Forgotten World Highway 43

“The way it was” Through the back woods of Taranaki, explore the beginnings and the way it was done…The Forgotten world highway once was a thriving community, the little villages of Tangarakau and others were established to house railway and road workers by the hundreds.  Evidence of these little communities and houses are still to be found, travelling this highway is definitely a step back in time.

The Stratford toTaumarunui Forgotten World Highway [Name] was established in 1990 to provide travellers using State Highway 43 with an opportunity to learn about the history of the bush clad hills that separate the towns of Stratford and Taumarunui. Distinctive teal and yellow signs direct the traveller to sites along the Highway with further signs along the Highway to describe their historic significance. At both Stratford and Taumarunui the start of the Highway is indicated by a large display board. In Stratford the Highway starts from the roundabout corner of Broadway and Regan Street. The beauty of the Lost World Highway is astounding.


Forgotten World Highway Sunset from  the Tahora Saddle.

Tangarakau Gorge country

Tahora Saddle spectacular views


Tours and Itineraries
Personalised & group tramping or scenery Tours throughout East, South & Central Taranaki.


Helicopter flights and tours
Precision Helicopters - Scenic flights over Taranaki.


Heliview Taranaki - Scenic helicopter flights with Richard Foale i

Mount Damper Falls

Hunting country on the Forgotten World Highway

Makahu Tunnel


STRATFORD Popular as the gateway to the Egmont and Wanganui National Parks, Stratford has many Elizabethan features and all it's streets are named from the works of Shakespeare, also home of the Pioneer village depicting early life in Taranaki  

 Distance: Stratford to Taumarunui 150km (including 25m of unsealed road from the foot of Tahora Saddle to Tatu) Travelling Time: 2.5 hours / 3 to 3.5 hours with caravan or campervan (allow at least twice this time for stops and two days to see all the features completely) Best advice is to fill your fuel tank in Stratford or Taumarunui Toilets Available at: Ohura, Whangamomona Hotel, Ohinepa Recreation Reserve and  Whangamomona Hotel Camping Grounds at: Ohinepa Recreation Reserve, Tangarakau, Moki Forest, Te Wera Forest Camp Farm Stays available: at a number of properties along the route and at either end of the Trail Food: Ohura Tearooms.  Whangamomona Hotel.Keito Cafe, Tahora Saddle.

TAUMARUNUI Located on the main trunk railway line between Auckland and Wellington, provides an ideal base for visits to the Tongariro National Park.

Whangamomona village republic day draws thousands of visitors nation wide to this spectacular  event

1. Introductory Sign and Whakaahurangi Maori Trail The large sign gives travellers full information and a map illustrating all site locations along the entire Trail.
2. Douglas Village Like most small Taranaki settlements Douglas Village has declined with the closure of its dairy factory and store.
3. Douglas Brick Kiln This building, classified by the Historic Places Trust, is situated 200 metres along the side road and a short distance along a farm driveway.
4. Strathmore Saddle This point on clear days gives a great vantage of the four North Island mountains. The saddle also lies close to a fault line and in the surrounding hills there is still some evidence of the ‘shell rock’ containing fossils of marine life deposited when the land was the ocean floor millions of years ago.
5. Aotuhia (Bridge to Somewhere) An optional side-trip on an interesting and scenic backcountry route to this once abandoned valley (allow at least two hours for the return trip). A feature is the ‘Bridge to Somewhere’ built in 1937 of similar design to the Mangapurua Valley ‘Bridge to Nowhere’.
6. Te Wera The railway east joins the highway again near this point. The site sign is close to a spectacular large rhododendron, the Te Wera Forest and Recreational Camp and old saleyards site. Unique arboretum with named trees and short walk available.
7. Pohokura Saddle Named after a Maori Chief, Pohokura was first settled in the late 1880’s. In these early days the road over the saddle was so bad that it took three days to pack supplies from Stratford. Now sealed, the saddle provides a view of the valley once home to the railway workers building the Pohokura tunnel.

8. Whangamomona Saddle The saddle provides a spectacular view of the boundary of the Patea and Wanganui River watersheds with beech and podacarp forest flanking the highway. Start of a three hour circular forest walk, or a 100m walk into the beech trees.

9. Whangamomona Village The ‘Valley of Plenty’ was first settled in 1895 and by 1898 there were 187 people in the district. During the early 1900’s the settlement flourished but the great flood of 1924 started the settlement’s decline and now it is almost a ghost town.  Republic Day celebrations are  held every 2nd year, the closest Saturday to the beginning of January 2007.

10. Tahora Saddle Another spectacular vantage point for the central North Island mountains and surrounding valleys. Two Maori Pa sites are visible on prominent hilltops to the west and east. The saddle also overlooks two railway tunnels.

11. Tangarakau derives its name from the ‘felled trees’ cut down by the legendary Tamatea to repair his canoes on the Whanganui River. First settled in the 1900’s the village boomed in 1925 when it became home to 1200 people, the families of workers on the nearby railway.

12. Moki Tunnel A 180m road tunnel built in 1936. The floor was lowered in 1985 to allow triple-decked stock trucks to pass through. A short walking track along old saddle road (western portal) leads visitors into bush with abundant bird life.

13. Moki Forest Another detour off the highway (8km-15 minutes) to mature forest with outstanding regeneration of native species. Home of the endangered kokako bird.

14. Mt Damper Falls (85m) A further 8km past the Moki Forest sign through high semi-plateau farmland is the site sign for Mount Damper Falls. A walk of 20 minutes will bring visitors to a platform to view one of the highest falls in the North Island. Allow at least 2 hours for the detour to sites 13 and 14. Toilet available near site sign 14.

15. Morgan’s Grave Last resting place of Joshua Morgan, leader of a surveying party and his grave is considered a memorial to the men who had to find a way through this difficult country.

16. Tangarakau Gorge Carved by the river into sedimentary sandstones and clad in luxuriant native bush the Tangarakau Gorge is the next site on the trail. Large coal deposits originally formed in ancient peat swamps in a low lying prehistoric landscape and were mined in several locations in the Gorge and small pockets of coal can be found adjacent to the Gorge site sign


17. Tatu Coal Mine Village Four houses, a school and a hall were located near here for the workers of the now abandoned Tatu Coal Mine. A larger settlement called Puketihi with about 30 houses, a post office, store, two teacher school and reticulated water supply is located 4km up Waro Road.

18. Tatu Coal Mine The mine entrance is situated 6.5km up Waro Road which is unsuitable for vehicles, but does provide a pleasant walk.
19. Ohura Ohura township is 10km off the main trail. The township has declined since the closure of the coal mines.
20. Nevins Lookout Panoramic views of the King Country and the Central North Island mountains can be gained from the hill. Please ensure that the gate is shut behind you when entering or leaving.
21. Maraekowhai Reserve A site of considerable historic significance as it was a stronghold for rebellious Hauhau Warriors, part of an initially peaceful religious movement in Taranaki which became disenchanted with the style of European land acquisition. A war pole "rongo niu" was built in 1864 with four arms which it was believed radiated out in all directions calling warriors to the "cause". They danced around the pole to incantations which they believed would make them invincible to musket fire. A peace pole "rere kore" was built at the end of hostilities and both poles are now preserved on the site.
22. Papa Drive A fine example of many such drives, were built in the early 1900’s for road culverts. Most have now been replaced but some like this one continue to give good service.
23. Aorangi Flour Mill Although the original mill building has long since disappeared the trenches used to carry water from the Opetea Stream to the mill wheel can still be seen. The site sign is located on River Road opposite Koino Road junction.
24. Aukopae Tunnel The present road cutting was constructed in 1968. Walking access can be gained to the tunnel by following the line of the original road, allow 45 minutes for the return trip.
25. Aukopae River Boat Landing Landing place of the river boats which at the turn of the century transported settlers, livestock, provisions, mail and tourists from Wanganui to Taumaranui. The site sign is located 500m off the trail on Saddlers Road.
26. Nukunuku Museum Follow the sign from Aukopae Landing to Nukunuku Museum. The museum owned by Mr (Jock) Erceg is an interesting collection of memorabilia of the days of the Maori, river boats and early settlement.
27. Otunui River Boat Landing The Otunui Landing is a reminder of the time when the Whanganui River provided the main access to the King Country. Now scarcely distinguishable from any other section of the river bank, the landing is a popular picnic spot. Access can be gained by crossing the road bridge and then walking through the paddock on the opposite side of the stream. The site sign is situated in the picnic area at the junction of the River Road and Otunui South Road.
28. Te Maire Reserve Situated 0.5km from the River Road, access to the reserve is gained by driving over Te Maire Bridge. The reserve is a fine example of podacarp forest with well defined walks of up to 3 hours duration, with good views from the lookout and tree identification signs.
29. Herlihy’s Bluff The Bluff consists of alternating layers of coarse sandstone and fine mudstone laid down to a total thickness of 1.3km when the region was beneath the sea 15-25 million years ago. Very unstable, the bluffs have provided a headache for the road builder. The site sign is situated at the rest area.


- The Taranaki Tourism Website