Forgotten World Highway

New Zealand is full of wilderness and adventure, so it is truly refreshing to travel a route so genuinely unvisited, that even locals raise their eyebrows when you tell them it’s your next stop.

New Zealand’s oldest touring route, starting in Stratford (home to Egmont National Park), and weaving through tiny settlements and untamed native bush towards the delights of Central North Island, the Forgotten World Highway is a special place – and not for the faint hearted (or those tight on time).

The road itself is shrouded in myth and legend, along with a generous helping of history and nature – 12km of the 155km heritage highway is on unsealed road – and there are no petrol stations (or hospitals) en route. Creaking bridges traverse small river canyons, winding tracks pass by enormous waterfalls, and there is also the odd hair-raising single lane tunnel to tackle.

There are numerous places worthy of a stop en route (although few other than the Whangamomona hotel will have toilets, let alone sell refreshments), such as the Stratford Saddle lookout, which offers unsurpassed views of North Island’s most picturesque volcanic cones – Taranaki to the West, and Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe to the East. Indeed the road is a great link between these two most scenic of Kiwi Districts, and we think the Tangarakau Gorge is particularly worth the winding drive to get to – just don’t forget your travel sickness pills.

What our travellers enjoyed about driving the Forgotten World Highway…

  • Packing a picnic and taking the slight detour for the 20 minute walk to Mount Damper Falls – the second highest waterfall on North Island
  • Treading in New Zealand’s farming pioneer’s footsteps, perhaps learning to ford a river along the way (almost guaranteed after heavy rains)
  • Walking the hilly Awahou Track – a 3 hour loop with excellent views peeking amongst magnificent Podocarp forest
  • Following historic Maori trading routes and discovering fossilised shells and giant crabs that pre-date even these ancient peoples
  • Taking an even more challenging side trip to the Bridge to Somewhere, the sister concrete structure to Whanganui’s Bridge to Nowhere.