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Forgotten highway: short break road trip

Podocarp forest, waterfalls, rivers, landscapes, bird life and off the beaten track. Regional New Zealand in a forested green wrap, complete with tourism on rails. A podocarp forest  is part of the conifer family, think of cones looking like berries.

2 days
1 night

Trip Overview

Start Taumarunui
Finish Stratford

Podocarp forest, waterfalls, rivers, landscapes, bird life and off the beaten track. Regional New Zealand in a forested green wrap, complete with tourism on rails. A podocarp forest  is part of the conifer family, think of cones looking like berries. The forest has an understorey of ferns, shrubs and grasses in every shade of green. The remote timeless forest reminds the viewer we are looking at remnants of Gondwana land. Dinosaur territory definitely. The road follows original Maori walking tracks converted into colonial bridle paths formed in the late nineteenth century. The road hugs the mountainous contours providing an adventure as you are not sure what is exactly around every corner.

TIP: The Forgotten Highway does not have petrol stations so you must ensure that you have enough fuel for your journey before leaving Taumarunui.

TIP: Hairpin bends are enough to make you feel slightly travel weary. Take time for photos making sure that oncoming traffic can see you.

A rural journey through central North Island, a forgotten railway track, abandoned ‘ghost’ town and entrepreneurial people.

You will drive through settlement names with not much in the way of shops or businesses to point to the once thriving rural populations.

Matiere, originally part of a Maori walking track between Mokau on the west coast and inland Taumarunui had a sizable Maori population.

Matiere Rail Tunnel

European settlers began farming the area from World War I with the population peaking to support a local school.

Today there is little to show except for lush farmland, a closed community hall. Consolidation of rural service supply business has led to farms whereby owners and managers now commute to hubs such as Taumaruni.

Start Taumarunui
Finish Stratford

Route map

Best time to visit: November to March, Spring and Summer. The weather could be changeable. Clothing layers are recommended.

Day 1

Abandoned town

Abandoned cabin sitting in mowed field, New Zealand
Abandoned cabin sitting in mowed field

On the banks of the Mangaroa River, on a side road is Ohura. Your journey starts with an exploration of a largely abandoned town. The main street is bereft of operating shops.

The supermarket, hairdressers, garden centre, general merchandise, cafe and petrol station are all closed, some with fading signs about the option of purchase or rental.

After Ohura you rejoin SH43 for spectacular scenery, waterfalls and perhaps one of the world’s narrowest vehicular tunnels.

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Day 2

Explore Whangamomona district: Whangamomona Rd

Whangamomona @New Zealand Geographic
Whangamomona @New Zealand Geographic

Hotel reception will be able to provide excellent up to date information. Do not miss the abandoned Catholic church just before the campground on Whangamomona Rd which starts by the hotel. The walk has pastoral and river views. You are walking on a paper road, closed to traffic. Walk past the pub on Whangamomona Rd, past the campground; this paper road is open to the public and provides a 55km loop of pastoral walking, cycling or motorcycling.

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