Get lost in history – Road-tripping The Forgotten World Highway
May 2, 2014 5:21 PM

Acting on the recommendation of one of my long-time travel buddies, I recently took a welcome break from work to spontaneously round up some friends and hit the road in search of the adventure that I’ve been told is right on our door step. We certainly found it on our weekend road tour out of Wellington heading north. One road has stuck in my mind ever since - The Forgotten World Highway.

Get lost in history – Road-tripping The Forgotten World Highway

Having lived most of our lives in the city we don’t own cars and so the first step was to find a decent car hire firm. We went with to be on the safe side as their cars are not only affordable but also obviously well maintained.

The Forgotten World Highway stretches out its wriggling path between Stratford and Taumarunui, over hills, through mountains and into valleys.  After pootling along on some fairly dull and boring roads prior to hitting the FWH, the dramatic scenery blessing this particular motoring haven was welcome stimulation in itself.

Although we had heard of this tourist spot previously, we had no idea of the importance the route and its settlements had in the history of the region. The Forgotten World Highway is a real national treasure as along its path visitors are able to drive into, or rather through, the past. 

Approaching from Stratford, our first stop had a name just as mythically evocative as the highway itself. At ‘The Bridge to Somewhere you will be treated, as we were, to a beautiful scene of serenity with an historic bridge, built in 1937, as the centre piece. The bridge crosses the Whangamōmona River and presents a great opportunity for photography whilst giving stoic testament to the labour of early European settlers as they engineered ways to traverse the dynamic landscape - a perfect introduction to the FWP’s next drive-through history lesson: the near-ghost town of Whangamōmona, which lay just a little further on up the road.

Feeling altogether creepy and deserted, Whangamōmona feeds the imagination with images of the past. Further investigation on our short stroll around the town found that there is, indeed, human life still there and the best way to meet with the friendly locals is to take a coffee ‘n’ cake break at one of the 19th Century hotels, which still stand proudly Today in the town’s centre.

After refreshment however, our thirst for knowledge was growing even more impatient. Several locals recommended a stop by the abandoned coal mining village on route to the Nukunuku Museum which could be found a few more miles along the road.

Get lost in history – Road-tripping The Forgotten World Highway

It has to be said, at least for those with an interest in the history of the area and of NZ for that matter, The Forgotten World Highway is a definite ‘must-do’. Put it on your bucket list, write it on the calendar, make time for it. It’s scenery of forests and volcanoes, abandoned tunnels and cinematic water falls, along with its historical relics will leave you feeling satisfied and stimulated.

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