Taranaki, on the North Island’s west coast, juts into the Tasman Sea and is half way between Auckland and Wellington.
Mount Taranaki is ever-present in this region—a huge, dramatic volcanic cone with a snowy top. The mount is a spiritual and physical force in this region. It is the source of over 50 rivers and streams, the home of many botanically unique plants, and the subject of many stories and legends. On sighting the mountain in 1642, explorer Abel Tasman said it was “the noblest hill I’ve ever seen”.
In the Maori language, Taranaki means ‘Gliding Peak’, a name that ties to the legend of how the mountain came to its location. As the story goes, Taranaki once lived with the North Island’s other great volcanoes (Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe) but was banished for falling in love with Tongariro’s wife, a smaller volcano called Pihanga. Taranaki went west towards the setting sun and carved out the Whanganui River as he went.