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Mount Taranaki is without a doubt one of the most impressive natural landscapes in New Zealand. This huge free-standing volcano is truly beautiful and can be viewed from afar. In fact, from the town of New Plymouth and the surrounding area, the views of Mount Taranaki are spectacular.
However, in recent times, one viewpoint has become somewhat famous however still not well known. That viewpoint is from the Pouakai Tarns, just past the Pouakai Hut. In my opinion and many others, it’s from this hut (or actually just past it) you get the best view of Mount Taranaki!
This amazing view is all thanks to a tarn or alpine lake commonly called Mount Taranaki Lake (its actual name is the Pouakai Tarn.) On a calm day, the tarn gives a perfect reflection of Mount Taranaki. Seeing this for yourself is easily one of the best things to do in New Zealand.
This reflection photo has become famous on social media (that’s actually how I found out about it) meaning more people and less room at the hut.
For that reason, I decided to write a complete guide not only on how to get the perfect photo, but also about staying in the Pouakai Hut as well as getting there!
Hiking to the Pouakai Hut and Tarn
The Pouakai Hut is actually part of the three-day Pouakai Circuit in Egmont National Park. This circuit loops around Mount Taranaki. However, it’s not necessary to hike the circuit to get to the Pouakai Hut. Instead, you can hike for two hours to the hut from the carpark on Mangorei Road, stay the night at the hut, and hike back down the next day.
Of course, this can also be done all in one day since it only involves around 4 hours of walking. However, staying overnight in such a beautiful place is definitely a must-do in my opinion!
The start of the trail is about a 20-minute drive from the center of New Plymouth. To get there, simply head to Mangorei Road and follow it right to the end. Here, there is a very large car park.
The start of the trail is around 100 meters up the road from the car park. This trail is sometimes referred to as Mangorei Track and you can find it marked on Google Maps as such.
The hike to the hut is mostly uphill and is around 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) long with around 700 meters (2,297 feet) of elevation gain. It is an out and back trail, so you’ll hike back on the same trail as you did on the way there.
The Pouakai Tarn is (where people take the famous reflection photo of Mount Taranaki) located just another short 15-minute hike further than the Pouakai Hut.
The area gets really muddy so I recommended taking waterproof hiking boots, although it’s not required. Most of the trail is shaded from both the sun and wind until the last part of the trail.
Day Hike to the Pouakai Hut and Tarn
If you don’t have time for an overnight trip then you can hike to the Pouakai Hut and back all in a day. That being said, it is important that you pick a day that is not windy if you want to see the reflection in the Pouakai Tarn, or as it’s known, “the best view of Taranaki.”
There is almost always less wind in the morning, so it could be a good idea to get hiking early. Also during the day, the trail does become crowded with day hikers and the same goes with the tarn viewpoint.
Booking the Pouakai Hut
Staying at the Pouakai Hut now requires a booking in advance (as of November 2020). In recent times, the Pouakai Hut operated on a first-come-first-serve basis with just a general serviced hut pass, but that is no longer the case.
Go onto the DOC website and book your stay at the Pouakai Hut in advance for $15 per night per adult, and $7.50 per child.
It is important to note that your booking only secures you a bunk bed, not any specific bunk. If you want to ensure you get to choose your bunk, then get to the hut early to choose your bunk.
The Pouakai Hut is also very popular, and during the summer months or on weekend you might have a hard time securing a booking. For this reason, it is best to plan your stay in advance and secure your booking as soon as possible!
Staying Overnight at the Pouakai Hut
The Pouakai Hut has 16 bunks beds, and therefore sleeps only 16 people. Like all serviced huts in New Zealand, the Pouakai Hut bunks only have mattresses and you’ll need to bring your own sleeping bag and pillow.
The hut also features a basic kitchen with sinks for disposing of water and ample counter space. There is a water tank outside with water that you can access, however it is recommended that you boil the water before drinking.
The hut does not have gas or equipment for cooking, so you’ll need to bring your own!
There are pit toilets located just outside of the Pouakai Hut. They aren’t the nicest bathrooms, but for one night they definitely do the trick.
There is no running water, flush toilets, or showers at the Pouakai Hut – it isn’t a Great Walk and you’ll have to hike the Routeburn Track or similar for those kinds of luxuries!
What about camping?
Yes, you can actually camp near the hut for free but there are a few rules to this. The main one is to not destroy any vegetation and the other is you must be at least 500 meters from the Pouakai Tarn.
To simplify it, if you walk up past the hut towards the tarn you will reach a flat cleared are. This area has been cleared naturally and it is here that you can camp. You will, however, have no protection from the wind so pick a good day or take a sturdy tent.
I found out about camping only after I had done the hike and stayed overnight in the Pouakai Hut. At the top, I saw the signs for camping and spoke to the ranger who confirmed this.
On my next visit to the Pouakai Hut, I skipped staying in the hut altogether and camped with Bailey. We were really lucky with the weather so it was actually a really enjoyable experience. I mean, just look at the view from our tent!
Camping was 100% free and Bailey and I were the only people there!
The Best View of Mount Taranaki (and how to get the reflection photo!)
The famous photo of Mount Taranaki (see my photo above) is taken just a short walk from the Pouakai Hut at the Pouakai Tarn. The trail is signposted and you can find it easily.
If you’re spending the night at the Pouakai Hut, then be sure to first drop off your overnight gear at the hut and claim your bunk bed before heading to the tarn. In fact, I’d actually suggest waiting until just before sunset to walk to the tarn.
The most beautiful times to photograph Mount Taranaki are of course at sunrise and sunset. During these times you’ll usually find only one or two other people at the tarn and the winds can be calmer – especially in the morning. So of course, the advantage of staying in the Pouakai Hut overnight, or camping for that matter, is that you can visit the Pouakai Tarn at sunrise or sunset!
If you’re wanting to take a photo similar to mine above, then I’d suggest a focal length of anything from 24mm to 35mm. From the edge of Pouakai Tarn, this will give you a wide enough view to get a great shot and allow for a little bit of cropping later.
The Pouakai Tarn is actually a small pond, not a huge lake like it appears in the photo. That is the magic of photography I suppose!
For more info on taking great photos, check out our blog that includes essential tips for taking better travel photos! If you’re traveling more in NZ, be sure to check out the best photography location in Mount Cook, and the most Instagrammable places in Queenstown!
Where to Stay in New Plymouth
The Pouaki Hut and Mt Taranaki are closest to the city of New Plymouth. Aside from being the gateway to Egmont National Park, it’s also a great place to stay with lots to do!
Here are our top picks of places to stay either before or after (or both) your hike to the Pouakai Tarn:
Ducks and Drakes Boutique Motel and Backpackers – This place is a great budget option right in New Plymouth. Dorms start at only $30 NZD per night and privates at only $84 NZD. The motel is clean and very comfortable!
YHA Sunflower Lodge – YHA hostels and hotels are always great places to stay for those on a budget. It’s a 10-minute walk from the center however its closer to the Pouaki Hut car park. Privates start at only $74 NZD a night and Dorms $30 NZD.
The Metrotel – The Metro hotel is a modern hotel that specializes in studios and apartments. We love staying in studios or apartments because it means you can cook yourself, saving you lots of money! The hotel has amazing reviews, it’s located right in town and a Queen Studio starts at only $146 NZD per night.
Plymouth International – Another great hotel specializing in studio apartments is the Plymouth International. Its located close to town and the beach and also has a pool (great for summer)! A standard studio starts at $170 NZD per night!
Pouakai Cabins (OUR TOP CHOICE)– The Pouaki Cabins is the closest hotel to the start of the trail to the hut. In fact, it is literally right at the starting point! They only have three cabins and a lot of the time they are booked so its best to get in early! Its location is beautiful and it’s one of the top-rated hotels in New Plymouth! The cabins are only $220 NZD per night!
Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Click here to browse all accommodation in New Plymouth!
Freedom Camping in New Plymouth
If you’re traveling around in a campervan or motorhome and want to freedom camp in New Plymouth, then you’re in luck! There are a few great places where you can do this including Lake Rotomanu and Tapuae Beach.
Tapuae Beach is my favorite spot and it is actually one of the best beaches in all of New Zealand – so be sure to check it out! I actually spent a night here before hiking to the Pouakai Hut and it was really beautiful
Before you go…
Staying at the Pouakai Hut and watching the sun both set and rise is arguably the best view of Mount Taranaki and was a dream come true.
Mount Taranaki is such a magnificent volcano and staying at the Pouakai Hut gives you the best opportunity to get an amazing shot – or just enjoy one hell of a view! To me, it’s hands-down one of the best things to do in New Zealand!
I hope this blog has helped you on your journey and feel free to leave us feedback in the comments! If you would like to see more blogs from New Zealand, click here, otherwise check out some of most popular blogs below:
Enjoy your adventure to the Pouakai Hut!