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The Surf Highway, or Highway 45, runs around the "bump" of the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand, from New Plymouth in the north, to Hawera in the south. Or vice versa as we did. Leaving from Stratford, we had to distract Ferhad Junior as we drove past the Taranaki Pioneer Village, or he would have wanted to stop there again.
Distracting a young giraffe who surfs when you are heading to the Surf Highway is not difficult! He was pouring over maps as our human raced us past the village, staying within the speed limit, of course. Our car, Kahlan (a white 1988 VW Honda Civic, yes really!) beeps incessantly at us if we go over the speed limit. She is a good law abiding car.
The entire drive takes about an hour and a half. But when you have a young giraffe who wants to catch some waves at every classic break along the way, it takes much longer. If you have a surfer in your group, plan to spend the entire day driving this 105km stretch of road!
Our first stop was Hawera, where we visited the iconic Hawera Water Tower. The Tower was built from 1912 - 1914 (making it 100 when we visited) and underwent a $1.1 million restoration project in 2002 - 2004. The views from the top are stunning, and well worth the 215 steps you have to climb to get there. And we all earned a certificate to say we conquered it!
Continuing our drive around the Surf Highway 45, we stopped off to pay our respects at the Ohawe Military Cemetary. As Ferhad Junior said, "War is horrible, but this is a pretty good rest spot for the soldiers. Not that that makes it okay, but, well, sort of, just a little bit less sad."
The things you see in the countryside! Aren't these just the BEST EVER letterboxes??? We forget where they were exactly - somewhere south of Manaia, I think.
Manaia itself is the, errr, bread capital of New Zealand. A shame our human has coeliac disease! (Can you see all four of us in the photo?) The town was pretty, though, with some lovely historic buildings, and we all cried buckets at the memorial statue to Valiant George.
Just on the outskirts of Manaia (ha ha ha - "outskirts" - there are only 927 humans living there) is the Taranaki Country Music Hall of Fame. Now, none of us are really in to country music, but THIS PLACE IS AWESOME! It's a private museum, run by Ian and Helen Braithwaite, and Helen gave us a private tour for about an hour. (Anyone can have a private tour.) Not only do they have a great collection of photos and other country stuff, they also have an awesome collection of old farming tools. Well worth a visit.
Our next stop was Opunake, probably the most well know surf break on the Surf Highway 45. Opunake also has some pretty kick ass murals, some funky old buildings, a hand made soap factory, and, of course, a great beach. The surf wasn't huge, but Ferhad Junior managed to catch a few waves there.
Heading towards Oakura now, and we drove past a groovy old dairy factory, before turning down Lower Timaru Road, driving right to the end, and then through someone's farm. Folks sure are friendly down in Taranaki! The drive was cordoned off with a bit of tape, with a note that said "Drive on through but please replace tape." It stops the cows walking through. Silly cows. We were very proud of Kahlan - that was so totes a 4WD track, and she is so totes NOT a 4WD vehicle!
Once we got to the end of the road we parked up and walked along the beach to the left for a goodly way. Our human moaned all the way about her sore ankle. Actually, we all felt a bit guilty after we came home. We all thought she'd sprained it, but she went for an ultrasound after our trip and discovered she had torn two ligaments. No wonder she whinged all the way to ... THE SHIPWRECK!!! Yes, a genuine, real, shipwreck, the SS Gairloch ran aground on the rocks at 11.40pm on the dark, moonless night of 5 January 1903. Thankfully, all the crew managed to get ashore safely.
Our final stop on the Surf Highway 45 was New Plymouth, but we'll post those photos on the Puke Ariki page. Which are almost all of the surf exhibition at the museum as Ferhad Junior stayed there so long we ran out of time to see muchmore of the museum before it closed for the day.
Five Fun Facts about the Surf Highway 45
- No matter what the swell or wind direction, it's almost always offshore somewhere along the Surf Highway.
- One of the best mid-city surf spots in the world, Fitzroy Beach is renowned for hollow waves.
- The community of Oakura has grown to boast a lively events and arts scene, good restaurants, and the world's biggest surfboard.
- The legendary Kumara Patch is a fast-breaking left hander that peels for 150m along a boulder bank,.
- The Cape Egmont Lighthouse is located at the end of Cape Road, and marks the western-most point of the Taranaki coastline.
Learn more about the Surf Highway 45
Venture Taranaki page about the Surf Highway 45
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