1. Whariti Peak
Whariti Peak, at the southern end of the Ruahine Range, is one of the highest points that you can drive to in the North Island. The gravel road winding its way up is a bit rough, but the view is guaranteed to take your breath away, just as it did for Whatonga.
On a clear day, you can see south to Kāpiti Island and west all the way to Mt Taranaki and Ruapehu. Turning east, you can see the Hawke's Bay and all the way down to the Wairarapa. It’s great to get up there in the winter too, as there is often a dusting of snow.
2. Waihi Falls
Waihi Falls, though slightly off the beaten track, are spectacular. The 25m waterfall drops into a large swimming hole and is a great place to chill on a hot summer’s day. Because of its remoteness, the falls are not very well known. This makes it a perfect spot for those seeking some peace and quiet.
3. Route 52
Route 52 is a charming stretch of road. Winding through beautiful countryside, past established sheep stations and old pubs, this road is part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail and is loved by cyclists, motorcyclists and motorists alike. For those wanting a short ride, consider parking at Pongaroa, going for a cycle, and coming back to the Pongaroa Hotel for a drink. If you are like me and don’t own a bike, it is still a pleasure to drive.
4. Akitio Beach
Akitio Beach is a beautiful spot that’s away from the hordes. Rugged and remote, the beach and village have a friendly, laidback atmosphere. With sandy beaches and a river-mouth lagoon, it's a great spot for whitebaiting, fishing and swimming.
5. Tramping in the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges
Tramping in the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges gives you access to some of the best backcountry in the North Island. I deeply love these mountains and enjoy nothing better than getting into a hut for a day or the weekend. There are so many tracks to choose from, both short and long, and for all ages. Just make sure you check the weather before you go.