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Forgotten Highway 43, Central North Island

Podocarp forest, waterfalls, rivers, landscapes, bird life and off the beaten track experiences. Regional New Zealand in a forested green wrap, complete with tourism on rails.

Trip Overview

Gravel roads, detour into New Zealand’s backcountry


November to March, Spring and Summer. The weather could be changeable. Clothing layers are recommended. In winter foggy road conditions and road closures due to ice can occur.


View weather forecast

Always pack a raincoat, just in case. Insect repellent and a T-shirt for when the sun makes an appearance.

Duration: 1 - 2 DAYS
Start Taumarunui
Finish Stratford (New Plymouth)

Camera Stops
32 and counting

Nearest Airport
New Plymouth (domestic)


  • Wanting to explore timeless native New Zealand forests on quiet back roads.
  • A scenic connection from Taupo / Turangi to New Plymouth (west coast North Island).
  • The remote forest reminds the viewer we are looking at remnants of Gondwana land. Dinosaur territory definitely, once upon a time. 
  • The road hugs the mountainous contours is an adventure as you are not sure what is exactly around every corner.
  • Discover a forgotten railway track, an abandoned ‘ghost’ town and a town that once elected a goat as the mayor, the republic of Whangamomona.
  • Drive through three road tunnels, hand cut, narrow feats of engineering.

The easiest direction for many visitors to join the Forgotten Highway 43 is from Taumarunui (Central North Island, a hub for Whanganui National Park). The top New Zealand destinations of Taupo and Turangi  are a mere 68 km from Taumarunui. Taurmarunui is a gateway to the Forgotten Highway.

To join the Forgotten Highway from Taranaki the nearest town is Stratford.





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


Forgotten Highway is a one way journey where you will either finish the journey in Taranaki (New Plymouth) or the central North Island plateau with the delights of Taupo and Rotorua at your fingertips.


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 Hairpin bends are frequent. Take time for photos while making sure that oncoming traffic can see you.

15 km from Taumarunui adjacent to the Whanganui River.



Forgotten Highway 43 witnessed a flood of settlement after World War I. Returned soldiers and eager immigrants followed historic Maori walking tracks to settle in the area. Today there is little to show except for lush farmland and regenerating forest and a closed community hall. 

Closed railway track Ohura district, New Zealand
Closed railway track in Ohura district

Taumarunui to Ohura to Whangamomona to Stratford

167 kms (gravel, unsealed roads, narrow winding ascents and descents)

Lilac tree in bloom outside Ohura
Lilac tree in bloom outside Ohura


From Ohura you rejoin SH43, from Mangaparo Rd. Expect spectacular scenery, waterfalls and perhaps one of the world’s narrowest vehicular tunnels, the Makahu Tunnel.


Highlights of the Mount Dampier falls walk:

  • Sheer delight getting there on a remote road – a detour off the Forgotten Highway
  • A short 1 km walk (one way)on an easy walking track.Source DOC Mount Damper Falls Walk




The track is closed to hunters every year from 1 August to 31 October for the lambing season. The track is well signposted with a roadside car park. Picnic tables and compostable toilets mark the spot.


  • The falls are located on a walking track about 1 km from the intersection of Okau and Mangapapa Roads.
  • The falls are a 14 km detour off State Highway 43.
  • The falls are signposted on State Highway 43.
Abandoned rusting bush train used for logging cut timber
Abandoned rusting bush train used for logging cut timber
Whangamomona Hotel, New Zealand
Whangamomona Hotel

Whangamomona Hotel is a tourist hot spot Forgotten Highway style. Collect a passport stamp (separate piece of paper – not in your actual passport) to prove you’ve entered the Republic of Whangamomona.



People, cars and bikes parked by the pub to obtain a passport stamp. Fee is ($2 fee) for proof you have entered the Republic of Whangamomona. A quirky resilient settlement resisting economic decline with its reinvention as a tourist hot spot.

Abandoned Catholic church, Whangamomona, Forgotton Highway, North Island, NZ
Abandoned Catholic church, Whangamomona


Your journey either starts or finishes in Stratford (Taranaki) where the Surf Highway exploration of wild surf beaches awaits or several days in New Plymouth strolling through some of New Zealand’s finest gardens and parks.

Travel Pack Information

What to do nearby the Forgotten Highway road trip – link the dots and join up with Central North Island New Zealand road trips

  • Surf Highway Taranaki exploration starting in New Plymouth (Taranaki)
  • LOWER NORTH ISLAND Explore Whanganui River Road finishing at Piriki settlement. The Whanganui River Rod connects to the Forgotten Highway Via The short journey is rich tapestry of rural scenery as the road weaves through Pipiriki Raetihi Road then onto state highway 4 at Raetihi onward to Taumarunui.  
Taumarunui river in the central North Island of New Zealand
Taumarunui river in the central North Island

Your journey will pass through Ruapehu district and the boundary edges of the verdant Tongariro National Park. Central North Island mountains Mt Ngauruhoe, Mt Ruapheu and Mt Tongariro will be siren calls to visit the Tongariro National Park.


The Forgotten Highway is 194 km including the detours with the towns of Stratford and Taumarunui bookending the journey.

The Forgotten Highway is not dangerous. The road is difficult due to its narrow winding route. Parts of the road are unsealed. The road can be slippery in wet conditions.

The road earned its name from the remote backcountry it passes through. The road follows Maori tracks, colonial bridle paths. The Forgotten Highway is the oldest heritage road in New Zealand. 

How long you need to explore the Forgotten Highway depends on your interests. To drive the road without stopping the average time is 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours. Leisure travellers allow an overnight stay in Whangamomona and explore the Forgotten World of the central North Island.

The Forgotten Highway is one of NZ Jane’s top nine touring routes in New Zealand due to its awesome scenery, the remote countryside and the elements such as abandoned towns, buildings and bridges for you to wonder about. There are waterfalls and the fascination of a town that has declared itself a republic, Whangamomona. 

The dramatic Forgotten Highway scenery climbs three mountain saddles and traverses the stunning Tangarakau Gorge. The 19th century hand cut tunnels are fun. and passes through the 180-metre-long, single lane, Moki tunnel. The highway goes through some rugged, beautiful countryside.

You can drive the Forgotten Highway with a 2WD as well as a motorhome. It is not a 4WD trail. Care is needed and check with the rental car company beforehand as you will be driving on a gravel road. 

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Best Bits travel guide is published by Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.

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