Back roads to Waitomo

[singlepic id=146 w=200 float=right] With a busy summer just around the corner, PiwiWiwi decided to take a break from the office and head off on a mini road trip. We’d heard about the back roads route to Waitomo from the staff at the Raglan iSite, and decided to check it out for ourselves.

[singlepic id=147 w=200 float=left] We first headed south towards Ruapuke and were immediately rewarded by a stunning panorama of the other side of Mt Karioi. The GPS then directed us inland, past Bridal Veil Falls and south again on the Kawhia Road. As we were skirting Aotea Harbour we came across a lay-by with views across the water towards the setting sun. There were no ‘no camping’ signs and we were not blocking access to any land, so we decided that it was the perfect place to stay the night.

[singlepic id=148 w=200 float=right] The next morning we headed south to Kawhia and east along to Oparau where we stopped for coffee. The petrol station / café in Oparau has a free campsite behind it and does very good home made pies – worth remembering for next time we’re along that road. We headed south again, this time skirting the inlets of Kawhia Harbour and continuing across the countryside to Te Anga and SH37.

[singlepic id=149 h=200 float=left] On SH37 to the east of Te Anga (20 mins from Waitomo) are three natural formations that are well worth a visit if you’re in the area. Marakopa Falls are a stunning 30m waterfall, frequently seen as a backdrop to the TV series Hercules. Piri Piri Cave is set in beautiful native bush and contains some interesting fossils and limestone features. Mangapohue Natural Bridge is an impressive 17m, two tiered natural limestone arch over a river, accessed by a loop track which takes you past limestone outcrops containing fossilised oysters.

[singlepic id=150 h=200 float=right] Continuing the fossil-theme, we headed west out to the coast on SH37 and down to Kititehere. On the right swell, Kiritehere holds a rugged left hand point break at the south end of the beach. Unfortunately there were no waves to be had when we were there, however the rocks at the south end of the beach also hold millions of fossil scallops and we spent a happy couple of hours hopping along the coast and finding the remains of an ancient seabed.

[singlepic id=151 w=200 float=left] As the day was coming to an end (and the rain was moving in once again) we left the coast and headed back up SH37. We didn’t stop in Waitomo as we can see glow worms in Raglan any time we want, so we carried on to Otorohanga, New Zealand’s official Kiwiana town. The quirky and informative displays along the high street, a tribute to all things Kiwi (including pavlova, marmite, sheep and no.8 wire), are well worth checking out on a grey evening. We stayed the night in the Otorohanga Holiday Park, a clean and friendly holiday park which is far cheaper than any of the camping options in Waitomo itself (which is only 25 mins away).

[singlepic id=152 w=200 float=right] The next day we headed up to Hamilton for business, then on to Auckland for more business. We did manage a climb through Pirongia Forest Park and a night at a beautiful campsite just a short drive from Auckland airport, but that’s a topic for another blog. As far as the back road to Waitomo is concerned, if you’re planning to head south from Raglan this route is highly recommended. As with all of New Zealand, you can find some absolute gems if you travel off the main highways.

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