The road is long and winding, stretching between the Ruapehu adventure town of Taumarunui and New Plymouth on the black-sand Taranaki coast.
The distance and terrain mean this journey is best completed over 2–3 days, which will allow sufficient time to soak up the scenery and heritage sites off the bike. The highway’s major town is wee Whangamomona, which declared itself a republic in 1989 and sells its own passports.
The Taumarunui end of this trail provides access to two Central North Island Great Rides, the Timber Trail and Mountains to Sea, both accessible via other Heartland Rides, the Timber Trail Connection and MTS Connection.
From Taumarunui, SH43 heads over hilly farmland for 30km or so before climbing over Paparata Saddle. It then drops down into the beautiful Tangarakau Gorge, cloaked in native forest.
This is followed by 12km of gravel road. Although this is relatively smooth, it’s not always an easy ride on road bike tyres, especially when the road has just been graded.
Beyond the gorge, there is a moderate climb to the Moki Tunnel (known locally as the Hobbit’s Hole) and over Tahora Saddle.
It’s a long and gentle downhill ride to the settlement of Whangamomona. Not only charming and full of rural history, but it also stakes a claim as New Zealand's only independent republic and celebrates that fact every second January.
Heading south from the ‘republic’, the route turns off the state highway and heads west on Junction Road. The first 16km of Junction Road is gravel and requires wide road tyres or mountain-bike tyres. It is scheduled to be sealed before 2020.
Junction Road passes through several original settlements, including Purangi, where accommodation is available in the original schoolhouse. The road is narrow, quiet and scenic. You will need to watch out for goats, sheep and cattle wandering along the verge.
The route continues over Tarata Saddle, through another picturesque tunnel, and down to a historic suspension bridge across the Waitara River.
The ride leaves the very best for last, as the route now becomes a shared path through Bell Block and around the coast where you will enjoy some spectacular views as you head into New Plymouth.
Known as the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, this award-winning 13km pathway winds along the edge of the Tasman Sea, past epic surf breaks, and dynamic kinetic art. You can take a 15-minute stroll from the central city to Breakwater Bay, a bustling coastal precinct alongside Ngamotu Beach.
New Plymouth has plenty to offer the visitor, including Egmont National Park, surfing, a boat cruises out to the Sugar Loaf Islands, plus dining and shopping in the bustling urban centre. Breakwater Bay is also a great spot to see a stunning west coast sunset.
A helpful source of information about this ride, and other Heartland Rides, is Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails by the Kennett Brothers.
Source: The New Zealand Cycle Trail