Built on colonial bridle paths formed in the late 19th century, Forgotten World 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.
Begin your journey in Taumarunui. Positioned at the junction of two major rivers, the town is a mecca for trout fishing, kayaking and jet boating. It's also the launch pad for canoe adventures into Whanganui National Park, including the 5-day Whanganui Journey.
Railways are another theme of this region. For a truly unique experience, travel into the wilderness on a self-drive rail cart with Forgotten World Adventures. Other activities include teeing off at Taumarunui Golf Club, visiting friendly alpacas, or riding the Timber Trail, one of the North Island's best cycle rides.
Not far from Taumarunui, you'll pass Lauren's Lavender Farm, stop here for sweetly scented gifts and a wander through tranquil lavender fields. Or follow the sign from Aukopae Landing to Nukunuku Museum. This quirky museum is home to an eclectic jumble of relics from the region's past.
Further on, you might like to take a detour along Moki Forest Road to Mount Damper Falls - an 85m tumble of pristine water. The road continues on through the historic and very narrow Moki Tunnel. From here it's a short drive to Whangamomona, where you spend the night. This character-filled settlement declared itself a republic in 1989, and you can pick up a passport from the local hotel.
As you continue your journey south, be sure to stop at the Whangamomona Saddle for spectacular views in every direction. If you have time, the three-hour circular walk that begins here is well worth the trip.
At Strathmore, there's a 90-minute return side trip leading to the evocatively named 'Bridge to Somewhere' (a response to the famous 'Bridge to Nowhere' from the same period).
Stratford was named after William Shakespeare’s birthplace, and its street names recognise some of the playwright's best-known characters. Stratford's glockenspiel clock tower celebrates the connection with scenes from Romeo and Juliet, performed four times daily.