Walk status: On-Lead and Off-lead
A sunny day in Taranaki, and our first official adventure as New Plymouthians it seemed only right to start the adventures off with a road trip. Road tripping anywhere around Taranaki generally means views of green pastures and that glorious mountain unless you're unlucky and its a cloudy day. We jumped in the car and headed 30mins from New Plymouth to Cardiff, just 6km out of Stratford.
The Cardiff Centennial Walkway runs alongside the Waingongoro River so you can constantly hear the sound of the river running, and occasionally see it depending on what part of the walkway you're on. There is separate access to just the river if you don't want to commit to the walk, but with the lookout its worth the hike, especially on a clear day when you're guaranteed a sighting of Mt Taranaki.
The walkway was developed by members of Cardiff's Federated Farmers, so you're given the pleasure of walking some of their private land to access this walkway, otherwise it wouldn't even be possible.
From the gravel layby on Opunake Road, you can start the walk at either end (ill explain shortly), but we entered where it was clearly marked at the roadside (to the left of the main sign). The main sign talks about the volcanic eruptions so fails to give you much information about the actual walkway. There is a warning here about 1080 poison that may have made its way downstream from the work they do in the national park. Although there is no clear restriction for needing to have dogs on lead here, and google didn't seem to throw up any helpful answers either, I did have George on a lead at the start of the walk as the layby is home to some roosters. I also kept my eagle eye on him to ensure he wasn't eating anything on the way. Thankfully George tends to walk ahead of me, and stick to the path so he's easy to watch and give a nudge along if he seems to be investigating something he shouldn't be. If you have a dog whose a bit of a wanderer through bush areas, I would consider having them on a lead for their own safety.
The track starts off with some rather steeps stairs and the walkway itself is rather narrow through the bush so its one to watch your footing. Shortly after entering the walkway, you need to cross a sty to enter one of the private areas of farmland. It can feel a bit like you're trespassing, but thankfully the local farmers have put signs up to show you you're in the right place so just follow the walking men markers or the W signs to keep to the track. A short walk up the hill and you're back to another sty to cross back into the bush again.
Be warned, this walkway contains stairs and quite a few. You'll be going up and down a lot. I'm by no means fit, and I managed it, although at a pace I could manage and I probably sounded like I was dying for most of the walk but it is possible and not the worst George and I have done. I seem to have a knack for finding walks that have lots of stairs!
After re-entering the bush from the paddock you'll soon get to a swing bridge. Past experience tells me there was no way George was going to walk over that on his own. Surprisingly he actually got about a 1/4 of the way across before he realised it was swinging and then attempted to wiggle his butt backwards to get himself off it. I'm thankful he's small at these moments as I just carry him over things that he wont do himself. Although trying to carry him over this while it was swinging wasn't that easy!
At the opposite end of the swing bridge is the sign that guides you to either the lookout or carrying on with the actual walkway. Obviously the lookout was my main reason for doing this walk and after climbing all those stairs I wasn't going to give up on it. However there are more stairs to come. Anything with the name 'lookout' generally means a climb, and ive learnt that the hard way in the past so set my expectations this wouldn't be easy. It reckons a 15min return trip so 7 mins or thereabouts one way and that was probably about right and not too bad if you can handle the stairs.
At the end of the walkway you start walking alongside the farmland again following a narrow grass trail (watch for rabbit holes) and you can clearly see a little fort like lookout point that the farmers have so thoughtfully included to get the best of the view. I had hoped the cloud might have cleared by the time we reached the lookout but sadly not. Although it wasn't as heavy as it could have been. Photos don't do Mt Taranaki justice unfortunately, its something you have to see with your own eyes to appreciate its scale and presence in a reasonably flat landscape. The lookout point is fantastic and so well thought out by the farmers. On a clear day, it would give you a fantastic view of the mountain and surrounding country side.
Once you've had your fix of the mountain, head back the same way you came to the swing bridge and this time instead of crossing it, head down the pathway alongside it to continue the loop. This part of the walk was a little muddy and George was a little hesitant walking so close to the fast moving water. Definitely watch your footing around here, especially around this time of the year when things are still recovering from all the recent rain (August).
The walkway back doesn't seem as intense as the walk from the other side, although there are still a few stairs and hilly areas to climb. At one point in the walk you reach a sign that points to Water Ram. George and I went to explore it but the pathway looked more like a small river of running water than anything we were willing to walk. However we did take time to have a quick stop and admire the river from this vantage point before turning around to head back to the sign and up the hill (more stairs!) to continue the walkway.
Exiting the bush again you're back into farmland and crossing another sty. Now a word of warning, do not follow the fence line for this part! The sign on the wooden bench says to continue on the ridge, and its accurate. Do not head down the hill where it looks like the pathway goes as you'll end up having to walk back up it on the other side. Cross the first ridge until you reach the second downhill slope. You should be able to see signs and the sty again to cross back over to the walkway at the far end of the paddock.
At this point you're pretty much at the end of the walk so you have the option of turning off to visit the river or finishing the walk here. We choose to investigate the river and George was even brave enough to take a quick dip although I think he realised how cold it was a little too late. It's a lovely spot for a picnic or a quick stop over on a long drive, even if you aren't keen on the actual walk.
After exploring the river, head up the hill that looks more like a driveway. This was actually one of the worst spots for mud and there wasn't an easy option to avoid it. We had stayed reasonably clean up until that point with only one other area of the trail being a bit muddy. This driveway part of the walkway actually pops you out on the other side of the bridge on the road, so you need to turn right and cross the bridge to get back to where you would have parked. As per my earlier comment, you could start the walk at this end if you wanted but I think it would be the harder option to walk this way around. Also note that the bridge doesn't have a safe area for you to cross so watch for traffic coming down the hill and stand to the side as much as possible. Ensure your dog is on a lead too before ending the walkway as the speed limit is 100kms through here.
This walk took us around an hour all up with a few scenic stops on the way. It was 3.3kms in length which includes the lookout.
Location: 622 Opunake Road, Cardiff (or just put Cardiff Centennial Walkway into Google Maps)
Carparking is good here, there is a small gravel lay by.
Things to know:
There are no toilets here
Watch out for the roosters who have made their home here