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18 Places to Stop at on Taranaki’s Surf Highway 45


Any road called “Surf Highway”, is going to be one awesome highway. State Highway 45 is a 105km scenic coast road between New Plymouth and Hawera in the Taranaki region. Obviously, the surf breaks at almost every turn off are a major highlight of the touring route, but those who are not here for the surf can find other places worth investigating!

Volcanic activity has shaped a stunning coastline, such as black sand beaches backed by rugged mountains. From the highway, you can access some walks into part of the Egmont National Park. There are displays of Kiwi culture and history in the remains of Maori pa sites and sculptures that have become iconic in the Taranaki region.

So make sure Surf Highway 45 is included in your North Island backpacking trip!

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1. Lake Rotomanu

Surprisingly, the first point of interest on Surf Highway 45 between New Plymouth and Hawera is not the gnarly waves but the calm Lake Rotomanu. However, you will find people wakeboarding and waterskiing on the lake.

Location: New Plymouth

2. The Waiwhakaiho River

There are several points why the Waiwhakaiho River is worth a wander at its banks. The river mouth has surf breaks on either side, you can access the award-winning Coastal Walkway from here, and you will see the fantastic piece of art that is the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge. The bridge is shaped like a whale skeleton or a breaking wave, depending which way you want to look at it.

Location: New Plymouth
 itravelNZ® - New Zealand in your pocket™ on Flickr

3. Fitzroy Beach

Just at New Plymouth’s doorstep is an excellent mid-city surf spot. It is known for its hollow waves and is patrolled in summer if you fancy a bit of swimming.

Location: New Plymouth
 Dave Young on Flickr

4. Puke Ariki and the Wind Wand

Built on the “Hill of Chiefs” in Maori, the Puke Ariki museum and library is the best place to learn about the history and art of the region on the Surf Highway. A short walk away on the coast in the kinetic art piece called the Wind Wand, which is now an iconic landmark in New Plymouth.

Location: New Plymouth

5. Taranaki Thermal Pools

Geothermal activity deep underground heats up these pools – a perfect place to relax after a hard day’s surf or hike in the Egmont National Park.

Location: 8 Bonithon Avenue, New Plymouth

6. Paritutu rock

This huge rock formed by volcanic activity stands between the swimming beach of Ngamotu and the surf beach of Back Beach. You can climb to the top of Paritutu Rock for uninterrupted views of the coast.

Location: New Plymouth

7. Oakura Beach

This is one of the most popular beaches in the New Plymouth area, attracting swimmers, families and surfers.

Location: Oakura

8. Koru Pa

See the remnants of Maori history on what used to be a pa site (fortified area).

Location: Surrey Hill Road, Oakura

9. The kaitake Range

Even this close to the coast you can delve into the forests of the Egmont National Park. There are a few roads about 5km south of Oakura that lead to some bush walks. Turn off at Lucy’s Gully to do the Sefton Track (2 hours loop) and the Waimoku Track (4-5 hours return). Turn off at Weld Road to walk into Boars Head Mine (1h30min return).

Location: Oakura

10. SS Gairloch Shipwreck

This wreck has been a landmark for over a century. You can see what rusty parts of it still remain.

Location: Timaru Road, Oakura

11. Kumara Patch

Turn down almost any road toward the coast between Okato and Warea and you’re bound to find some great waves. Kumara Patch is known for its fast-breaking left-hand breaks.

Location: Komene Road between Okato and Warea
 Dave Young on flickr

12. Stent road

Another iconic surf beach, this time the waves are right-hand breaks into a rocky bay.

Location: Stent Road, Warea

13. Cape Egmont Lighthouse

New Zealand wouldn’t be New Zealand without a lonely lighthouse surrounded by beautiful scenery. Many of the hills you see here are the remains of ancient lahars. This is the most western point of Taranaki.

Location: Cape Road, Pungarehu

14. Normanby Dam

Have you ever heard of dam dropping? Well, you can experience it for yourself at Normanby Dam on the Waingongoro River.

Location: Normanby

15. Ohawe Beach

A scenic place to set up camp for the night! Ohawe Beach is also ideal for swimming, fishing and… you guessed it, surfing!

Location: Ohawe
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16. Opunake

This quirky little surf town is well worth stopping for. Not only for the surf, for the awesome views along the Opunake Walkway, but best also started from Opunake Beach.

Location: Opunake

17. Manaia

The smell of this little South Taranaki town will make you pull over immediately! Manaia is the “Bread Capital of New Zealand” with a huge bread factory filling the town with the smell of freshly baked bread. Picking up some dirt cheap bread and other baked goods from the factory store is an absolute must!

Location: Manaia

18. Hawera

Your Surf Highway 45 road trip ends (or begins) in Hawera. It’s a pretty large town with plenty of services to stock up for your next travels. Plus, for some great views, climb up the Hawera Water Tower. It’s only about NZ$2 to pay at the i-SITE.

Location: Hawera

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