Top 10 NZ roads: Number 9

20:52, Jan 30 2012
SPECTACULAR: SH38 snakes past Lake Waikaremoana.

Number nine in our top ten list of New Zealand roads is a scenic tour of one of the North Island's most remote places.

9. Murupara to Wairoa

Distance: 160km

There's no easy way to the East Coast of the North Island, at least for those living north of Rotorua.

The road from Murupara to Wairoa through the Ureweras is not a shortcut to Gisborne, but a scenic tour of one of the more remote places in the North Island.

SH38 through Te Urewera National Park is a winding track, most of it gravel, but the surroundings are spectacular, especially as it snakes past Lake Waikaremoana.


It's best taken at a sedate pace - traffic is sparse, but it's narrow and twisting.

Despite its remoteness, this area is home to the Tuhoe people, "the children of the mist".

You'll stumble across the locals, usually on horseback, so a degree of caution is helpful. 

The landscape through the dense native beech forest is untouched, which is stunning in winter with the snow piled in the tree-tops.

It is rugged, however, so best check with the Te Urewera National Park Visitor Centre to ensure the road is open.

Eventually you'll make your way down to Waikaremoana, the lake formed thousands of years ago after a landslide blocked the gorge along the Waikaretaheke River.

If you want to stop over, there's the Lake Waikaremoana Holiday Park on the lake edge, and there are plenty of short walks throughout the National Park. 

Once you get out of the wilderness, you're back on blacktop as you head along the Waikaretaheke River for Wairoa.

It's a path less travelled, a truly unique road in the North Island and a definite must do.