably no surprises that coming in at number one is the Pouakai Tarn. This is one of those beautiful beautiful spots that you can (and likely will) see endless photos of, but yet, nothing prepares you for just how beautiful it is in real life.
On a still, calm day, the tarn provides you with a perfect mirror reflection of Mount Taranaki. We have done the walk to the tarn twice now (and camped up top) and have to say that we think sunset is the best time to visit. In our opinion it is just slightly better than sunrise!
You will want to give yourself two hours to comfortably get to the tarn from the Mangorei Road Carpark. When we rushed up (with and without our packs) we took approximately 1.5 hours to get to the hut and then a further 15 minutes from there to the tarn. Two hours would be just right we think. DOC suggests 2.5 hours from the carpark to the tarn.
If you want to know more about the walk including track conditions and our photography tips for the tarn, check out our guide to the Pouakai Tarn here.
We also have a blog which details all the different accommodation options for the tarn, how busy it is (now updated May 2020) and this provides more of our overall experience. You can read this here:
Pouakai Tarn Summary
Medium difficulty (definitely walking shoes/hiking boots required but the entire track is on wooden boardwalks which makes it much easier)
Approximately 2 hours walk (one way) from parking
20-25 minutes drive from New Plymouth
Best at sunset and on calm, low wind day for reflections
2. Tongariro Alpine Crossing
This might seem a little funny listing this here, but it's such a beautiful spot and one you really need to have in the back of your mind, otherwise you might just miss it! Especially if you're walking the wrong way!
If you walk the Alpine Crossing in an South-west direction (so heading towards the Mangatepopo carpark from the alpine lakes), there is an absolutely stunning view point of Mount Taranaki on the trail (perfectly peeping out between the rocky outcrops). I would say it's approximately 90 minutes walk from the Red Crater Summit and 50 minutes walk from the Mangatepopo carpark). If you have a zoom lens, this spot becomes absolutely magic and at sunset, people will appear as silhouettes which adds a bit of interest. I would say this spot is best at sunset, but I appreciate being here in the evening can be a little difficult given the parking restrictions for Tongariro.
Our estimate at the coordinates is: -39.1413735, 175.6101207
Tongariro Alpine Crossing Summary - Taranaki Viewpoint
Medium/Hard walk (definitely require walking/hiking shoes)
Approximately 90 minutes walk from Mangatepopo car park
Approximately 50 minutes walk from the Red Crater Summit viewpoint
3.5 hours drive from New Plymouth (to Mangatepopo carpark)
Best at sunset for awesome silhouettes
3. Kent Road
See those epic road-shots of Mount Taranaki on a perfectly lined up road? Remember at the start of this blog when I said to check out Mount Taranaki on satellite maps, well in doing this, you may have noticed that there are several roads that look like they all line up perfectly with Mount Taranaki.
Our pick of all the roads is Kent Road, but we believe Arawhata street would also work well (yet to try!). Any time of the day here is beautiful, you really just want to make sure Mount Taranaki is visible!! We have come to Kent Road a few times now and on several occasions, had to wait for the cloud to move (this does tend to happen quite quickly especially if there is only a little cloud). Make sure you're willing to be patient here.
During our Kent Road visits, we have been here at sunrise and sunset and found both to be just as good as each other. Remember when you do visit, you're right by people's farms/houses and there isn't much space to pull over. We were lucky enough to pass a farmer when we arrived and asked where was best to park Vinnie. We ended up using a pull off a little way down the road but were really glad we did as there really isn't much in the way of parking here.
To be honest I'm not actually a huge fan of taking road photos, but this road is really quiet and you have good visibility of both ways from up on the hill. When we were leaving Kent Road, another couple arrived and parked right up on the hill (half in the ditch/half on the side of the road) and we saw a couple of locals driving by and honking at the car. Some even sped up in anger. Please make sure you pull off properly - the farmer said to us the most annoying/frustrating/dangerous thing is people parking half on the road.
If you want to get the exact coordinates for Kent Road and our photography tips and tricks for our road shots, click here to read our travel guide - the CJ way to Kent Road.
Kent Road Guide
Approximately 1-2 minutes walk from parking
10 minutes drive from New Plymouth
Best any time of day when Mt Taranaki is visible
4. Wilkies Pool
This is actually one of my favourite favourite spots in the entire New Plymouth/Taranaki area. And one I would still urge you to visit even if Mount Taranaki isn't visible.
On the Wilkies Pool walk, there are a series of small, crystal clear rock-pools situated at the base of Mount Taranaki, and after recent rainfall, these rock-pools are transformed into gorgeous wee waterfalls. Even if you can't see Mount Taranaki towering in the back, pack your togs and enjoy slipping and sliding in the water here. We have visited three times and had loads of fun each time. It's really a spot where even the most serious of adults can find themselves reverting back to their childish ways!
As you are at the base of Mount Taranaki (so rather quite close to it), you will see just how rapidly the weather can change. My advice would be to take your time here, as one minute the sky can be full of cloud/fog and the next, perfectly clear. It's actually quite impressive just sitting and watching the sky endlessly transform. I think the best time of day (for an epic epic shot) would be a cloudy sunset where you could use the rock-pools to get some colour reflecting in them and then have Mount Taranaki glowing in the background. Unfortunately we have yet to get this shot, (our sunsets here have always ended in Mount Taranaki disappearing into a thick blanket of fog haha) so we ended up snapping pictures the other way (see below).
To get to the Wilkies Pool from the carpark, we would suggest allowing approximately 25 minutes and wearing water shoes so you can grip/climb the rocks easily.
If you want our photography tips and tricks for our shots at Wilkies Pool click here to read our travel guide - the CJ way to Wilkies Pool
Wilkies Pool Summary
Approximately 25-30 minutes walk from parking
Water shoes are best here so you can quickly and safely make your way up and down the rocks
Approximately 55 minutes drive from New Plymouth
Best any time of day when Mt Taranaki is visible, but worth a visit even if it's not!
5. Lake Mangamahoe
I'm sure if you Google best views of Mount Taranaki, Lake Mangamahoe will be somewhere in the list. This is a super duper easy spot to get to, it probably entails just slightly more walking than Kent Street, but is still only a couple of minutes from your car!
So here's what you do. Drive to Lake Managamahoe and follow the road right until the end (the road will turn to gravel but is definitely 2WD accessible). Park in the last carpark (by the water tank) and then you have two options for viewpoints. One, you can simply walk to the listed viewpoint (which is five minutes from the carpark and signposted). While this viewpoint is nice (it is higher), we think the (second) viewpoint along the dam wall is better as you are closer to the water (and therefore have more options for reflections). To get to the dam wall you start off by walking towards the viewpoint, but at about two minutes in you will come across a T junction and rather than going right/straight (to the viewpoint) you go left and head to the dam wall. It's only another minute or so from this junction to the dam wall and once you're there you can set your camera up anywhere along the path. We think sunrise is best here and particularly on a calm day so you can make the most of the reflections.
Note with Lake Mangamahoe, the gates do lock overnight, in the Summer (approximately October to March) they close at 8:30pm and open at 7am, however when we spoke to the guard doing the evening lock up, he said the gates would be open by 5:30-6:00am. If you're worried though about the gates potentially being locked when you visit for sunrise, you can park across the road (entrance to Lake Mangamahoe) and walk the 2km in. (As this is just walking along the road around the lake, it isn't strenuous so allowing 30 should be fine). For more info on the gate hours, you can check here .
For more information on Lake Mangamahoe and our camera settings, click here to read our travel guide - the CJ way to Lake Mangamahoe.
Lake Mangamahoe Summary
Easy - jandals suitable
Approximately 2-5 minutes walk from parking
15 minutes drive from New Plymouth
Make sure you're aware of the gates potentially being locked
Best at sunrise and on a calm day so you can get reflections
Hope you found this blog helpful and if you have any questions on any of the above spots, please feel free to leave a comment below! :) Always happy to help!
Happy travels :)