Known as the Forgotten World Highway, Highway 43, heading northeast from Stratford, takes you 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, but there's no shortage of scenic sights. 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 and historic railway; plus Whanganui River views. The 155-km (96-mile) highway is sealed for all but 11 km (7 miles). Allow three hours, and be sure to fill your tank before leaving Stratford. If you need a break, drop into the vintage Whangamomona Hotel (6018 Ohura Rd., 06/762–5823, www.whangamomonahotel.co.nz). More than a century old, it’s the only place to stop for refreshments along the Forgotten World Highway.
Travelers who don’t feel like driving a car can sign
on with Forgotten World Adventures (www.forgottenworldadventures.co.nz), an outfit that lets you "ride the rails"—golf carts mounted on a decommissioned railway line. The self-drive carts reach a top speed of 20 kph (12 mph) as you're led along 140 km (87 miles) of stunning track; one- and two-day guided trips are available.