Curious George & Me
New Plymouth Adventure
I didn't know much about New Plymouth, aside from my stepdad living here many moons ago, it wasn't somewhere that was even on my radar to visit. It wasn't until last Christmas when George and I returned from Taupo and I decided I wanted to go off exploring again that I started looking for somewhere else to go in easy driving distance.
A year later and we finally made it. I found a great little place on Air BNB that is compact but has everything you need for a mini vacay, and a fully fenced backyard for George. You can find it on the Accommodation page.
As we were heading South, id planned to go for a walk out there somewhere first to let George burn off some steam before sitting in the car for a few hours. A walk we hadn't yet tried was Otuataua Stonefields in Mangere. Unless you'd read about it somewhere, its not something you're likely to stumble across by accident. I'll put more detail about this one in Auckland Adventures as it deserves its own page.
A blast around Stonefields (its mostly off lead) and George was ready for a nap and I was ready to start making our way to the Waikato for our next adventure. It's bloody hard finding walks you can do with dogs in the Waikato, so when I read about Lake Ngaroto, I thought it was worth a nosey and it was the perfect midway stop and a decent length to wear George out for the long drive ahead.
On a quiet gravel road in Te Awamutu, positioned at the end of Bank Road, is Lake Ngaroto. Thankfully I had read where the entrance to the walk was, otherwise you could be confused on first arrival on where you're meant to go. However on popping out the other end I realise its easy to see the start of the walk in the carpark situated at the lakefront. So either park up at the Te Awamutu Rowing Club like I did and start the walk there, or carry on down the road to the main carpark and start the walk from the other end. The walk is a complete loop of the Lake, although you can actually barely see the lake, its 6kms in total and takes between 60-90mins depending on your pace. There are helpful markers along the full route to let know how far you've walked, which is great at the start when you're enthusiastic, not so great at about the 3km mark when you realise you're still only halfway round! I was a bad parent and completely forgot to take Georges water with me. You need to take water for you and your dog, although you're walking around a lake there is no access to water - nothing that looks drinkable even for the doggies. It's very open to the elements in some places, so can be very hot. We were walking on an overcast and drizzly day and it was still really hot. This walk is on-lead and it's the perfect stopover on any trip South.
Poor George was ready to collapse after Lake Ngaroto, but that was the plan so the walk did its job. While he slept, like the sometimes awful travel companion he is, I entertained myself singing Prince's - Raspberry Beret at the top of my lungs and enjoying some of the beautiful NZ scenery. Our next planned stop was Awakino River. I wasn't really sure what to expect to find here as it was purely marked as a stopover from Google Maps due to the distance we had covered from the lake, and still had to go to get to our final destination. Turns out that Awakino is basically just a few streets of what looks like abandoned houses. We pulled off the main road at the Awakino turnoff and parked up at the end of a dead end road alongside the water. George got out to have a sniff and a run along the sand but I could see he wasn't really keen to do much more and there didn't look like there was much to see, so we were back in the car in 15 minutes and ready to get to our final destination.
After a slightly hair raising drive thanks to the petrol gauge dropping a little quicker than I thought it would through some very remote roads, we finally made it to New Plymouth and our accomodation for the night. Bring on the comfy lazyboy and a good book. I planned not to move for the rest of the evening and neither did my little companion.
According to the weather forecast we were in for an afternoon of 'drenching rain', well that didn't sound good. After a fairly lazy start to the morning, we ventured out in the drizzle to get as much adventuring in before the rain really set in. Our first stop was Lake Rotomanu, a hint from a local i'd reached out to before our arrival. They'd also mentioned a beach the locals call 'secrets beach' that we should check out.
Arriving at Lake Rotomanu, we parked up at the first carpark and walked on the left side of the lake. I kept George on a lead around here because of the cars heading to the second carpark further along, although the actual walks around the lake are off lead, but ill get to those soon. Arriving at the second carpark is also the entrance to The Coastal Walkway (note: dogs must be on lead here). Thanks to the local tip, we headed along the walkway, over Te Rewa Rewa Bridge and approx 200m or so along the walkway. On the left hand side there is a small trail through the grass and a gap in the fence which leads you up and over the sand dune onto the beach. As the local promised, it would be deserted as so few people know about it. The tide was in and the sea was rough so there wasn't a lot of beach to walk, but Georges favourite thing about going to the beach is rolling in as much sand as he can, so he got his moment of joy and a run along the beach.
Heading back to the car we walked along the other side of the lake which is the off-lead pathways for dogs. There are a few options for walks here through a few different grass trails, so just pick one that takes your fancy. You can also start on these tracks if you park at the first carpark and head right rather than left as we initially did.
The rain hadn't set in by the time we finished walking Lake Rotomanu, so I decided to pick another walk that was a bit further out of town in Inglewood. I'd read about this one on the council website as being somewhere you can walk off-lead. Pg Nops Scenic Reserve is on the corner of Mountain Road and Tawa Street. We parked up on Tawa and entered the reserve through a small pathway. I was expecting to walk through the bush area and into a open area of grass, but thats not the case here. Pg Nops Scenic Reserve is actually just a series of small paths through a bush area. Because of the rain and the trees so heavily shading the path, it was slippery here so watch your footing. Its a very short walk following a series of markers for 'Loop Track', and alongside a small stream at one point. It's a nice walk, but not worth the visit unless you're just wanting to be nosey around the area like I was. I did see lots of signs advertising the 'Windsor Walkway', although driving the streets that I could see the signs on, it wasn't clear to me where this walkway actually is as it just looked like peoples properties to me. I've since googled, and found this on a local website so if you happen to walk it, let me know what it was like! Apparently Pg Nops is accessible via the Windsor Walkway, but it wasn't obvious to me. http://www.caffewindsor.co.nz/windsor-walkway/
The rain was starting to get a little heavier now, so grabbing a quick bite to eat we headed back to the accommodation for a hot shower....and what all holidays should be about, a afternoon nap. The rain cleared around 4pm and I could actually start to see a bit of blue sky, which came as a surprise considering the weather forecast. One more walk before we had dinner and settled in for the night.
Again I picked somewhere that was a little way out of town, and hooray my first proper view of Mt Taranaki when the cloud cleared for few brief moments. How amazing is our little country and these gems that we take for granted when we live in these places. Matekai Park is located in Oakura. Accessible from either McKellar Street or Messenger Terrace. We parked up at the end of McKellar Street and entered the park here. Thanks to the rain and the trees shading the path, this track was also really slippery. There are a few different grass tracks you can take in this park, but we chose to just do the full outer loop track which probably took around 30mins or so at a lazy pace. Much like Pg Nops, I wouldn't go out of my way to visit this park but it did give me a reason to go on a scenic drive on the way back to attempt to get a better view of the mountain. Sadly the cloud had other ideas, but tomorrow the weather is meant to be better so I hold out hope for a decent photo! I didn't take any photos of Matekai Park as it was a grass path lined with bush like others we had already been on, and nothing new to show.
The sun was shining on us this morning so after breakfast we headed out to Back Beach, one the locals had told me about. Typically on the 5 minute drive it took to get there, it started raining! I stopped at the parking area on Centennial Drive, looked at how rough the weather was and thought maybe not the best place to start our walk. So I picked another destination on the map and hoped those areas of blue sky I could see would be at our next destination.
I went for a drive to the end of Centennial which eventually comes back out onto South Road and spotted a road called Barrett Road on our way back towards town. I remember on my list of places to check out there was Barrett Domain so I got the address up on Google Maps and headed in that direction. After a bit of searching for the actual entrance, we found it on Roto Street. The sun started shining, like a sign this was where we should start our adventures!
The entrance to Barrett Domain is also where the Riding for Disabled accesses the Domain so for a ex horse rider, this walk reminds you of walking quiet country roads on your horse. New Plymouth seems to be very horse friendly with quite a few of the parks advertising that horse riding is accepted. We were lucky to see a couple of horses on our walk.
We started the walk ambling along the main track, however there are many options for walks through the bush and other pathways we could have taken too. A quick chat with some friendly locals and they told me to carry on up the main track to reach the lagoon. George and I reached the lagoon and found another friendly local who suggested we tag along on their bush walk. George decided one of her dogs was his new best friend and loved having a game of chase through the bush. After leaving the lagoon and walking down one of the many bush tracks we eventually ended up back at the main track, and she pointed us in the direction of another bush walk on the opposite side which is through a Kauri Reserve. The dogs got a chance to have a paddle in the stream before we parted ways. George and I decided we would keep adventuring through the Domain as there were so many hidden pathways here. About 2 hours later we finally got back onto the main track and headed back to the car. There are so many opportunities for walks here, we could have stayed all day. Reading the NP Council website its a bit conflicting on this place and whether its on or off lead. I read that it was, according to the council website, yet the signs at the park say otherwise. Asking the locals we ran into, it sounds like most owners walk off-lead here and are just respectful of other users and put their dogs on lead when necessary.
George was ready for a nap and I was determined to get a decent photo of Mt Taranaki so I took a scenic route and drove some random roads exploring for a bit while he slept. That damn mountain is elusive! The cloud kept covering it at every possible opportunity I had to photograph it, ive since read that its quite well known for hiding itself from view. I managed to get a couple, but not the shots I was hoping for. It was now time for lunch, so in search of food I headed back towards town and a reserve named 'Audrey Gale'.
Audrey Gale is somewhere you're unlikely to just stumble across. Driving along Mangorei Road, there is a sign for Merrilands Domain which is the sports ground. What you might not see is the smaller sign next to the retirement village that says Audrey Gale reserve. The reserve is actually hidden at the bottom of the hill, so take the driveway beside the sports field and head to the bottom of the hill to find this utopia in suburbia. George and I enjoyed our ham and cheese sandwich listening to the Waiwhakaiho River before setting off to explore the area. The official dog exercise area is to the left of the park, while they encourage people with horses to ride on the right side where the toilets are located. We explored the whole area as there were only a few people down there at the time and there didn't seem to be a need to restrict ourselves to a certain spot. There is access to the water in a couple of places but it looked a bit fast moving and George isn't a big swimmer unless he's chasing sticks. I decided we wouldn't swim here, but its definitely an option as there were a few humans and dogs swimming here on the day. This reserve is off-lead and with well established trees everywhere, it was a great spot for George and I to lounge out in the shade for a bit before getting back in the car.
I decided we would take another drive out to Back Beach to see if it was worth giving it a go now the weather had improved. Its only a few minutes from where we are staying so not a big drive. George didn't seem to be too enthused about having to walk down to the beach so we sat watching the view for a bit and I ticked the tourist box by taking lots of photos before we headed home so George could have a decent nap before heading out again before dinner.
With George sufficiently rested after having a sleep in the afternoon sun, I needed to find dinner and was still trying to visit as many places as I had bookmarked as possible before we headed home tomorrow. Although we had walked some of The Coastal Walkway on our first day when visiting Lake Rotomanu, it is 11kms long in total so we'd barely seen any of it. Figuring it was only a short drive down the hill, and I could find dinner on the way home, we headed off to Ocean View Parade to park up and start the walk there. Neither of us were particularly energetic by this point, so it was a nice stroll along the waterfront just enjoying the sights. We walked a few kms before turning back towards the car. There are some lovely views down this end of the walkway so well worth a visit, even if only a short stroll like George and I did. Home time, and our final night to relax before the long drive home tomorrow.
I was determined to get my perfect shot of Mt Taranaki, so a bit of googling the night before lead me to Lake Mangamahoe. It was either a walk here in the morning, or the Te Henui Walkway that I had already bookmarked, and that the locals had told me I should definitely visit. We woke up early, and there was heavy cloud. I ummed and ahhhed about whether to drive to Lake Mangamahoe or not. In the end I decided we would chance it and hope the cloud cleared by the time we got there.
I had actually passed Lake Mangamahoe's entrance on our first day when I was driving around aimlessly exploring during the rain, but didn't then know how fabulous it was! On the way out there, I could see pockets of blue sky so I was ever hopeful. Driving in the entrance, the gravel road seems to go for miles. There are plenty of stopping points, including a special area for those with horses to park up and walk the bridle paths. We went to the very end of the road, parked up and discovered a sign that said Lake Circuit Walk, which is what we were looking for. To my delight, it also said there was a Mt Taranaki lookout just a 5 minute walk away! Note that all areas of Lake Mangamahoe are on-lead for dogs, and dogs aren't allowed within 200m of the actual lake itself. The areas that we walked you wouldn't have an issue with this rule, so just don't plan a picnic at the lakefront with your dog and you'll be fine.
We arrived at the lookout to Mt Taranaki in all its glory. The cloud had cleared, and we took the opportunity to sit on the seat and just stare at it for a while. I probably could have stayed there forever, but we needed to get a walk in before starting the long drive home. While I would have loved to have done the Lake Circuit Walk, at 1 hour and 45mins I decided we just didn't have the time, and this wasn't our big walk of the day, that was still to come in the forest. I decided we would walk the circuit walk until I found a turnaround point, or had walked for 30mins or so to make up about an hour of walking total. Heading downhill from the lookout and holy moley, there is Mt Taranaki with the lake in front. Even if you don't do any of the actual walk around the lake, you have to visit this spot just for the views. A hundred or more so snaps later, and George was getting ancy so off we went to explore the actual track.
A short distance along the track we found a sign that pointed us uphill to the Lake Circuit, or we could continue straight to the forest. Well, put the word forest in front of George and I and I know where we are heading! It was the perfect decision to head in that direction as we got to explore the forest and find a good spot to turnaround and head back to the car. I'm surprised no locals told me about this place, its amazing. The walking options are endless, as the forest trails are everywhere! If you do nothing else when visiting New Plymouth, you must visit Lake Mangamahoe. It's our favourite place of the entire trip and we only saw a small snippet of it. So we missed out on visiting the Te Henui walkway that all the locals said we should visit, so bookmark that one for your list too.
It was time to make the long drive home, and id made it even longer by deciding to detour to Pureora Forest Park which is near Taupo. The sun was shining, the music was up loud and SH3 out of New Plymouth is one of the most scenic routes ive driven on, so just enjoy the drive! If you put 5324 State Highway, Mokau, Waikato into your Google Maps before you leave NP, this will direct you to the perfect spot to let your dog take a dip, there is a parking area just off the state highway that you can stop at and access the beach from, or alternatively stop a little further along in Awakino and give them a dip in the river.
We detoured via State Highway 4 to get to Pureora Forest Park, access is via Maraeroa Road. When looking for places to explore during our trip, I enquired with multiple DOC offices trying to find national parks or forests we could walk in. Unfortunately all around the Taranaki region were completely banned to dogs, so our only positive response was from the Te Kuiti Office regarding Pureora and specifically the Timber Trail. You need a permit from DOC to walk here with your dog, but its not a complicated process. It requires a email to the Te Kuiti office requesting one, and you just need to provide them with some details about your dog and when you plan to travel there. Note: The Timber Trail is the only one here that allows dogs, although there are other walks, so stick to the signs that point to The Timber Trail only.
Pulling up, George and I could see forest to our right and both of us got a bit excited about what was about to come. It was a very long drive up to the signs that pointed us to the Timber Trail, and its gravel with some big potholes so take it slow! Eventually you get to a carpark, there are also toilets here thankfully as you're in the middle of nowhere. The entrance to the walk is very clear, signs point you in the right direction. We geared up and headed towards the forest entry. Note the signs that warn about 1080 drops. This walk is only with a DOC permit (when you have a dog with you), and also on-lead. While you might be tempted to break the rules and let your dog off-lead in here, don't risk it. George was sniffing everything in here and I was constantly paranoid he might eat something he shouldn't so you want the control, keep them on-lead.
Well I have to say we were quite disappointed with this walk! When I hear forest, I expect large dominating pine trees, like we are used to at Riverhead, and also like we saw when driving up the main driveway. This is much more native bush than it is a forest. Thats not to say its not a nice walk, but it was just not what I was expecting. If you appreciate birdlife, the history of the place and trees that have stood longer than most of us have been alive, then theres still something here for you. The Timber Trail is 84kms long, so theres no way we were walking that distance. However, you also need to be aware (not that I imagine any one will walk their dog this far!) that dogs can only go to about 45kms before it enters private land and dogs are not allowed. I was told by DOC this was the bridge, which considering I was never going to walk that far anyway, it didn't worry me. You can pick how far you want to walk, I assume the markers along the trail marked kms, as unfortunately there is no cell service here so my Map Your Dog Walk app didn't work to track our walk. We walked to the 3 marker and back, so 6kms all up and it took just over an hour in total. It's well shaded here so the perfect walk for the mid-afternoon sun. Take water, as there is none for you or the doggies.
As mentioned above, there is no cell service here so make sure you know which way you need to head when driving out prior to getting near as cell service is really patchy around this area. Time to head home, rest up and work out where our next adventure would be!
Otuataua Stonefields - Auckland
Lake Ngaroto - Te Awamutu
Awakino River - Awakino
Lake Rotomanu - New Plymouth
Pg Nops Scenic Reserve - New Plymouth
Matekai Park - New Plymouth
Backs Beach - New Plymouth
Barrett Domain - New Plymouth
Audrey Gale Reserve - New Plymouth
The Coastal Walkway - New Plymouth
Lake Mangamahoe - New Plymouth
Pureora Forest Park - Te Kuiti