Kawhia to Mokau
Start the day by heading back out along Highway 31. After about 13 km you reach the Oparau Roadhouse, a general store/garage/café that offers free camping and - for hungry cyclists - a chance to enjoy the best of meals: second breakfast.
A few more kms bring you to the turnoff right into Harbour Road. The riding is easy with only minor rises and falls, and almost no traffic. Visible from the roadside are some interesting rock formations, which presage your entry (at around the 35 km mark) into the Waitomo district. Here the road skirts the coast again. There is a picnic table along the foreshore where you can stop for lunch before cycling on to Kinohaku and tackling the day's only significant climb - up and over Te Waitere Road to Te Anga (no services - the Te Anga pub has long been closed).
Te Anga is a place where decisions must be made. Many cyclists continue the remaining 33 km along Te Anga Road to the caves district of Waitomo. From Waitomo you can venture further south through Te Kuiti to the Timber Trail or perhaps the quiet Ongarue-Waimiha Road to Taumarunui.
For those continuing south along the coast (or perhaps just wanting a shorter stopover) the alternative is to turn off down Marokopa Road, following the Marokopa River down to... Marokopa, a small fishing village with a few holiday batches, a campground and very little else. The campground is fairly rudimentary, but pleasant enough, with a basic store that also sells takeaways. Marokopa is a place of quietude. Take an evening stroll down to the black-sand shore and enjoy the isolation.
Head out over Mangatoa Road and over the hill to Kiritehere. On my old map the road is marked as shingle all the way from Kiritehere to the junction with State Highway 3. Gladly, this is no longer so. There is still a small metal section starting at Kiritehere and continuing along the flat for 13 km, but it's in good nick and you can make good time on it.
I'd been dreading the 330m climb over the Mangatoa Road saddle. Parts of this road will make you sweat - even in your lowest granny gear. But the ride is made easier by the stunning scenery through the Whareorino native reserve.
This is big country. I'd made the elevation chart above prior to the trip and, seeing the line zig-zag up & down between the 30 km and 50 km marks, was expecting a rolling descent into Awakino. In fact it is almost a clear downhill run all the way. So why the zig-zag lines? My guess is that satellite-based elevation data is only accurate to so many metres. In this terrain even a small misread could put you high up a bluff or deep down a gully. Which just goes to show you should take these charts with a grain of salt.
Anakiwa appears soon after you join SH3. Here this is a pub, and swanky lodge on the site of the old general store. Mokau, another black-sand/river-mouth settlement, is another 5 km down the road and has two takeaway/café outlets, one of which has a campground attached. The campground seems to be a bit of an afterthought though and has definitely seen better days.
The one unfortunate aspect of this ride is that it deposits you onto SH3. This is a busy stretch of road with a large volume of trucks transporting goods between New Plymouth and parts further north. What's more, parts of this road are not very cycle-friendly, with blind corners and often no margin. My original plan was rise early and cycle the 20 km to Ahititi before sunrise - then try my luck along Okau Road, eventually connecting up with the Forgotten World Highway. Alas, gear failure prompted a change of plan, so it was off to New Plymouth in the bus. If you'd rather avoid busy roads then the bus may be a good option here, otherwise the route is described elsewhere from Mokau to Waitara.