I’d never heard of the Forgotten World Highway before I arrived in New Zealand, little did I know it would be my most favourite part of New Zealand by the time I left.
Flicking through the brochure rack at the car hire depot I picked up a map for the Forgotten World Highway and thought it looked interesting and put it in the pile with all the other brochures I was taking.
Half way through my road trip around New Zealand’s North Island I found I had an extra day up my sleeve and flicking through all my tourist brochures I decided I’ll drive the Forgotten World Highway mainly because it was in the part of the country I was in and I could end up in the evening where I needed to be the next day.
I started off my journey in the morning from New Plymouth a coastal town in the West which I gathered had seen better days and drove to Stratford which was a half hour away with Mt Taranaki shrouded in cloud to my right (my whole reason to travel to New Plymouth was to see Mt Taranaki I got a quick glimpse the day before and the clouds rolled in and stayed).
Leaving Stratford and turning the corner onto the Highway I immediately felt like I was in Hobbit country, small and big green mounds sprung up all over the country side filled with barb wire fences containing sheep or cows grazing and their young sleeping or following nearby. What a sight!
The second part of the journey saw me enter my first hobbit tunnel, a small tunnel just wide enough to fit the car through cut through the rocks to enter a valley on the other side of the range. After a few photos it was time to get back on the highway.
Right in the middle of the Highway is a town called Whangamomona a self-proclaimed Republic with a population of 30 people. I stopped at the local pub or passport control and became a resident and got a passport for the princely sum of $5 bargain! The town consisted of one street, the highway which runs through it, with the pub at the top of the street and a few small stores running down to the train tracks then we were out of town again.
The third part of the journey saw me drive over another straddle of the mountain range, I still can’t get over how green it is and the mountains just go on and on…
After the mountain range another hobbit tunnel to drive through, this one is on the Highway and is high enough for trucks to fit through. I took a detour to Mt Damper Falls the highest falls on the North Island, walking through a farmer’s sheep paddock with all the lambs relaxing in the paddock and watching me walk by I was swooped on by a magpie which came out of nowhere and spoiled the serenity! At the end of the paddock the landscape turned into a lush rainforest like atmosphere and the Falls could be heard roaring as the back drop. I was the only one there taking it all in and the only thing I could think of, I have to walk passed that damn magpie again!
Driving onto the last leg of the Highway were a few scary moments where the cliffs on the side of the road are crumbling onto the road, I got out to take a photo and could hear rocks scattering down the cliff face. Past that a few more bends of the road and green mountains and we were in Taumarunui.
The Forgotten World Highway begins in Stratford and winds and twists around the greenest of mountains for 155km finishing in Taumarunui. It doesn’t seem like a long distance but I spent all day driving this stretch stopping at every opportunity I could to take photos. I would recommend to put it high on your list of a North Island road trip.
Travelled the Forgotten World Highway: 14 October 2014