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.
After leaving Taumarunui, call in at Lauren's Lavender Farm for sweetly scented gifts, or if you like tiny, quirky museums, follow the sign from Aukopae Landing to Nukunuku Museum, home to all sorts of relics from days goneby.
To see one of the highest waterfalls in the North Island, take a detour on to the Moki Forest Road up to Mount Damper Falls - an 85 metre tumble of pristine water. Come back the same way and turn right on to Ohura Rd – it's a short drive from here to your overnight stop. On the way, the historic 180-metre Moki Tunnel, built in the 1930s, takes you through the heart of a hill.
Whangamomona is a small village full of character – it declared itself a republic in 1989, and you can pick up a passport from the local hotel. The town is surrounded by beautiful wilderness areas, perfect for a hike.
Start in Taumarunui
With the Whanganui National Park on one side and the Tongariro World Heritage area on the other, Taumarunui is a perfect base for adventure.
End in Whangamomona
Named by Lonely Planet as a key highlight on the Forgotten World Highway, Whangamomona is a quaint town 45 minutes west of Stratford.
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