The Forgotten Highway of New Zealand

Forgotten World Highway, New Zealand

New Zealand is an amazing country. Aotearoa, the land of the Long White Cloud, lives up to its reputation in every way.

There is so much more to New Zealand than wonderful mountains, deep blue lakes and spectacular fiords and rivers.

To find the un-adulterated and natural beauty, you have to go into its heart.

The heart of the North Island is Taumarunui, a small town in the King Country. This used to be a thriving railway settlement and the centre of the rural heart.

Today, the rail still passes through the town as it is part of the main trunk line, from Auckland to Wellington, but it’s a fraction of what it once was. No more refreshment stops and pretty much just freight trains that roll through the night.

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The Forgotten Highway of New Zealand

However, Taumarunui holds a unique place in New Zealand Tourism with The Forgotten Highway, which is an adventure designed to take you right into the true heart of the bush.

Forgotten World Adventures forged a concept that allows you to travel on the rails of the old forgotten line from Okahukura, just north of the town of Taumarunui, to Whangamomona, a tiny bush settlement that has the uniqueness of being New Zealand’s only republic!

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These rail carts, as they are called, travel on this disused line, taking in some 21 tunnels along the way.

The rail carts along the Forgotten Highway of New Zealand.

You get to enjoy the beautiful rural landscape of the King Country. The beauty of these carts is that they are accessible. I travelled with my son Phil and he was able to assist getting my wheelchair into a position that I could transfer from the cart comfortably. I spoke with a number of the group and everyone made the comment, “How easy is that?”

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A number of this group had family with access issues and after seeing the ease and willingness of staff to assist, are recommending this tour to their friends and family that have a chair or walker, outlining the easy access.

General Manager, Paul Chaplow and his experienced staff will assist and cater for all of your special needs. Nothing is a bother.

Brian enjoying the Forgotten Highway

The Forgotten World Adventure is the brain child of Ian Balme, a farmer, former Waikato Regional councillor and keen outdoorsman, who saw the decommissioned Forgotten World rail line and felt a spark of inspiration.

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Today, this attraction commands worldwide interest, with guests from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand all part of the group we were with.

Robbie, our guide, was an encyclopaedia of knowledge. Leaving the Forgotten World motel, you travel in convoy, either by your own car, or in the buses provided to the start point at Okahukura.

Once on your rail cart, instruction is given on safety and how to operate them.

We then headed off on the adventure, through this beautiful part of the King Country. Commentary is something that is, without a doubt, exceptional.

Travellers enjoying the Forgotten Highway

The day was misty with some mild rain, in my opinion enhancing this trip as it held a mystical presence.

We arrived at the depleted settlement of Matiere, where morning tea was available. Home baking at its best! From there to Ohura, that once was a thriving coal mining town and also housed one of Her Majesty’s prisons.

Arriving at Tokirima, lunch awaits you. The afternoon takes you through the spectacular Tangarakau Gorge, stopping at this beautiful location, the home of Manuka Honey and a once thriving settlement.

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It’s then on to the Republic of Whangamomona. (You can stay here over night and there is accessible accommodation complete with a massive bathroom. Plenty of room for your chair or walker!) 

Take a wander around the Republic before boarding the shuttle to travel by road back to Taumarunui along the famed State Highway 43 – The Forgotten World Highway.

Have you travelled along the Forgotten World Highway? Let us know in the comments section below. 

The writer travelled and stayed as guest of Forgotten World Adventures but all opinions are his own.

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