We came across the route in the map as we were doing our research for our itinerary after Taupo. It promised a scenic drive, albeit the windy roads which were described as a natural roller coaster experience. We were fascinated by the description of the drive; thrilled about going through an eerie one-way tunnel; though skeptical of our car making it safe across the 15km of unsealed gravel road.
And as the name suggests – the highway is indeed somewhat forgotten. The largest town we passed by was Whangamomona, and even that probably had no more than 50 people. The town declared itself a republic, and we were told that a goat was once made the mayor of the town! Curious little town.
We came across an itinerary to stay overnight in the historic Whangamomona Hotel, but you could save yourself a night and continue on unless you’ve got activities planned around the area.
Without making any stops along the way, the drive would probably take about 2.5 hours after factoring the narrow bends and gravel roads.
But that wasn’t us.
We had to make a stop at Bridge to Somewhere. It’s a cheeky response to the famous Bridge to Nowhere at Whanganui National Park which wasn’t accessible by foot or car. So we thought, why not drive to the sister bridge which looks exactly the same?
It was a detour from the highway which was an hour’s drive on another stretch on unsealed gravel and even narrow road. It was the most frustrating drive we had, not knowing where we were and when we would reach. We didn’t have the location mapped and blindly followed the signages.
There were no other cars in both directions, and we weren’t sure if that was a good or bad thing since we preferred to have the narrow roads to ourselves. But at the same time wondering if we were the only silly ones who decided to take the detour.
Turns out we were. And we still had another hour’s drive back to the main road.
Leaving the bridge, the rest of the drive to Stratford seemed like a breeze from this point onwards. We planned to make a pitstop at the town named after William Shakespeare’s birthplace and view the performance of Romeo and Juliet at the glockenspiel clock tower.
Once again, we found ourselves alone viewing the show across the road with our takeaway dinner. Unfortunately, we could barely hear the skit with the vehicles passing by and it was a tad comical watching the figurines pop in and out.
But at least this time we didn’t have to drive two hours for it.
We probably drove a total of 6 hours that day (including the drive after to New Plymouth), out of which a third was spent on unsealed gravel roads which I now have a fear of.
On hindsight, the drive probably wasn’t that bad if we didn’t make the detour to Bridge to Somewhere. The views were pretty spectacular, though we prefer the scenery of oceans rather than hills.
So, there you have it – if anyone were to ask which is the windiest road we’ve driven in New Zealand, Forgotten World Highway would definitely be on that list.