While it's only 150 kilometres long, the Forgotten World Highway is a highly memorable driving journey.
Built on colonial bridle paths formed in the late 19th century, the highway is remote and mysterious to the extreme. "A bit upsy downsy" is how one local resident puts it - a classic New Zealand understatement to describe a road that hugs the rugged contours of the land to provide a natural roller coaster experience.
The Forgotten World Highway can be approached from Stratford or Taumarunui. It wriggles its way over four mountain saddles, through an eerie one-lane tunnel and along a sinuous river gorge. Fifteen kilometres of the road is unsealed gravel, and the only significant settlement on the way is Whangamomona, where the historic hotel is known for its hospitality.
Begin your journey by exploring Taumarunui and its surrounds. The town is positioned at the convergence of two major rivers, with trout fishing, kayaking and jet boating on offer. It provides the launch pad for canoe adventures into Whanganui National Park.
Railways are another theme of this region; the Raurimu Spiral (28km south of Taumarunui) is an amazing feat of railway engineering. You can also journey into the wilderness on a self-drive rail cart with Forgotten World Adventures.
Play a round at the Taumarunui Golf Club, visit friendly alpacas, or hire a bike and stretch your legs on the Timber Trail, one of the North Island's best cycle rides.
Taumarunui itself is home to a good choice of shops, accommodation and tasty eating places.
With the Whanganui National Park on one side and the Tongariro World Heritage area on the other, Taumarunui is a perfect base for adventure.