Pouakai Hut – The Best View of Mount Taranaki
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In this guide, we tell you everything you need to know about staying at the Pouakai Hut and enjoying the best view of Mount Taranaki.
This spot is also known as Mount Taranaki Lake. We also include info on camping for free, track condition, when the hut fills up, and more!
Pouakai Hut – The Best view of Mount Taranaki
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 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 Mount Taranaki. It’s one of our 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 shot, but also the Pouakai Hut.
The Hike to the Hut
The Pouakai Hut is actually part of the three-day Pouakai Circuit. This circuit loops around Mount Taranaki. However, it’s not necessary to hike the circuit to get to the Pouakai Hut and instead you can hike for two hours to the hut from the carpark, stay the night at the hut, and hike back down the next day.
Of course, this can also be done all in one day and only involves around 4 hours of walking if you visit the tarn too.
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 100m up the road from the carpark.
The hike to the hut is mostly uphill and is around 6km long with around 700m of elevation. 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.
Doing the day hike
If you don’t have the time for the overnight trip then you can do the hike 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 or as it’s known, “the best view of Taranaki.” The winds tend to be lower 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 same with the tarn viewpoint.
Staying at the Hut
Staying at the Pouakai Hut requires a “Serviced Hut Pass” which needs to be bought in advance from any Department of Conservation office and costs $15 NZD per person. In New Plymouth, you can also get hut passes from the Kathmandu store in town.
It is important to note that the Serviced Hut Pass only is the payment for staying in the hut. The hut does not take bookings in advance and works on a first come first serve basis.
The hut has 16 bunks and a basic kitchen. At the hut, there is a water tank and a pit toilet. The hut has no gas or cooking equipment.
What if the hut fills up?
As you can’t book the hut, you could arrive and there may be no places to sleep (this is very common in the summer). The hut ranger won’t turn you away and instead, you will need to sleep on the floor in the kitchen area. Because of this, it is best to bring a sleeping mat with you just in case.
When does the hut fill up?
During my stay, I arrived at the hut at 10 am. This was largely due to the fact I needed to write this guide and wanted to see what time it began to fill.
At 10 am, people from the night before were still asleep and after they left around 11 am the hut was completely empty.
By 12 pm, one or two people had arrived, by 2 pm about half the beds where gone, and by 4 pm the hut was full.
After that, the others got the terrible news that the hut was full and they would have to sleep on the floor. I had brought two mats with me so I lent them to those that didn’t have any.
With this said, I would say you need to arrive before 12 pm to ensure you get a bed. Any time after that you run the risk of not getting a bunk.
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 500m from the 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 good tent.
I found out about camping only after I had done the hike. At the top, I saw the signs and spoke to the ranger who confirmed this. But I will be camping next time in around 2 weeks for sure!
YAY! Since writing this I got the chance to go back and camp (as you can tell by the photo above!) Let me tell you its the best thing in the world and I absolutely loved it!
Camping was 100% free and Bailey and I were the only people there!
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 its 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. Its a 10-minute walk from the center however its closer to the Pouaki Hut carpark. 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, its 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 your looking for? Click here to browse all accomodation in New Plymouth!
Ideal time/focal length to shoot the best view of Mount Taranaki
The most ideal and beautiful times to shoot Mount Taranaki are of course at sunrise and sunset. During these times you can usually find only one or two other people at the tarn and the winds can be calmer – especially in the morning.
The most ideal focal length in my eyes is anything from 24mm to 35mm. From the edge of Poakai tarn, this will give you a wide enough view to get a great shot and allow for a little bit of cropping later.
Check out our “How to take better travel photos” blog here for some awesome photography tips!
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!
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!
August 15, 2019