Known as the Forgotten World Highway, Highway 43, heading northeast from Stratford, takes travelers on an intriguing, heritage-rich journey back in time as it winds through rolling farmland and dense rain forests to Taumarunui, the northern access point for the Whanganui River. You'll see few cars here. Highlights include Mt. Damper Falls (a side trip); spectacular views from three saddles and a lookout point; the steep, forest-filled Tangarakau Gorge; a road tunnel; historic railway; and Whanganui River views. The 155-km (96-mile) highway is sealed for all but 11 km (7 miles). Allow three hours and fill your tank before leaving Stratford.
If driving a car isn't for you, Forgotten World Adventures (www.forgottenworldadventures.co.nz) lets you "ride the rails"—golf carts mounted on a decommissioned railway line. You drive your own cart (top speed 20 kph [12 mph]) along 140 km (87 miles) of stunning track accompanied by a guide; one- and two-day trips are available.
Hotel. The only place to stop for refreshment along this road is this over-100-year-old hotel. No worries, it's a good place—yesteryear style and hospitality at its best. Alternatively, plan to stay overnight, and check out the photo galleries, which relate the area's pioneering history. 6018 Ohura Rd., Stratford, 4396. 06/762–5823.