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Fern Flat Road it the shortest alternative route (that follows a formed road) to SH1 from Kaitaia through to Mangamuka. It is a pleasant drive as the forest encases the road in parts. There is also access to a waterhole directly beside the road as it follows the stream at the northern end. This would make a great breather on a hot days.
As it is narrow and winding, there is the danger of oncoming traffic, although not challenging in any other way.