Exploring the Forgotten World

NZ’s oldest heritage trail is 155kms long. Starting in either Stratford or Taumarunui it follows ancient Maori trade routes and pioneering farm tracks, through ambitious historic settlements, untamed native bush and stunning natural scenery.

Along the Forgotten World Highway, you’ll encounter a landscape where man and nature have battled for centuries, resulting in many historic or natural points of interest. Whether you approach the Forgotten World Highway as a three-hour scenic drive or explore its many stories over several days, you’ll be treated to an  adventure like no other.

Here are the top five things to explore along the Forgotten World Highway:

For more ideas read our Forgotten World Highway Brochure at the bottom of this page.

Whangamomona Hotel

1. Whangamomona

First settled in 1895, the village of Whangamomona was once a bustling frontier town, with up to 300 residents providing strong service links, roading and rail construction to the hardy farming community. The town experienced a great flood in 1924, but the town didn’t decline to around 20 residents until farm mergers and rationalisation took place in the 1960s. The village has a Historic Places Trust precinct rating, and centres on the iconic Whangamomona Hotel, which provides refreshments.

Rugby fans might be keen to know that Whangamomona is the only club in NZ that is allowed to wear an all-black strip – as they had it well before NZ’s All Blacks. The team also competes for the Dean Cup – the oldest rugby challenge cup in New Zealand dating back to 1907 and contested between three teams in the district – Whangamomona, Strathmore and Toko in East Taranaki.

Whangamomona declared itself a republic in 1989, complete with its own presidential election. The famous Republic Day is held biennially in January and is enjoyed by thousands of visitors. Passports to the Republic of Whangamomona are available from the Hotel.

2. The Saddles

Along the route you will cross four saddles – Tahora offers spectacular views of three prominent Maori Pa sites, railway tunnels and the central North Island Mountains.

The Whangamomona Saddle offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscape with a backdrop of beech and Podocarp forest.

The Pohokura Saddle is named after a prominent Maori Chief and provides views into the valley used as a large railway construction campsite.

It’s worth stopping at the top of each to take in these stunning vistas. The Strathmore Saddle offers stunning views of both Mt Taranaki and the Central Plateau.

Mt Damper Falls

3. Natural Wonders

Mt Damper Falls is a 14km detour along Moki Road. Follow the signposts for the 20min walk. At 85m this is the North Island’s second highest waterfall, and is a spectacular sight, particularly after heavy rain. Surrounded by native bush, the falls spill over a papa bluff. Please note – the track is closed to hunters and dogs from 1 August to 31 October due to lambing.

The Tangarakau Gorge offers an incredibly scenic passage through the magnificent podocarp forest that still characterises the region. This section is unsealed for 12kms.

Te Maire track is a 2 hour walk (rated: easy) that starts with a suspension bridge, and loops around a mosaic of native trees including rimu, miro, totara, kahikatea, matai, rewarewa, hinau and tawa.

4. Fantastic Farms

Two lavender farms can be found along the route – Lauren’s Lavender Farm & Café and Lavender Lane.
Both a treat for the senses. Opening hours vary. Best in summer months when the flowers are
in full bloom.

A 7km detour from Douglas you will find Avonstour Rare Breeds Farm. This farm offers information, guided tours from late September to May, workshops, crafts and seasonal produce for sale. Specialising in heritage breed cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and other livestock. Visits by appointment only as it is a working farm.

The Purangi Kiwi Project and selfguided native bush walk are a 15km detour along Junction Rd towards
Purangi. Read the Kiwi info boards and enjoy the lush native forest walk.

Moki Tunnel

5. Reminders of times past.

The single-lane 180m long Moki Tunnel was built in 1936 and is known locally as the ‘Hobbit’s Hole’. Home to fossilized giant crabs, the tunnel’s floor was lowered in 1989, increasing the tunnel’s height to 7m to allow
access for triple-decked stock trucks. It has a timber gabled roof and hand carved walls.

The Aotuhia Bridge to Somewhere is best accessed via Makahu via Strathmore. This road also takes you to
the Matemateaonga Track. Access to the bridge via the 18km long unsealed Whangamomona Rd is strictly for the dedicated 4WD, motorbike, mountain bike or intrepid hiker. Ask at hotel about road conditions before embarking on this trip.

The final resting place of respected early surveyor and trail blazer Joshua Morgan, who died in 1893 at the age of 35, is marked by a memorial and a short walkway through native bush to his grave site. This memorial also remembers the many other pioneers who sought their fortunes in this remote area.