An armed man who is believed to have taken a woman hostage is being hunted by police in Taranaki tonight.

A police central communications spokesman said details were sketchy and police were dealing with an incident in Opunake, 65km south of New Plymouth.

According to eyewitnesses a man armed with a rifle barged in to the Headlands restaurant about 9.30pm and left with a woman believed to be an employee.

The armed offenders squad was sent from New Plymouth and tonight Opunake was in lockdown.

The $2 million Headlands restaurant is just off Highway 45 at the clifftop of Opunake's beach.

Its multi-level circular tower features a turret and houses a restaurant, cafe, commercial kitchen, and conference facilities on the ground floor, with three standard suites on the second floor and plush honeymoon suites on the third floor.

A second block has four standard suites.