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Exploring Egmont National Park

The 33,534-hectare (82,829-acre) area surrounding Mount Taranaki/Mount Egmont was established as Egmont National Park in 1900. Centered on the volcanic cone of Mount Taranaki, with more than 140km (87 miles) of walks and tracks, the area is made up of subalpine forest, volcanic landforms, mountain streams and waterfalls, rainforest, and alpine herb fields. There are panoramic views of Taranaki province from the summit of the mountain, which is just 30km (19 miles) from New Plymouth.

The North Egmont entrance to the park is a 25-minute drive from New Plymouth. The North Egmont Visitor Centre, 2879 Egmont Rd., Egmont Village (tel. 06/756-0990; www.doc.govt.nz), displays geologic and botanic exhibits related to the park. It's open daily in summer from 8am to 4:30pm, and late March to late September Wednesday through Sunday from 9am to 4pm; and there is a small cafe onsite. Warning: Mountain weather can be harsh and changeable; care is needed above the tree line at all times. Mount Taranaki may be pretty but it has accounted for more deaths than any other mountain in New Zealand. Always check conditions with the Department of Conservation, Stratford (tel. 06/765-5144), before a climb or hike.

Major attractions in the park include walking tracks, rock-climbing areas, delightful picnic spots, and waterfalls. The Maunganui Ski Fields (tel. 06/756-5493) are on the Stratford side of the park in the area known as East Egmont. Follow the signs off Pembroke Road in Stratford. The ski area has T-bar and rope tows, a canteen, ski patrol, and instructors. For conditions, call Snowphone (tel. 06/767-7669) or Metphone (tel. 0900/999-06; NZ$1 per minute).

Mt. Taranaki Guided Tours (tel. 027/441-7042, or 06/765-6234 after hours; www.mttaranakiguidedtours.co.nz), offers 1- to 4-day guided hiking trips up the mountain, with prices starting at NZ$350 per person. If you'd like the local Maori perspective on Mount Taranaki, seek out Taranaki Tours, 48 Buller St. (tel. 0800/886-877 in NZ, or 06/757-9888; www.taranakitours.com), whose staff will talk about the spiritual significance of the mountain and the Taranaki Maori land wars. Their 7-hour "Around Mt. Taranaki" tour costs NZ$160 per person and requires a minimum of two people. Make sure you take plenty of warm, waterproof clothing - even in summer!

Dawson Falls

Dawson Falls, off Manaia Road, Kaponga, is well worth a visit. The 17m (54-ft.) falls are just 20 minutes from the parking lot, along a safe and attractive path in the bush. The Dawson Falls Visitor Centre (tel. 027/443-0248) has a public exhibit with information on the history of the mountain and its flora and fauna. The visitor center is open in summer daily from 8:30am to 4:30pm; winter Wednesday through Sunday from 8:30am to 4:30pm. You'll also find a lodge, a waterfall lookout, many walking trails, and picnic areas. The falls are a 1-hour drive from New Plymouth. Head south on State Highway 3 to Stratford and take the signposted right-hand turn to the falls.

If you want to stay on Mount Taranaki, Rahiri Cottage, Egmont Road, Inglewood (rahiri@taranaki-bakpak.co.nz; tel. 06/756-9093; fax 06/278-6541), is a modest three-bedroom cottage set in Egmont National Park surrounded by native bush. It has two double rooms and one single room for NZ$225, and breakfast costs NZ$25 per person. Part of your rate goes toward kiwi conservation within the national park.

En Route to Wanganui

The 2 1/2-hour drive from New Plymouth to Wanganui goes through some of the best dairy farmland in New Zealand. Regardless of the time of year, the rolling landscape is generally green and lush. You'll pass through the rural towns of Inglewood, Stratford, Hawera, and Waverley before reaching Wanganui.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.