Waitara and Bell Block
Waitara’s most impressive feature is the mighty Waitara River which cuts a formidable path through the heart of this historical town. Located 15km northeast of New Plymouth and home to over 6,000 people, it is the largest town in North Taranaki. The banks of the Waitara River hosted a significant battle during the Taranaki Land Wars of the 1860s which involved over 2,000 men. In present times, Waitara is now known as the energy hub of the region with the giant Methanex plant sitting on its outskirts which produces export methanol.
Bell Block sits on the fringe of New Plymouth, situated just north of the city. Named after its purchaser, Francis Dillon Bell, who bought the 15,000 acre site off local Ma-ori in 1848, the 4,000 strong beachfront residential town is now also an industrial hub for the Taranaki region.
MUST-DO EXPERIENCES INCLUDE
- Take a walk along the Waitara West Walkway which hugs the banks of the Waitara River and still features scars from the Taranaki Land Wars.
- Ride the rails from Waitara to Lepperton on the Waitara Branch Line, Taranaki’s first ever railway line. Ph 06 754 4973. www.waitararailwaypres.tripod.com
- Christmas shop early at Taranaki’s iconic The Christmas Village. Address 63 Egmont Rd, Bell Block (two minutes from Palmers Garden Centre). Ph 06 755 1934. www.thechristmasvillage.co.nz
- Clematis lovers should not pass through Waitara without visiting Yaku Nursery, with over 40 years’ experience growing clematis. Address 278 Tikorangi Rd. Ph 06 754 4500.
- Mud Bay Café is a friendly country café located in the seaside village of Urenui. Enjoy a bite in the café’s unique atmosphere, where the high pitched ceilings, wooden beams and internal timber linings exude a warm and welcoming ambience. Address 18 Ngakoti St, Urenui. Ph 06 752 3881.
- Walk over the Bertrand Road suspension bridge that crosses the Waitara River, linking Huirangi, near Lepperton and Tikorangi. The original bridge was built in 1897, and rebuilt in 1927 after damage was caused by flooding (using an adapted form of the original design).