Otaki Gorge Road: plunging drops to rivers and forbidding cliffs

Otaki Gorge Road is a very scenic yet challenging drive following the Otaki River, in the Kapiti Coast District of the North Island of New Zealand. The drive has a history of slips and road damage in heavy rain events.

Otaki Gorge Road

The beautiful scenic road is 17.9km (11.12 miles) long, starting off State Highway 1. It’s a dead-end road. It follows the Otaki River, from the town of Hautere, towards the river’s source in the rugged Tararua Ranges. The first 13km are paved, but the road gets funny the last 5km. It’s unsealed, narrow and winding, with plunging drops to steel-grey river waters on one side, and steep, forbidding cliffs, often wrapped in cold wisps of white mist on the other. Remember that your stopping distance on a gravel road is thrice that on a sealed road.

After rains, the road along the Otaki River can be extremely challenging. So, check conditions before and take extreme care. Ideal time to travel is daylight. Not advised night drive. Slips are likely. Journeying up Otaki Gorge is not for the faint-hearted. Be very careful, the road is very steep at some points. Please drive carefully and do not exceed 20 km/h.

One of the most beautiful parts of the drive is the road swing bridge at Otaki Gorge: the Waihoanga Road Bridge. The drive is definitely worth it. There are many excellent photo opportunities here. Don’t forget your camera! The bridge is a fantastic structure, with amazing views from the bridge of the Otaki River and the beautiful natural surroundings of Otaki Gorge. Otaki Gorge was the location in New Zealand which represented The Shire woods in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies.