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New Zealand's North Island: Exploring the Back Roads; Auckland to Lake Taupo Then West Via Logging Route

Updated on September 27, 2020
annart profile image

Ann loves to travel at home and abroad. Visits to New Zealand have shown me beautiful mystic and historical places like no others!

The Logging Route

Head on Round the Bend?
Head on Round the Bend? | Source

So Much to See & Do

New Zealand’s North Island offers you a wide spectrum of places to visit and things to do. There are the beaten tracks and then there are the more remote areas where one can explore. This journey is going to take you south from Auckland to Lake Taupo, then over the logging route of the western mountains. Arriving at the west coast, we'll go south to New Plymouth, then to Okato, a small town dominated by Mount Egmont.

En Route

Travel south from Auckland; en route you might like to visit the mountain range of the Coromandel peninsula to the East, soft green and misty in the distance. I’m still waiting to go there as we didn’t have time. It looks mysterious and mystical. You can continue south to the Kaimai Range, down to the thermal springs of Rotorua. These are a popular stop on the tourist route, though it’s said not as spectacular as they used to be, due to locals having tapped into the springs to heat their houses, something which is now banned.

Views to the East

Misty Coromandel Range
Misty Coromandel Range | Source

Power Station & Orakei Orako

On southwards to Wairakei and its geothermal power station which feeds on the underground forces of nature, emerging in an intricate pattern of fat pipes on the surface. This route also passes by the entrance to the hidden geothermal valley of Orakei Korako, in my opinion the best site on the planet! You want geysers, bubbling mud, caves, sulphur and silica? You can find out about it in another hub of this series.

Wairakei & Orakei Korako

Wairakei Power Station
Wairakei Power Station | Source
Piped Energy
Piped Energy | Source
Orakei Korako Geothermal Park
Orakei Korako Geothermal Park | Source

Taupo & its Lake

Venture further south to Taupo before circling the massive Lake Taupo, created two thousand years ago by a huge volcanic eruption. The lake, about the size of Singapore, offers boat cruises and trout fishing and has geothermal water currents. Take the main road on the eastern side of the lake, to Turangi. If you have a car and want an adventure, now turn north-west until you reach Kuratau. Here, you leave the lake and enter the rain-forested hills in the west, following the route via Moerangi and Manunui, to Taumarunui. You are aiming for the logging route over the western mountains. You are definitely off the tourist track.

The road starts to wind through lush foliage, steaming with thermal puffs of white sent heaven-ward by the earth’s engine. The surface is still tarmac for a while but be aware that this will soon change.

From Lake Taupo to the Rain Forest

Looking down on Lake Taupo
Looking down on Lake Taupo | Source
Off to find the Logging Route
Off to find the Logging Route | Source
Forging Through!
Forging Through! | Source

The Logging Route: Let the Fun Begin!

From Taumarunui, turn south and then west, via Te Whakarae and Tokirima, before taking a right turn just north of Tatu, signposted for Ohura (wasn’t she in Star Trek?!). This is where the beauty continues but the fun begins!

The logging route, as its name suggests, is frequented by large lorries carrying timber (as in long tree trunks) from where it's been felled to where it’ll be piled high ready for use. As you start this route an encouraging sign informs you, ‘‘Beware of lorries approaching in the middle of the road’. There are frequent bends, it’s a metal road (no tarmac) and logging lorries can loom large round any corner.

You slide in the ruts, in places the gravel has been displaced so your teeth think they’re riding over corrugated roofing. It’s the best rally track I’ve ever driven on! We negotiated this during the few days’ holiday over new year so we didn’t see any lorries, though we were wary of being eaten by an errant ‘moonlighting’ vehicle!

You are passing through tropical rainforest, the huge silver and green ferns which are the other emblem of New Zealand above and below you, thermal steam rising from the foliage on surrounding hillsides, overhanging rock walls threatening to fall and sweep you down into the gaping forest below. Indeed, there are warning signs and frequent evidence of rockfall.

Gravel Roads & Thermals in the Foliage

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Will we Meet a Lorry?Frequent Rockfalls
Will we Meet a Lorry?
Will we Meet a Lorry? | Source
Frequent Rockfalls
Frequent Rockfalls | Source

Half Way

Slightly short of half way is the settlement of Waitaanga where you are allowed a brief respite by way of the occasional straight stretch of tarmac, then off you go again a-slipping and a-sliding on the gravel. Our hire car wasn’t supposed to go on such surfaces but, frankly, we didn’t care. I was in my element and nothing was going to stop me now! I expected a marshall with a stop-watch to flag me in at the finish line.

To the End of the Road

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Shades of 'Close Encounters'?
Shades of 'Close Encounters'?
Shades of 'Close Encounters'? | Source

On the Tourist Track once more

Finally the route joins the west coast main road at Ahititi. Turn south towards New Plymouth. The fun has ended but the beauty hasn’t. To the east of the coast road there are hummocks of grass-covered boulders which look as though they’ve tumbled down from the mountains; a green-mogul slalom track.

Mount Egmont/Taranaki

We were heading for Okato, on the coastal edge of Egmont National Park, established in 1900. If you’re lucky, you can see Mount Egmont or, in Maori, Mount Taranaki. The Maori word ‘tara’ referring to the peak and ‘naki’ from a word meaning shining, together they refer to the snow-covered peak in winter.

‘Egmont’ was the name chosen by Captain Cook, after the then 2nd Earl of Egmont, a one-time First Lord of the Admiralty who supported Cook's quest.

Mount Taranaki is often shrouded in cloud but on a clear sunny day its dark sides and snow-covered summit mirror the typical child’s drawing of a conical volcano, its peak rising to 2518m. It is active. Its last major eruption was around 1655.

Some scientists have warned that a significant eruption is overdue. There is a bulge to one side which could burst at any time (not necessarily due to an eruption) and release quantities of unstable layers over surrounding farmland.

Mount Egmont/Taranaki


Where shall we go Next?

From here, follow the coast road south to Wellington where you can fly away to wherever you choose. Alternatively, catch the ferry to the south island where yet more delights await you.

Happy travelling!

Exploring off the Beaten Track

Do you avoid the tourist route because..

See results

© 2013 Ann Carr


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    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, Elsie. I'm glad you liked this.

      We don't tend to take the easy routes! My partner lived in NZ for a while and has explored the countryside a lot. His sister is in Christchurch. I've also done some rallying and I love driving so that was a challenge for me which I found totally exhilarating! It was certainly an interesting and wonderful journey.

      Thanks so much for reading. Yes, it's time we visited again.

      Happy New Year to you!


    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Beautiful article, enjoyed the travel with you in the north island in New Zealand.

      You sure took the hard way to travel when taking that drive through the bush country in taranaki, metal roads, I avoid them if I can.

      Looking forward to seeing you coming our way again sometime.

      All the best for 2015.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, PhoenixV, for your kind comments. Yes, NZ is indeed beautiful. The coast, the mountains, the forests, the towns; all amazing. I also found that the pace of life was so much more relaxing; must be all those surroundings! If ever you get the chance to go, take it!

      I appreciate your visit.


    • PhoenixV profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      New Zealand is such a beautiful place, I would give anything to travel there. This is a wonderful hub! I would especially like to see Milford Sound.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, cygnetbrown; I very much appreciate you coming back to comment. Glad you liked the photos too.

      I love NZ and hope to go back within a year. Ann

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 

      6 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      I am amazed at the diversity of such a relatively small country. Beautiful pictures as well!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks Jirel, glad you enjoyed it. It's quite an adventure on that route! I appreciate your comment.

    • jirel profile image


      6 years ago from Philippines

      This is great..and the pictures make me feel like I went there myself. :)

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Colleen. There are so many place names in NZ and OZ that come from here, as I'm sure you know.

      My grandmother was from Durham; it's such a lovely place and the cathedral is beautiful.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Ann

    • Colleen Swan profile image

      Colleen Swan 

      6 years ago from County Durham

      Wonderful trip. I smiled at the fact that I live in West Auckland, County Durham UK. We are so close yet so far away. Lovely Hub

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      ChitrangadaSharan: So glad you enjoyed the tour and the photos. If you can manage it, NZ is certainly worth a visit wherever you go. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Ann

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      6 years ago from New Delhi, India

      This is very interesting and informative hub, with wonderful pictures!

      I enjoyed the tour and interesting facts you shared in this hub. Would love to visit the beautiful place, with your hub as a tourist guide.

      Thanks and voted up!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      freecampingaussie: You should certainly take a look at this one! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment; good to see you again. Are you still on the road or back home? Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks so much, Dolores, for your lovely comment. Yes, the light there is something special and the contrast of blue sky and greenery is always enchanting. I love it. I think it's time I did some hubs about my own country though! Ann

    • freecampingaussie profile image


      6 years ago from Southern Spain

      The memories this brought back ... I lived in Taumaranui for a while after I was first married so I really enjoyed this with the lovely photos !! Must get back to explore more of NZ.

    • freecampingaussie profile image


      6 years ago from Southern Spain

      Love the hub !I lived in Tauramanui for a while and wish we had explored more while living there.Will get back there one day !

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Ann - I love my armchair travels at HP! And this one has been just lovely. There must be something about the light in New Zealand, it glows so beautifully in photographs, and your pictures are awesome. Thanks for the tour!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Frank Atanacio: Thank you; I'm glad you enjoyed the tour and I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Ann

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 years ago from Shelton

      thanks so much for the tour.. what beautiful photos...

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, teaches. I'm glad you enjoyed the tour. This was one of the wildest routes I've experienced. Thanks for the visit and taking the time to comment. Ann

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Your words describe such a beautiful country and it makes me want to visit soon. You have shared some interesting facts and information on this lovely place. Thank you for the tour!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      CraftytotheCore: Thanks for your kind comments. It doesn't feel like hard work as I love revisiting in my head all these wonderful places. I must do a few which are closer to home, to promote my own country and its beautiful areas. Ann

    • CraftytotheCore profile image


      6 years ago

      I thoroughly enjoyed this visual trip. You've worked so hard on this series of exploration. I look forward to reading more.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      tobusiness: Thank you for your lovely comments; I hope you manage to get there one day; it's great fun and the whole country is so beautiful.

      Hope your day's been a good one too. Ann

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      A wonderful hub, the perfect read at the end of this Christmas day. The images are breathtaking, if I should ever make it to New Zealand, I would definitely take this hub along with me. Excellent article, Happy Christmas to you.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Valleypoet: Thank you for reading and for your kind comment. It certainly is a back road; I'd think twice about doing it when the loggers are there regularly!

      Hope you've enjoyed your Christmas Day. Ann

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a real back road journey through some stunning remote scenery. Enjoyed this, thank you for sharing:-))

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      RTalloni: Glad you enjoyed this and thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Yes, it is unstable and it's always on my mind when I'm there; however the beauty takes your breath away.

      Happy Christmas to you and yours. Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      always exploring: Thank you for your kind comments and for taking the time to read. I'm glad you enjoyed the journey.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours. Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Hi bill! Great to see you first on the doorstep! I'm glad you enjoyed this. I have no doubt you will be rich and famous enough to visit NZ soon enough.

      Looking forward to reading your new one.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours too, bill.


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your trip with us. Enjoyed the photos! Though it is an unstable landscape I would still like to visit the area.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      New Zealand is a beautiful country! The Misty Coromandel Range looks so serene and peaceful. I would love to visit. Your article is informative and well done. Thank you. I enjoyed the journey...

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Such beautiful country, Ann! What an informative article this was. Well done! I would love to visit there but I'm beginning to think I'll never make it. I will have to become a rich and famous author fairly soon now or my bucket list is going to diminish significantly. :)

      Thank you for adding to the "Exploring" series. I have one coming out this week as well.

      Merry Christmas my friend.



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