Mount Taranaki has to be one of the most photogenic locations in New Zealand’s North Island, with tourists and photographers alike searching for the best photographer vantage spots every year. Thankfully, there are many beautiful lookouts over Taranaki. And, when the mountain hides behind the clouds, there are many more fun things to do in nearby New Plymouth besides photography.
From hiking in North Egmont National Park to checking out the nearby coastal roads, and visiting the rainy day attractions in New Plymouth, there is so much to do here. So while it’s definitely best to give yourself enough time in the area so you don’t have to neglect these fun activities, I’m focusing the majority of this post on the best lookout points and views over Taranaki.
Why? Because Taranaki is such a unique mountain. She has the perfect triangular mountain shape and is striking against the horizon. I mean, the mountain emoji is basically Taranaki itself (or else Japan’s Mt Fuji, which is constantly noted in the area due to its resemblance to New Zealand’s version).
NORTH EGMONT VISITOR CENTRE
After arriving at North Egmont Visitor Centre, the photo on the left was around a 15-minute upward walk from the car park.
To find this beautiful view of the mountain, my friend and I followed the signs for ‘Holly Hut Track’. We also passed the ‘Ambury Monument’ on the way.
Many of the hikes signposted are full-day or multiday tracks, so just following the track for the first 30-minutes or so is a great option if time is limited. We actually walked a little further than this photo, but the camera battery ran out so you will have to take my word for it.
The beautiful photo looking over the clouds was also taken at this location.
LAKE MANGAMAHOE LOOKOUT
Once you arrive at the Lake Mangamahoe entrance, follow the road around the lake until you reach the car park at the end of the road. From here, you will see the signpost to the ‘Lake Mangamahoe lookout’, photographed below.
I love this gorgeous view of Mount Taranaki looming over the lake!
THE VIEW FROM LAKE MANGAMAHOE DAM
However, the most famous photography location at Lake Mangamahoe is probably this one, which on a clear day sees the mountain reflected over the lake.
This photo is taken from the dam. When you arrive at the car park mentioned above, you will see signs for both the Lake Mangamahoe lookout (above) or the dam (below). They are both just a few minutes from each other.
As you can see, Taranaki was hiding behind the clouds during this sunrise, but the pink sky definitely put on a show
Don’t forget to take some time to enjoy the relaxing walk around the lake itself. You’re sure to see locals taking time to soak up the relaxing atmosphere during their morning jog.
If you’ve seen a ‘road shot’ of Taranaki on Instagram, it was probably taken on Kent Road!
There’s not one ‘perfect’ spot on Kent Road to get your shot, leading to a great variety of photos among the different people who visit here.
The road itself is pretty quiet, without too many drivers, so it’s safe to take photos here. That said, obviously, take care to look out for cars and move out their way when you see cars approaching.
Drive further along Kent Road or take a walk through the rolling countryside below Taranaki to find a more unique vantage point of Taranaki. Yes, Kent Road creates a spectacularly ‘instagrammable’ image, but why stop there?
Take your time to explore the roads and pathways beneath the mountain so you can make the most of enjoying beautiful Taranaki! Sit back with a flask of hot chocolate in the Winter and watch the sunset or take advantage of golden hour and grab your camera.
Perhaps the most famous photography spot in Taranaki, this is where the ‘reflection shot’ of the mountain can be taken.
You’ll have to get lucky with the weather – not only is the mountain often completely covered by clouds, but the tiniest amount of wind will also create too many ripples on the lake* to get your own perfect Taranaki reflection photo.
*I say lake, but it’s really more of a cute lil pond.
That said, I still think this hike is astoundingly beautiful, whether or not you’re interested in taking photos here.
I actually found the hike up to Pouakai Tarn pretty boring… the trek begins with an hour of steep steps surrounded by trees and bushes before you get to any views. But once you reach the boardwalk, the views are wonderful. You can also look down to New Plymouth on a clear day.
The tarns are magical. Locally they are known as ‘Ruahumoko’ after the kaitiaki (guardian) ancestors who protects the sacred water.
WILKIES POOLS (NEAR DAWSON’S FALLS)
With the Nelson’s Falls hike being one of the most popular things to do in New Plymouth, it’s a bonus that you can also see Taranaki from Wilkies Pools on a clear day.
Enjoy both the pools and the 18m waterfall during a visit to Dawson Falls Visitor Centre. From here you can park up and choose from an assortment of beautiful hikes. The 3.7km ‘Dawsons Falls and WIlkies Pool loop’ is a great choice if you want to make the best of both natural attractions.
CAPE EGMONT LIGHTHOUSE
At the Westernmost point of the Taranaki region lies Cape Egmont Lighthouse. This beautiful structure was built in London in the mid-1800s and shipped to New Zealand.
Aside from providing a great view of Mount Taranaki, the lighthouse also makes a great spot for a drive along Surf Highway 45. Not one to miss for fans of coastal scenery!
TE REWA REWA BRIDGE
This central spot is popular with photographers staying in New Plymouth. While it’s not one of my personal favourite views in the Taranaki region, I understand why the mix of ancient mountains and modern engineering makes for a unique visual.
MORE PHOTO SPOTS IN NEW PLYMOUTH
THE GOVETT-BREWSTER ART GALLERY
This contemporary art museum opened in 1970 after architect Terry Boon converted an old cinema building into this unique structure below.
THE SHIPWRECK, NEW PLYMOUTH BEACHES AND BOARDWALK
Also in New Plymouth, popular photography spots include the SS Gairloch Wreck, Back Beach including the lookout from Paritutu, and various other spots along the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway. There are many beautiful beaches here but nothing beats ambling down the boardwalk on a sunny day
THE WHITECLIFFS WALKWAY
While the full walkway is 11km (one-way), you can still enjoy the countryside and gorgeous views over the white cliffs if you’re limited for time. Just park up at the beginning and soon the white cliffs will be in your eye line.
THREE SISTERS AND ELEPHANT ROCK
Another of the most popular photo spots in the region are the Three Sisters and Elephant Rock. These stunning rock formations are actually an hour drive from New Plymouth, so many people (including me) drop by on their way to or from Auckland.
If you want to photograph the rock formations reflected on the beach, check times in advance so you visit at low tide. If visiting at high tide, head up to the Three Sisters Lookout point. On a super clear day, you can even see Taranaki in the background! But alas, in the stormy weather I had that, I was grateful for a quick last look over this beautiful region for huddling back to the warm rental car.
AUCKLAND TO TARANAKI ROAD TRIPS
I live in Auckland and, although I’m dyspraxic and cannot drive, I was lucky enough to visit Taranaki because my friend Yanti drove us down from Auckland! She was able to fly in from Sydney in between lockdowns, and I currently live and work in Auckland.
If you’re driving from Auckland to Taranaki, you may want to split up the five-hour drive by enjoying some of the other gorgeous spots on the way.
Below are one day, two day, and multi-day Auckland to Taranaki road trip options to choose from.
ONE AND TWO DAY AUCKLAND ROAD TRIPS
Two hours into the drive from Auckland, you’ll pass Hamilton. This makes a good place to stop for a break and you can visit the famous Hamilton Gardens at the same time. No matter which route you take, you’ll almost always pass Hamilton. From here you can take a detour to Bridal Veil Falls, or continue towards Taranaki.
The quickest route doesn’t pass too far from Wollemi Glowworm Caves, so this is a great activity to split up the route. Yanti and I also took a detour to XXX Waterfall.
Fastest AUCKLAND – TARANAKI road trip (one day)
– WOLLEMI CAVES
– THREE SISTERS AND ELEPHANT ROCK
– HAMILTON GARDENS
– MAROKOPA FALLS
You could also split this route over two days to fit in all the activities or do one route on the way there and the other on the way back (which is what Yanti and I did).
MULTIDAY AUCKLAND – TARANAKI NORTH ISLAND ROAD TRIP
To get back to Auckland from Taranaki, you can take a flight to New Plymouth or choose one of the alternate one/two-day road trip options above.
Hi, I’m Cassie, and I’ve been solo travelling the globe since May 2018. In this time, I’ve backpacked around Southeast Asia, Japan and The Balkans, alongside spending a year living in Australia. Currently isolating in New Zealand.