To say it’s a hidden gem is an understatement.
All the signs on the way to Wilkies Pools point to Dawson Falls until you’re within walking distance, and the people admiring their beauty often end up there by accident.
The icy water of Mt Taranaki runs down multiple waterfalls into crystal-clear pools on the southeastern side of the maunga.
In summer, Wilkies Pools are popular with teens who brave the alpine waterfall and slip down a natural slide into the water below, but that’s only the beginning.
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A climb up a steep, rocky slope next to the pools leads to a view of Mt Taranaki’s peak, which towers over the waterfalls that seem to come from a trickle.
For Auckland-based Casey Batchelor and Beckie Pain, Wilkies Pools was an accidental find.
The pair had come to Taranaki for a mid-week getaway.
They had no plans on arrival and saw a brochure for the Goblin Forest – which led them to the pools.
“It’s so cool,” Batchelor, who plans to return in summer for a dip, said. “It seems like it’s endless.
“You can’t get a photo that does it justice.”
The drive to Wilkies Pools is much like any route into Egmont National Park.
It’s windy, narrow, and worth it once you reach the car park.
Visitors are greeted with the Dawson Falls Visitor Centre and many tracks that differ in length and destination.
One heads through a version of the Goblin Forest, known for its moss-covered native trees that twist and turn through one another and reach overhead.
It’s an eerie feeling, with only the sound of water trickling and the odd Kererū swooping by.
The signs on the track point to the Wilkies Pools Loop, but getting to the pools is only a 20-minute trek up a boardwalk with a steep incline.
The forest clears for the rocky Kapuni Stream, which flows down Mt Taranaki and meets the sea near the South Taranaki town of Manaia.
The pools were formed from an ancient lava flow with years of water scouring out the lava, creating the series of hollowed-out ponds.
They were named after brothers F.W and W.J Wilkie, who farmed on nearby Manaia Rd and were prominent explorers on the southern side of Mt Taranaki in the late 19th century.
Chiara Magyari, 18, and Tobias Putze, 28, of Germany, and Phil Ellis, 30, of England, were surprised with their find after ending up stuck in New Zealand during Covid-19 lockdown and meeting at a hostel.
“We didn’t want to go home – it was a good choice,” Magyari said.
They’d been staying in New Plymouth, and decided to get out and came across the Wilkies Pools Loop, then made the call to climb the rocky slope that follows the waterfall.
“Wow it’s amazing.”
The pools and Egmont National Park weren’t like anything Putze had seen before.
“The vegetation. This is almost tropical, then you have a snowy mountain in the background,” Putze said.
Ellis said the trio had loved their time in Taranaki, and up the mountain to the pools in particular.
“It’s beautiful. It’s well worth the trip.”