One of my favorite roads
State Highway 16
This will take around 2+ hours to drive with a few short stops along the way. State 16 is known as the Kaipara Coast Highway and is an excellent alternate to the often crowded State 1 highway especially at holiday times. This little used route is fairly quiet and good average traveling speeds can be maintained. The route is very popular with motorcycle clubs due to the open roads and their undulating nature. Just keep the normal lookout for wandering stock as you should in all rural areas.
State 16 really beings somewhere around the waterfront in Auckland city. Hobson Street climbs up from the bottom of town and joins the start of the North Western Motorway. This is where State 16 starts proper.
The section of motorway from Auckland central out to Pt Chev. has only been there since the late 70's. Previously the motorway terminated at Western Springs and the traffic had to divert to Great North Road to continue into town.
The motorway continues out past Avondale and crosses the causeway. Pollen Island is a marine reserve on the right hand side – huge banks of pipi and cockle shell can be seen. Many years ago the Auckland regional council used to have a tramway out to the banks where they took the shell for making paths in the domain and some other public parks. S36.86359 E174.67086
Te Atatu and Henderson are next. When the motorway was first designed, there was considerable argument for just a single lane. Imagine that now... Near the Henderson offramp (you will see the large AM radio masts long before you get to it) there is the hub of Auckland's super yacht industry. Yachts as big as 120+ feet are launched into the Henderson Creek and floated down the harbor on spring tides. S36.84445 E174.63226
The motorway finishes at the intersection of State 16 and the Upper Harbor Highway. Naturally because this article is about State 16, turn left and drive past the WestGate shopping centre. Note that the speed limit from the end of the motorway all the way out the the other side of Huapai is 80 kph.
State 16 passes through the fertile land of Whenuapai (which means good soil or something like that!). The huge grey coloured sheds at the Lendich depot on the left hand side of the road were built for drying tobacco when it was grown in Riverhead and known as “Riverhead Gold” S36.79892 E174.59586
The road climbs Brighams creek Hill. Once upon a time when there was a much higher speed limit here it was pretty lethal especially in the wet, and took quite a few lives. State Highway 18 turns off to the right at the top of the hill and goes onto Riverhead and eventually out to the top of the Albany hill. State 16 meantime continues along past the well known Allerly House restaurant and winery.
The small townships of Kumeu and Haupai are next. Check out the sculpture of the exploded welding gas cylinder at the front of the Huapai fire station. S36.77225 E174.54396
Wineries dominate the local industry out here, with the Nobilo, Kumeu River, Matua valley and many others in the area – a prime destination for a Saturday wine tasting expedition.
State 16 continues out though Waimauku where the road to the well known Muriwai beach turns off. There are some very long straights in the next 15km starting with the Wharepapa straights, just be very careful of the little bridges in the middle of the straight. Helensville and Parakai are next on the route. The road comes to a roundabout, veer to the right to continue along State 16 through Helensville or veer to the left to visit the thermal pools at Parakai.
Helensville was once a real little industry town. It had it's own dairy plant and a very busy railway station. Of course all of this went into a downturn in the early 80's with the loss of many jobs. The Helensville area struggled to turn around and recently has become a destination, a supermarket has opened and a couple of nice cafe's have sprung into existence.
State 16 travels through the main street of Helensville, past the historic Regent Theater (now closed) and the Grand Hotel. The road becomes a little more open with some great little comic book style hills. Many moons ago we used to get airborne over those hills in an old Valiant. Just after a small white church on the right, there is an intersection where the Waitoki / Silverdale road turns off. Have a look at the real estate agents office right on the corner, it used to be a little 1920's style petrol station with the big classic bowsers out front. S36.62483 E174.50217
The road passes through Kaukapakapa which is the last established shops for the next 60km. Stock up on food and drink at the dairy just before crossing the railway lines. The next couple of km are quite scenic – the Kaipara lookout is quite nice when the tide is in and presents a fine view of the southern half of the Kaipara harbor (the largest natural harbor in the southern hemisphere). Another few km onwards there is the Omeru reserve and Waitangi falls S36.55632 E174.47594. This is a great picnic spot, and is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in New Zealand (it's the site of an old Maori Pa).
After passing the Makarau bridge (classic arched concrete construction) be very careful at the top of the next hill, there is a corner from hell and keep the road speed low. The next tricky section is just over the flat concrete bridge of the Hoteo River – there is a wicked corner with a drop. Many cars and motorbikes especially have run straight into the cattle yards on the outside exit of the corner.
State 16 winds through some great rural country, through Glorit, past the Mt Auckland walkway S36.46882 E174.47012, and climbs the steep hills just north of Tauhoa. There is a really nice view at the top from a small lookout. There is sweeping views virtually 365° over many miles, from Auckland city to Whangarei on a clear day. The road drops down to more moderate levels and eventually winds into Wellsford, where State 16 comes to an end where it meets State Highway 1. Wellsford is a fine rural based town, it even has a McDonalds now.