If you’re after one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand, there’s nothing quite like the Forgotten World Highway. Remote, mysterious and absolutely breathtaking, this scenic route winds over four mountain saddles and passes through the 180-metre long, single lane Moki tunnel. Also known as the State Highway 43, the route was given its alternative name possibly because it is New Zealand’s oldest heritage trail and one of the most secluded roads in the country. Originally a bridle path built in the 19th century, today it is one for the adventure-seekers.
Before you go on your journey through the Forgotten World Highway, we recommend picking up your hire car at the New Plymouth Airport and stocking up with snacks and fuel before taking off. The 155-kilometre drive takes approximately three hours between Stratfod and Taumarunui but there are some must-see spots and detours along the way. Ready for an adventure? Begin a 30-minute drive from the New Plymouth Airport towards Stratford where you can make your way onto ‘The Forgotten World Highway’ and be sure to check out these stops below.
One of the most prominent Shakespearean attractions in Stratford (a town named after the birthplace of William Shakespeare), the Glockenspiel Clock Tower features a short performance four times a day with some of the most famous lines from the Balcony Scene. If you’re a fan of the English playwright and his works, it’s definitely worth a stop.
A great stopping point and one of the four naturally formed saddles along the Forgotten Highway, the Strathmore Saddle offers some of the best views of Mount Taranaki as well as Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. Take a pause, breathe in the air and enjoy the views here.
Turning off at Strathmore, you’ll discover the sister of the famous Bridge to Nowhere that was built in 1937 to help early pioneers safely cross the Whangamōmona river.
This quirky little town was deemed as its own country when locals decided to declare it a republic in 1989. It has since had five presidents with only two of them being human. The others have been a goat, a poodle and a turtle who were all voted to be president. Aside from its intriguing history, the main attraction of the town is the Whangamomona Hotel. A classic pub where you can enjoy a feed and some drinks with the locals, it’s also where you can get your passport stamped as evidence that you’ve been to Whangamomona!
The last saddle of the Forgotten Highway, this spectacular spot overlooks mountains, railway tunnels and three Maori pā sites.
Commonly known as the “Hobbit’s Hole”, this 180-metre-long, single lane tunnel is located within the Whanganui National Park.
The perfect spot to take a break along your drive, Mt Damper Falls is one of the highest falls in the North Island. Savour a quiet and stunning walk surrounded by lush greenery with a background of birdsong accompanying you on your journey. There are two viewing platforms where you can witness the views of the falls and valleys below. As you arrive at your destination, bask in the awe of the 74-metre high waterfall, roaring and rushing to greet you.
Find a moment of calm amongst it all at Lauren’s Lavender Farm. Stop for a cup of freshly brewed coffee or hot cuppa best paired with scones and muffins before heading to their shop for premium lavender products to take home with you.
Your journey along the Forgotten Highway ends in the little town of Taumarunui known for its water-based activities including trout fishing, kayaking and jet boating. The town is also a great starting point for exploring Whanganui National Park as well as Pureora Forest.
For those who want to take it easy after the drive, stop by its railway carriage cafe where you can sit back and have a chat with the locals or wander the town centre for a bit of retail therapy. If you’re still keen on being outdoors, tee off at the Taumarunui Golf Club, ride the Timber Trail or visit Nevalea Alpacas, the largest Alpaca Farm in New Zealand where you can meet cuddly alpacas, feed them or even take them for a walk!
There’s plenty to see and do along the Forgotten Highway and it is definitely a drive to remember. Offering evolving landscapes, stunning views, interesting stories and some of the most scenic spots New Zealand is known for, the Forgotten Highway is a journey to remember. If you’re looking to embark on this adventure, book and pick up your hire car from the New Plymouth Airport and get exploring!