NZ Lifestyle Magazine Group


The colonial days of bustling ports, busy boarding houses and hotels filled with smoke and debauchery are long gone. Today's roads are asphalted, and the hostelry is more of the café variety. At the northern foot of the Brynderwyns, a turn leads to the small settlement of the same name and then on to Maungatoroto, at the Kaipara's heart. These rolling hills, quiet valleys and the salty tang of the nearby mangrove-filled harbour called to poet Sam Hunt, who moved here in the early 2000s. Hunt immortalized the beauty of these intertwining waters in his collection, Salt River Songs. Novelist Jane Mander's Story of a New Zealand River (1920) takes place in the region's riverside dwellings and kauri mills and is a New Zealand classic. Golden lumps of kauri gum, buried in the swampy land on the southern reaches of the Waipoua Forest, once earned more export revenue for Auckland than any other commodity. The history of the tenacious men whose hard work liberated gum from peat is commemorated in the world-famous-in-New Zealand Kauri Museum at Matakohe. Rūāwai, which in te reo means "two waters”, is 16km further along the highway, and is the last stop before Dargaville. Small settlements dot the northern section of the highway, often with little more than a small gas station, pub and the occasional gallery. Visitors staying in the Waipoua Forest, Kai Iwi Lakes or driving through should restock/refuel at Dargaville as options are limited between here and the Hokianga.