If you’re searching for things to do in Taranaki, I recommend everyone goes to the Wilkies Pools. The pools are named after the Wilkies brothers who were local farmers in the area. The walk itself is a gentle climb accessible for all fitness levels. This walk is fantastic for children as it is well laid out with safe paths the whole way and is only 900m long. The beginning of the Wilkies pool track is at the Dawson Falls visitor centre. As with any walk on the mountain, the weather can be fickle so while its gloves and beanie weather one minute, the next you can be getting burnt to a crisp by the sun so be prepared for any situation.

Wilkies Pools 1  Wilkies Pools 2

Once you head into the tree canopy you are in the thick of nature with all the sounds and smells that you can only ever experience on the mountain. The track takes you through the “Goblin Forest”, which is more enchanting than it is spooky. There is a gentle incline the whole way to the pools but you’re so busy admiring all the plant life and listening to the sounds of the birds that you don’t notice.

Being one of the shorter walks on the mountain, it doesn’t take long before you start to emerge from the tree canopy and can see the Kapuni Stream to your right and you know you are close to the pools. Just a few more twists and turns, and you get yourself to the swing bridge. With a limit of 20 people at a time, it is quite possibly my children’s favourite part of the walk as it gently bounces up and down while you cross. The bridge is a great place to stop and look up to the pools, and on clear days you can look down towards the towns in the distance. It takes your breath away and reminds you just how high you are.

Wilkies Pools 10  Wilkies Pools 8

Once at the pools you can see where the lava has carved a trail down the mountain and created these pools through the rocks. They are so smooth and mesmerising. The water looks crystal clear and so inviting that you just want to jump in. The icy cold touch of the water usually makes you think twice though, so swimming here isn’t for the faint hearted. While we were there we were able to rock hop from one side of the pools to the other without getting our feet wet. My older child enjoyed climbing up the rocks to get a better view of the pools.

Wilkies Pools 5  Wilkies Pools 6

Wilkies pools is fantastic for children because it is a place that they can look, feel, hear and really experience every aspect of. Therefore, Wilkies pools isn’t a bucket list item that you do once and tick it off. It is more like visiting your favourite beach or playground, somewhere you want to go again and again. The track is a loop track that is estimated to take 120 minutes and is 1.9km long. However, we decided to quit while we were ahead and headed home just before the rain started to fall.

This is what makes this track so great. You can choose your level of difficulty. If you are wanting a gentle walk, then going to the pools is ideal. If you want to push yourself a little more, you can do the loop track or even break off and go on a more challenging walking trail along the way. If you walk beyond the pools, it is no longer pushchair/wheelchair accessible as you encounter some stairs, but it is still suitable for a family adventure.

Wilkies Pools 12  Wilkies Pools 15

We headed back down toward the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre. Once we got there we saw that it was open, so we headed in. Inside they have a small range of clothing available for purchase and an interactive map with lights to show you where all the huts are on the mountain, these are always a hit with the younger children. A section of the old Syme hut that once sat on top of Fanthams peak in 1930 has been reassembled inside and displays some fascinating information about the mountain huts. There are bunk beds and other old hiking gear to discover and a TV inside the old hut also displays more information about the mountain.

Just outside the Dawson Falls Visitors Centre is the carved pou (post), which tells the story of the relationship between the Ngāti Ruanui tribe and the mountain and was carved by Albert Tamati. We stood at the foot of the pou for a long time and just when we thought we had seen all the detail, something new would catch our eyes. It is an amazing masterpiece and shares such a beautiful story and is truly humbling to stand beside.

A small hydroelectric station sits behind the Dawson Falls lodge. It has been there since 1935, making it one of the oldest hydroelectric stations in the world that is still operating, with the generator being made around 1901 by General Electric. There is so much culture and history to take in and it is easy to lose track of time. We couldn’t leave without going to the look out and taking in the view. Mount Taranaki is the most accessible Mountain in New Zealand, and because it is so accessible, it’s easy to forget just how high you are, but the look out quickly reminds you!

 

Dawson Falls itself is only a stone’s throw away from the visitors centre. Another great site to explore with your family, or by yourself! Everything about the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre side of the mountain is a great, low effort, high reward, type of adventure so well worth your time and energy. This is the side of the mountain that I recommend seeing the most. There is so much to do and see and you don’t have to be an expert mountaineer to experience it. I am looking forward to the weather warming up, so we can take our togs and towel and jump in the pools. I have been here so many times, but each time I see something new and I fall in love with the place all over again. We are so lucky to be able to explore such an enchanting and sacred place, and right in our own backyard.

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