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Republic Day and the Forgotten World Highway

Whangamomona Hotel
Forgotten World Highway 2
Forgotten World Highway
Moki Tunnel
Dampier Falls

Republic Day and the Forgotten World Highway

story by: Tom Ricketts

On 01 November 1989, the Republic of Whangamomona declared its independence from New Zealand. Whangamomona is a small isolated town about 65 kilometres east of Stratford on State Highway 43, more commonly known as the Forgotten World Highway. The towns residents were protesting at the redrawn council boundaries which saw them move from Taranaki to Manawatu-Wanganui. Now, every two years in January (the date was changed to take advantage of better weather), the town holds its Republic Day celebrations, a tongue in cheek affair that attracts visitors from all across the North Island.

The celebrations on Republic Day are great fun for the whole family. There’s various country themed demonstrations and competitions such as wood cutting, gumboot throwing, tug of war, running races, sheep shearing and even possum shearing! However the main event of the day is the election of the next President of Whangamomona. Everyone is invited to vote in the elections, provided you have a Whangamomona Passport which are available for a small fee from the pub. Past winners of the election include two men, a poodle, and a goat.

Celebrations aside, there’s another reason to go to Whangamomona, the amazing scenery. The 155 kilometre journey stretches between Stratford and Taumaranui on State Highway 43. However this isn’t your average State Highway. The road is incredibly windy, unsealed in some places, and one lane in many other places. But it’s worth it. Coming from either end you start with lush green countryside dotted with the odd strand of poplars and of course, plenty of sheep. As you head further in the countryside becomes increasingly rugged and really does get you wondering how on earth the sheep (let alone farmers) cling safely to the hillsides. It’s now not difficult to see why much of the land was abandoned by early settlers. The journey has you climbing several saddles, travelling through one lane tunnels around 100 years old, and through gorges full of native bush and impressive waterfalls. 

When you do finally make it to Whangamomona you’ll find a typical country pub serving up big meals and cold beer. They even have their own craft beer! The rest of the town is a small collection of residences and historic buildings which are slowly being restored. The towns school, post office and petrol station moved out long ago so make sure you’re well prepared for the trip. We strongly recommend spending a night in the town for nostalgia's sake, but the only two accommodations in town do book out well in advance (especially for Republic Day) so be sure to check with your favourite House of Travel agent first.

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