If there is one thing that represents Taranaki, it’s the mountain. It represents it in such a way that the whole region is named after it!
However, what many people don’t see, or look past, is the mountain range that begins at Taranaki and proceeds almost all the way to the coast.
The biggest extinct volcano in this range is named Pouakai, and it stands tall next to Taranaki. Although not being as much of an attraction the grand mountain next to it, it’s one of the best easy hikes in the area.
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The Pouakai stands just outside of New Plymouth city. It is reachable by a short drive from the city – around 30 minutes. If you don’t have a car (you can hire one here!), you can use the Pouakai shuttle service.
If that isn’t operating or doesn’t work for you, there is also a Taranaki Mountain Shuttle that takes visitors to the Pouakai.
The Pouakai is located in Egmont National Park. This means that it also has a few rules! Dogs and other animals are not allowed in national parks, and it’s important to remember to always pick up and remove your trash and other waste.
Further, when in national parks, make sure to stick to the paths and to not damage the nature. While many people stray from the tracks to get photos, it’s not wise. Don’t ruin the environment for a photo.
The Pouakai is a wonderful place to enjoy the nature of New Zealand. The bottom half of the extinct volcano is fully forest, with trees towering above.
The higher up that you get, the shorter the trees get and eventually there are just small alpine plants near the summit.
All in all, the Pouakai track is a great way to experience New Zealand nature and to get amazing views. All of this can be done in a relatively easy and short walk that is easily accessible!
Pouakai Summit Track
There are many different hiking paths covering Taranaki and Pouakai, however, the path to the summit is by far the most popular and the hike that I will focus on in this article.
A whole list of hikes can be found on the DOC website, and I recommend checking it out for anyone looking for a longer or more difficult hike.
However, if you are looking for a walk that can be completed in the morning or afternoon and that isn’t too difficult, look no further!
The track to the Pouakai summit is one that takes about 2-3 hours each way, depending on the speed at which you progress. The track is never overly steep, and it’s definitely one of the easier walks in the national park.
The pathway to the top is fully maintained and is almost completely wooden. You won’t be walking on the ground too much on this hike, but rather on raised wooden tracks.
This has the benefit of making the walk easier overall and also of protecting your feet and shoes from the rather large puddles that can form after rain.
Pouakai’s summit hike is possible with children. But, it may prove a challenge for families climbing with very young children (under 6 or 7).
The track doesn’t have any facilities, however, near the summit you will find a camp house that has bathrooms and a sitting area. This can be used by people hiking to the summit.
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Of course, what makes the Pouakai unique is that it is one of the few summits that can be reached within a half-day walk. While Taranaki may provide better views, the walk is substantially longer and far more difficult.
The summit of Pouakai is beautiful, and on a good day you can see all the way to the coast. On the other side, you can see Mount Taranaki looking down on you.
The best view for many people, though, is down just below the summit of Pouakai. Sitting on the low ground, about 20 minutes further walk, are the famous tarns.
Tarns are mountain lakes, and these tarns in particular are very famous as they afford some of the most stunning views in the country. If you haven’t seen the famous reflection picture, then you clearly haven’t Google image searched ‘Pouakai’.
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Hiking Back Down
From the summit you have a few choices. The choice that the vast majority of people will take is that to go straight back down the way that you came up. Unfortunately, you will have to repeat the same track on the way down.
However, there are also some other ways down which are more exciting albeit far longer. For example, some people like to cross from Pouakai to Taranaki via the marshlands between the two.
If you are really keen on hiking, you can even go from the Pouakai, down into the marshlands onto Taranaki, and then around the mountain! This walk generally takes 3 or 4 days though.
If you are looking for a short half-day hike then simply going to the summit and then back down (via the same path) is the best idea.
If you are looking for a one/two day hike, you can cross over to Taranaki and then stay at Holly Hut. From there, it’s easy to proceed down Mount Taranaki to the visitors center.
If you want an even longer walk, and want to really experience everything that the national park has to offer, why not consider a full around the mountain walk? These last the best part of a week, but make for an incredible few days in nature.
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Where to Stay
If you want to stay close to the Pouakai then you have some fantastic options to choose from. Perhaps the most convenient of which are the Pouakai Cabins.
These cabins are located just outside Egmont National Park and are right next to the entrance to the Pouakai circuit track. The location is fantastic for anyone wanting to explore the national park, and the accommodation itself is very appealing.
Of course, if you would prefer to stay on the Pouakai itself, there is always the Pouakai Hut. This hut is located about 10 minutes below the summit, and requires you to first climb the Pouakai to reach it.
If you want to do the track over two days (one day up, stay a night, and then one day down), the Pouakai Hut is the ideal location.
However, please remember that despite being a mountain hut, these must be booked in advance. Although often people will just show up expecting to be able to stay, that is no longer the case. You must book prior.
What to Bring
There really isn’t much that you need to bring on a Pouakai walk. Although you are doing a summit walk, the Pouakai isn’t like other mountain tracks in New Zealand.
Since it is so well maintained, you don’t even particularly need to bring hiking shoes. Sturdy footwear is needed, but any good pair of sneakers will suffice.
On top of this, you will want to bring warm clothing (the top is often very windy and warm clothing is a must if you want to take in the views), and waterproof clothing. If the weather forecast is predicting sunny weather all week, then there is no need to worry about this.
However, it is better to be prepared, and if there is a slight chance of rain, make sure to bring a coat.
Finally, make sure to bring any food and water that you might need. A water bottle per person is a good idea, and it’s always good to bring some snacks in case you need them.
But remember, what goes up must come down. Make sure that all of your waste comes back down with you. Don’t litter.
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Pouakai Heart of Taranaki
While Taranaki (the mountain, not the region!) often gets most of the fame, it’s far from all that symbolises Taranaki (the region!).
Taranaki has many other landmarks and aspects that define it – Pouakai, the coast, and Paritutu to name but a few.
If you want to get the true Taranaki experience make sure to look past Mount Taranaki. Sure, it’s an amazing place and you really should visit. However, make sure to not just limit your time to the mountain.
Pouakai is another area deserving of attention as it’s a wonderful place to explore the nature of New Zealand.
If you are considering whether or not to visit Pouakai let me help you. Visit it!