Opunake – Cooler in more ways than we anticipated

As anticipated before we left, we have found the ‘non-summer’ that a large part of the rest of the country has been ‘enjoying’. Unfortunately, a little quicker than we had hoped.

Our cosy little ‘Fox Cottage’ here in Opunake – BCAR (between cloud and rain

Ruth is quite happy as it provides her with a generous sprinkling of ‘down days’ where the weather stipulates that outdoor activities are a non-starter. Today is like that, wind-driven rain beating against the windows of our cosy little cottage here in Opunake.

On our way to Opunake we took time out to ride the 18km return trip along the New Plymouth coastal walkway and cycle track. I mistime the waves a couple of times and got a cooling shower of seawater.

However, I would be ‘Trumping it’ if I insisted that all days were like that. It has been dry enough to inflict enough physical activity on Ruth and also cool enough to ensure that this type of activity is going to be quite pleasant. Having a car at our disposal also means that we can mix our activities up a little.

You may say to yourselves, “where is Opunake”. Well it is pretty much as far west as you can get in the North Island. It’s most famous son is Peter Snell, the multiple Gold Medal Olympian from the 1960’s. There is a statue in the ‘CBD’ to prove it.

Opunake’s little cinema

The rest of the main street is pretty was deserted on a Friday afternoon although it does have a very cool cinema. The largest noticeable concentration of people can currently be found down at the beach-side camp site. There are two beaches, one is ‘safe’ to swim at the other is not. They refer to it as the ‘Riviera of Taranaki’. I strongly suggest that if you are used to swimming in the Mediterranean, don’t be fooled by the comparison and swim with extreme caution, like keeping the water at a maximum of knee level.

The most visible population is currently residing down at the camp below the cliff.

Mt Taranaki (Egmont to some) occasionally peers through the clouds to remind you that it is the all-dominating landmark in this part of the country.

Just before the rain arrived the low cloud cleared and the mountain showed itself

I had read about the Opunake Walk before leaving home and had it on our ‘to-explore’ list. We were pleasantly surprised. A walk of good length that meandered; along a river, beside a lake, through a cliff top garden and of course along the very boulder strewn coastline. Ruth found the usual assortment of animals to gravitate towards and we soon had an invitation to come inside and meet the horse and goats. Heather (their owner) probably thought that it would be good for her two young goats to meet a couple of old ones.

Typical coastline – the boulders come courtesy of the nearby volcano
The well maintained ‘Cliff top’ garden
Ruth making friends with a couple of locals

Taranaki is dairy farming country which means the predominant vista is pastoral land. While this may sound rather boring (unless you are a farming aficionado), if you look hard enough, there are gems to be found. There are plenty of abandoned dairy factories and we visited one that has been turned into a home and business by it’s new owner. She grows and processes lavender from the surrounding land that was also an extensive garden. The old factory provided; drying and processing areas, a shop, a large auditorium where a local farmers market was held and, during it’s down-time, it doubled as a wedding reception space. Another part of the old factory had been converted into holiday accommodation. We came away admiring (and envying) her vision and bravery.

The fresh paint was a contrast to the many other dilapidated old dairy factories
It had been a piggery until fire gutted it. The old central part of the factory was now a very pleasant courtyard for her home.
We never got to see the lavender in flower while cycling Provence – this certainly made up for that.

Ruth had the opportunity to do a little ‘ancestor hunting’, this time looking for her Danish heritage. She knew they had lived in Midhurst in Taranaki, a place that I was familiar with from my childhood days living in Stratford, about 30km ‘around the mountain’. I had remembered passing an overgrown and dilapidated grave yard while out on  one of the many bike rides that we did as kids. I told Ruth that with another 50 years ‘on the clock’ it had probably long disappeared. However, not only was it easy to find, but someone had added a memorial gate with the names of those buried. Ruth found confirmation of her connection with ‘The Naki’.

Ancestor hunting  – Naki style

I am hoping that the forecast improvement in the weather will allow us to do a hike on the mountain tomorrow. I suspect Ruth may be praying for a little more rain.

The cloud magically cleared from the mountain so I suggested to Ruth that we take the opportunity for a close up look just in case ‘normal visibility’ had returned when we did our hoped-for hike.
A rare opportunity not to be missed









    1. To around 4,000ft, but our ascent will only be 2000ft, just got back, a hard but very interesting hike. Will post pics later. I climbed to the summit in my irresponsible youth, very challenging climb, 80 people have died climbing it. Second most deadly mountain in NZ. Looks easy until you get up onto the serious stuff.


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