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6 Towns You Can’t Miss in South Taranaki

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The towns to visit on your South Taranaki Road trip!

A road trip through South Taranaki is not complete without visiting these South Taranaki towns! In one of the North Island’s most off-the-beaten-track regions, you’re likely to discover some quirky towns, hidden surf spots and a few bargains. South Taranaki covers the southern part of the Taranaki region starting from Eltham and Opunake and ending around Waverly in the south.

If you have a few days to spare in Taranaki, we recommend spending a day or two in Opunake for the walkway and even catch a movie at their luxurious community cinema. Surfers will definitely want to make Opunake their base as they find all the little surf breaks along the Surf Highway 45. Leave enough time in your South Taranaki road trip to pick up some bread and cookies in the Bread Capital of New Zealand, to visit the charming Aotea Utanganui Museum of South Taranaki, and wander the historical pioneer town of Eltham.

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1. Opunake

Not just another awesome surf town along the Surf Highway 45, Opunake is well worth spending some time in to do the Opunake Walkway. This 7km long walkway soaks up the views of coastline while visiting some historic spots. Walk around Opunake Lake teaming with birdlife, then head up the cliff tops to see some surf waves rolling in on one side with the stunning view of Mt Taranaki on the other (on a clear day).

For more information, check out 5 Walks You Can’t Miss in South Taranaki.
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2. Manaia

The Bread Capital of New Zealand! Manaia is where Yarrows, a bakery that supplies for many of New Zealand’s supermarkets and fast food chains, has their factory store. Here, you can pick up some mean bargains on bread and baked goods. They even sell unbaked cookies and croissants, so you can impress your next hostel with your amazing “baking” skills. Don’t forget to get a picture with the giant bread sign at east side of town. For more big sculptures, see 22 BIG Things in New Zealand.

Location: On the Surf Highway 45.
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3. Eltham

The first South Taranaki pit stop as you leave Stratford, Eltham is a quirky town with a lot of history. What was once a thriving town where dairy farming was first industrialised in New Zealand is now more like a ghost town. Have a look at the grand architecture where many shop windows are left abandoned, still with its vintage wears inside! You’ll also find artwork around every corner, mostly in the form of murals depicting Eltham’s past.

Location: On State Highway 3 about 10 minutes south of Stratford.
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4. Patea

You’ll soon recognise you are in Patea when you see the Maori waka (canoe) sculpture on the side of the highway in the town centre. Patea has a heavy Maori influence, including its very own Maori Club. The free-entry Aotea Utanganui Museum of South Taranaki is well worth a visit. The small museum is packed with South Taranaki’s relics of the past, from old waka found mashed up at the side of the river to fossilised whale bones.

Location: Along State Highway 3.
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5. Hawera

The main town of South Taranaki, the main attraction is the 54-metre Hawera Water Tower. This can be seen from most locations within town and you can climb the 215 steps to the top for a small fee paid to the i-SITE at the base of the tower. After you take in the panoramic views of the town, sea and Mt Taranaki, the town also holds  the acclaimed Tawhiti Museum and Traders and Whalers. This private museum holds thousands of tiny figurines to demonstrate the history of South Taranaki. For all you Elvis fans out there, there is even K.D’s Elvis Presley private museum where you need to book by phone appointment.

Location: Where the Surf Highway 45 ends and State Highway 3 begins.
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6. Kaponga

“Turn right when you reach Kaponga”. This is what you might hear a few locals say when they talk about the tiny town in South Taranaki. Just a quick detour off the Eltham Road between Eltham and Opunake will take you to the beautiful Hollard Gardens. The free-entry gardens have flowers to see all year round but are best seen in spring. Make the most of the walking tracks and the complimentary tea and coffee in the Hollard Centre.

Location: From Kaponga, turn north on Egmont Street then follow the Upper Manaia Road to Hollard Gardens.
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