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Taranaki New Zealand Surf Guide

New Zealand is home to thousands of unique surf breaks across its rugged coastline.

However, there might not be a better single stretch of surf than Surf Highway 45: a 65-mile highway along the Taranaki coast that passes by a seemingly endless number of high quality surf breaks. 

Situated on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, the Taranaki Peninsula is exposed to any swell from the Tasman Sea to the East.

And year round, there’s almost always a spot with surfable waves - although wind and swell conditions tend to be best in the fall and winter. 

Yes, there are sharks out there — but shark attacks are rare.

Taranaki is a stunningly beautiful place to surf, even for New Zealand.

At the center of the peninsula and visible from all around the coast is Mount Taranaki - an active stratovolcano that last erupted in 1854.

Its snow-capped cone rises intimidatingly above the landscape, a landmark that makes Taranaki one of the most beautiful places to surf on the planet. 

Mount Taranaki is not just ornamental, though. Aside from the stunning views of the mountain, large boulders, which are remnants of past eruptions dating back thousands of years, have created an abundance of volcanic reef and point breaks along the coast. 

Taranaki Surf Guide

Waves in Taranaki

Most of Taranaki is rugged, exposed, and unforgiving. It’s easy to find empty lineups along the coast, and offers the opportunity to explore brand new spots, along the many farm-roads branching off the surf highway. 

But its main appeal is the abundance of barreling point and reef breaks that make it possible to score year-round.

However, many different levels of swell exposure along the peninsula mean it’s usually possible to find a wave that’s the right size for you. And, there are also a good mix of soft beach breaks with more forgiving waves for learners. 

The best conditions for waves are usually in the early fall through winter - from February to October, although summer can have solid days as well.

Surf Culture in Taranaki

Surf culture in the Taranaki region is best described as laid back - far from any large cities, you’ll rarely find yourself in a crowded lineup.

But, if you do, pay respect to the locals, as Taranaki has exploded in popularity in recent years.

Further, many surf spots are only accessible via private land, so make sure to get permission if you spot a particularly nice wave off the highway. 

Gear Needed to Surf in Taranaki

Taranaki has so many unique breaks, suitable for all different types of surfboards, and for surfers of all levels.

Really, it depends on the types of waves you want to surf. If you’re looking to build your skills at one of Taranaki’s forgiving beach breaks, you would be best off with a longboard or fish.

But for the dozens of reefs and points along the coast, a shortboard would be best, especially when it’s firing. 

As for your wetsuit, Taranaki can be reasonably cold in the winter (which is when the waves are best).

You’ll need a 4/3 wetsuit, and if you want to be comfortable, I’d recommend booties as well. In the summer, though, you can get away with just boardshorts on the warmest days (though you might want to bring a thin summer suit just in case). 

The Best Surf Spots in Taranaki

Spot 1: New Plymouth - Back Beach 

New Plymouth, the largest city in the Taranaki region is located along the northern coast of the peninsula, and just north of Mount Taranaki. It's also home to two of the more popular surfing breaks in Taranaki - Back Beach, and Fitzroy Beach. 

Back Beach is a picturesque black sand beach break on the west end of New Plymouth, offering three main peaks, with consistent lefts, rights, and A-frames. It’s best at around chest to head high with a NE wind - although it handles a range of wind directions - from SE to NE. 

Back Beach is home to constantly shifting sand bars, so it rarely stays the same and can be unpredictable at times. However, the waves are top quality - powerful and

punchy, and when it’s at its best, Back Beach offers long peeling walls of water with the occasional barrel section. 

It is also exposed to the most swell in the Taranaki region - which is great during the summer months, when many other breaks nearby are usually too small to surf at all. 

And while Back Beach is certainly best suited for experienced surfers when it gets above chest to head high, it is definitely suitable for all levels of surfers, especially during the summer. But watch out for swimmers and other surfers during the summer months, as it can get crowded. 

Spot 2: New Plymouth - Fitzroy Beach 

If Back Beach is too big (which is often the case in the winter), Fitzroy Beach, on the east side of New Plymouth, can be a solid alternative.

Fitzroy is a semi-exposed beach break, offering hollow barrels with near-vertical drop-ins when it’s on. It also entertains a variety of wave sizes - it’s generally smaller on the east end of the beach, perfect for those who are just learning. And, it’s surfable in almost any conditions and in all seasons. 

Fitzroy works on all tides, but it’s usually best at high tide, and with a solid swell of at least chest high. Look for a W/NW swell and a SE wind. When it’s bigger, though, Fitzroy should be left to experts and the New Plymouth locals who frequent this break. 

Given that Fitzroy and Back Beach are so close to New Plymouth, it’s no surprise that they get pretty crowded when they’re firing.

If navigating crowded breaks isn’t your thing, consider a quick trip down the coast on Surf Highway 45. You’ll find dozens of pristine breaks - and even on the best days, if you search hard enough, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding an empty lineup. 

Spot 3: Kumera Patch 

One such spot down the coast is Kumera Patch - a perfect left handed wave that breaks off of a volcanic boulder point. Kumera Patch is about half an hour down SurfHighway 45 from New Plymouth, and is rarely as crowded as the New Plymouth breaks. 

Kumera Patch breaks just north of the Hangatahua River, and is easy to miss if you don’t know exactly where to look. Just past Ōkato, turn down Kaihihi Road towards the coast. Once you reach the beach, walk for about 15 minutes to the left to access the point. 

But the reward is certainly worth the trek. If the conditions are right, you’ll be greeted by a perfect left-hand wave that breaks off of a boulder point.

It gets pretty hollow too, with a few quick barrel sections. 

Kumera Patch is not a forgiving wave.

It’s powerful enough on its own, but when you factor in submerged rocks and the fact that the wave breaks on boulders, it’s easy to see why Kumeras is best suited for intermediate to expert level surfers. 

The wave is best from chest high, and it can even hold waves up to double overhead plus in the right conditions. Look for a significant SW/W swell and S/SE wind. 

Pay your respects to the locals, who have been surfing this wave long before it gained notoriety, and you’ll be set to have a great time. 

Spot 4: Graveyards 

Despite its intimidating name, Graveyards boasts a consistent reef break that produces some of the best surf in Taranaki and New Zealand.

Just a few minutes further down the coast from Kumera Patch, you can find surfable waves here year-round. 

Graveyards is best known for its long left-breaking wave, although it boasts a quick right hander as well. Look for a significant SW swell - chest to double overhead, and SE winds.

At low tide, the wave can be fast, punchy, and hollow.

But Graveyards can be suitable for all levels, especially when it’s smaller.

But with size, it’s best left to advanced surfers, who will have a better time navigating the many submerged rocks that pose hazards to you and your board. 

Spot 5: Stent Road

Just five minutes further down the coast from Graveyards is another epic spot, Stent Road. Exposed to the west, Stent Road is home to a rocky reef and right hand point break that works through all tides.

The point is especially impressive - when it’s on, expect a bowl section at takeoff, and a subsequent wall of water that stretches down the horizon. It’s truly a world class wave. 

Stent Road can hold significant swell with the right conditions (2x overhead plus), so look for a significant W swell and E/SE winds. However, when it’s pumping, it does get pretty crowded compared to its neighbors. But as long as you respect the locals and understand the lineup, you should be just fine. 

Regardless, there are dozens of world-class breaks just minutes away - so don’t worry about having to fight for waves. 

What To Do In Taranaki When the Waves Are Flat

You’ll rarely find a day without surf in Taranaki. But if that’s the case, you can’t miss Egmont National Park - home to Mount Taranaki.

Consider doing the Pouakai Crossing - an epic full-day hike that traverses the lower slopes of Mount Taranaki. You’ll enjoy stunning views of the mountain, diverse terrain, and a unique volcanic landscape. 

But if you’re hoping to relax, visit one of Taranaki’s world-famous gardens. Walk through winding pathways of lush native vegetation, and keep a keen eye out for some stunning native birds. 

The Bottom Line: Surfing in the Taranaki

If you ever find yourself in Taranaki, consider yourself lucky - there might not be a region with a better concentration of quality breaks and consistent swell in all of New Zealand.

Whether you are a beginner, expert, or even a non surfer, Surf Highway 45 is the pinnacle of New Zealand surfing - 65 miles of picturesque driving, with hundreds of unique breaks along the coast just waiting to be explored.


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