08 January 2015

Postcard from {Taranaki} - Tongaporutu

This place. Oh lordy. Tongaporutu is a gorgeous laid-back holiday spot at the mouth of the Tongaporutu River in northern Taranaki. There are amazing views south towards Mount Egmont/Taranaki on fine days. This first photo was taken with my iPhone which isn't very clear but the mountain is there in the distance, wearing a cloud scarf and peeking between the two rocks above.

The Three Sisters were once three vertical columns of rock standing like sentinels out into the Tasman Sea. Now there are only two of them as one collapsed several years ago and only the stump remains. The beach to them is only accessible at low tide. On our journey home from Auckland last week, I mentioned to my husband that if the children were awake/the weather was good/the tide was out, we should aim to stop here. With a solid five hour car ride behind us just to reach this spot, you can imagine what I was up against with tired children, but they were all awake at least, and I wasn't holding my breath for the planets to align with the tide.
We arrived at around 5.30pm and had a high-5 moment when we discovered that we had timed our journey well and that there were still several groups of people out navigating the shoreline, combing rock pools and walking along the beach. I've only ever had a handful of opportunities to travel this way so it was really a dream come true for me to see the sisters up close. What surprised me was seeing the number of shallow caves and a large archway worn through the high sandstone cliffs.

We spent all of our time walking along the black ironsand beach and exploring some caves on the south side of the river. There are also petroglyphs on the cave walls and on the northern side there are plenty of spots that can be explored too.
Three sisters. Profound.
There is also a lookout further north along State Highway 3 which is a great vantage point to take photos back towards the south of the cute colourful old baches nestled along the river. I mention this because I forgot to take a photo of the view so it may spare someone from making the same mistake. It makes me happy to know that there are still places like this that are largely untouched by developers, but as the baches are on council-owned leasehold land, their days may be numbered. I regret not taking a photo of them from across the river.

I am so in awe of this place. I don't bandy about this phrase but there is something much deeper to this place, something quite spiritual, and it left such an impression on me. I would have loved to have stayed much longer. As a child, we would drive this route on infrequent trips to Auckland, and I remember even as a young girl craning my neck to look out across the river mouth and the feeling that this place gave me as we drove past. I know that in Māori, Tonga means south, but I can't decipher the rest of the words. If anyone reading this can speak Māori, I'd love to know the meaning of this place name.
If you have never been to Taranaki, you really are missing out on some truly spectacular natural scenery. It is quite a detour to take if travelling from Auckland to Wellington, but I think it's worth it.

Tongaporutu. Heaven on earth.


  1. It looks magical. There is something about the sea and caves and exploring... Probably related to an excess of the Famous Five as a kid

  2. Stunning! Wish I could go there too.

  3. Your description and the photo's certainly made me feel like it was a special and moving place - stunning Leanne and glad it worked out well with the tide!

  4. It is utterly utterly beautiful!!! Stunning! If I ever make it to NZ - and you will know! - I will have to go here!! xx

  5. What a beautiful place! I have been lucky to visit Taranaki a couple of times, and the beaches are something else! This looks like a amazing place to visit!

  6. What an amazingly beautiful part of the world you live in. the detour was totally worth it, memories are made of these detours life. Will be popping back often x