Driving from Auckland to Tongariro National Park.
An early start (by my standards) of 7:30, and two hours after leaving Auckland I arrived in the town of Raglan, just in time for a late Sunday breakfast!
Raglan is a small seaside town on the West Coast of the North Island. My first visit was in the early 1970's when I was a skinny surfing kid and many more visits followed, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the town has changed. First impressions were comforting - "not a lot has changed, just a bit bigger" After parking the car I made my way to The Shack Cafe which seemed to be a favorite with the locals and sure enough, I had a excellent breakfast with great coffee and all reasonably priced.
After a walk around the town I then traveled on another 5 miles to Manu Bay, the legendary surf break made famous by American Bob Brown in his 60's surf movie classic 'The Endless Summer'. The wonderful sight from the top of the hill of a line-up wrapping around the point brought back many wonderful memories and as you will see in my photo there was a small crowd out, even on an average day, jockeying for the best wave.
After leaving Raglan I wanted to take a look at the Tree Church I'd been reading about, located at Ohaupo. The drive took about 45 minutes and involved some back-tracking as I made my way cross-country. It was nice to see Mt Pirongia on this stretch of road, a peak I'd had climbed a couple of years earlier with my good friend Peter Hosking.
Next stop was Ohaupo, a town of around 5 shops and the Tree Church, located on a long straight road off the main highway, without much outside signage so it's easy to miss.
I spoke with the owner and it soon became clear that he was as surprised as anyone about how quickly his quiet oasis had become a popular place for visitors. It's in a nice setting surrounded by trees and a lot of work is going on to further develop the gardens and walking tracks. I was glad I'd made the effort of making a visit.
The charming little Tree Church at Ohaupo. Perfect for that special wedding.
The grounds around the Tree Church.
My next stop was an hour and a half away at the small rural farming town of Taumarunui. The driving was easy, the scenery varied and at times breathtaking so the time passed quickly. Taumarunui gives the impression of having seen better times, so after a look at the very attractive local Marae (Maori meeting place) I continued on to the town of National Park, gateway to the World Heritage listed Tongariro National Park.
The Ngapuwaiwaha Marae at Taumarunui.
This drive van be included on many of the New Zealand Vacations itineraries. Like this one, the 12 Day 'Heart of New Zealand'