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Manawatu and Whanganui

Lower Pohangina Valley, photo credit: Destination Manawatu

Bordered to the east by the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges, and to the west, by the Tasman sea, the Manawatu and Whanganui regions offer lots to do on holiday.

Try hiking in the hills and forests, rafting and kayaking the mighty rivers, or mountain biking in the back blocks. For a gentler time, try touring gardens, countryside and rural towns.  You could head to museums and galleries in Palmerston North or Whanganui, or relax on west coast beaches, with a bit of surfing or fishing thrown in.

Biking in Manawatu

Cycling Manawatu River Pathway, photo credit: Destination Manawatu
Cycling Manawatu River Pathway, photo credit: Destination Manawatu

There are lots of opportunities to cycle around Manawatu, from gentle, scenic rides, such as the Manawatu River Pathway, to more challenging, off road trails.

Keen mountain bikers can head to Arapuke Forest Park and Kahuterawa Loop or K-Loop, a network of trails requiring some experience and fitness, starting from the car park at the very end of Kahuterawa Rd, Palmerston North. Jack Frost trail is suitable for beginners and families.

For a 2kms downhill through native bush, try Te Ara o Mahurangi, in Te Apiti, Manawatu Gorge. You can park at Bridge Cafe, ride up Hall Block road for 1.6km and zoom down the rather steep singletrack, to make a loop.

Te Apiti - Manawatu Gorge
Whatonga, Te Apiti - Manawatu Gorge, photo credit: Destination Manawatu

Te Apiti - Manawatu Gorge is a fantastic place to hike. The iconic gorge cuts between two mountain ranges, and the popular 10km walk gives you wonderful views of forest, river gorge and scenery. There are many walks available so pick your challenge and explore.

West Coast Beaches - fishing and sunset strolls

Hokio Beach
Hokio Beach, Bookabach/12348

In Horowhenua District,  Foxton Beach, Hokio Beach and Waitarere Beach are all popular spots to enjoy the sea. The Manawatu River reaches the coast at Foxton - try walks or a run along the estuary, visit the Boat Club, bird sanctuary or take the children to the playground. Try whitebaiting in Hokio Stream from August to November. Waitarere Beach puts you close to forest walks, shops at Levin and Foxton, there’s good fishing, and a walk south along the beach takes you to see the remains of the Hydrabad, a sailing ship that was blown ashore in 1878.

Whanganui - the “River City”

Whanganui River
Whanganui River, photo credit:

The Whanganui River descends from the mountains of the Central Plateau, cutting between steep, forested banks, past little settlements,  down to the sea. The great river has been the lifeblood, food source, means of transport, livelihood and spiritual unifying force of the Whanganui tribes for many centuries. The river has been the site of fierce battles, spiritual and religious communities have lived on its banks. You can read more about Ngati Hau, the peoples of the Whanganui on

The upper reaches of the river are remote and beautiful. For a brilliant day’s mountain biking, ride the Bridge to Nowhere trail and jetboat out on the Whanganui River.  Multisport enthusiasts can run, bike and kayak a 270 km course from the mountains to the sea in the M2C event in April. Or take a slower approach and take a kayak adventure down the river over several days.

The city of Whanganui was established in 1840, and is one of NZ’s oldest cities. It was the New Zealand Company’s second settlement, after Wellington. The Royal Wanganui Opera House, built in 1899, was NZ’s first, and is still a flourishing venue for performing arts today. Whanganui is home to the famous Sarjeant Art Gallery - built in 1919 and currently being redeveloped, and the city is also known for glass blowing and other arts. Read our guide to Whanganui here.

What to do

  • Go fishing, walking or swimming at west coast holiday spots such as Foxton Beach or Waitarere Beach
  • Learn something new at Te Manawa, the museum of art, science and history in Palmerston North
  • Try white water rafting on the Rangitikei River
  • Head to Fielding on a Friday and visit the saleyards, or the Farmers’ Market
  • Go hiking in the forested Ruahine and Tararua Ranges
  • Visit Whanganui - for glassblowing, art galleries and studios
  • Journey along the great Whanganui River, through dramatic, bushclad scenery

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