The stunning and dramatic rural landscape of northern Manawatu is dotted with scenic activities that offer a perfect day trip from the city, or several nights if you’re after a little more time.

The area is the definition of heartland New Zealand, where it’s likely you’ll come across a flock of sheep or farmers going about their daily work. The area is a growing visitor destination for motor homers, cyclists, motorbikers and those wanting to get off the main highway. Northern Manawatu encompasses the Manawatu Scenic Route, Iron Gates Experience and Manawatu Cycle Trail and serves visitors untouched areas and authentic experiences. Here’s a sample of what’s on offer. 

Ruahine Dress Circle – picnic and swimming spot

Pack your togs and a delicious picnic as you’re not going to want to leave this spot once you’ve arrived. Wind your way down a gravel road to the Ruahine Dress Circle, which boasts its name because it reminded early settlers of a dress circle in an opera house: trees and shrubs decorate the cliffs and drape down like nature’s curtains. This spot has been a local favourite for swimming, exploring and picnics for more than 100 years.

Swimming at the Ruahine Dress Circle

Ruahine Dress Circle, Rangiwahia

Walking in northern Manawatu

From gentle strolls to overnight tramps to huts, there is a walk for everyone in northern Manawatu. Rangiwahia Hut Track is a popular, well defined track that winds its way through bush, horopito forests and tussock to the 12-bunk hut that’s perched on top of the Ruahine Ranges. The views are stunning and half way up there’s a beautiful arched-wooden bridge over a deep gorge that resembles a Lord of the Rings movie scene. There are many more stunning walks to discover in northern Manawatu, such as the Alice Nash Heritage Memorial Lodge Track that’s ideal for families.

Views from Rangiwahia Hut Track

Rangiwahia Hut Track, Rangiwahia 

Ian McKean Pinetum

A pinetum is a collection of trees that have been planted for ornamental or scientific purposes and it’s pronounced pine-ee-tum. Ian McKean was a third-generation sheep and beef farmer whose real passion was growing and planting conifers (cone-bearing) trees. So much so, that the pinetum he in began in 1958 is now home to more than 1500 trees! With well-defined walking tracks, a gazebo to picnic in, and spectacular views of the mighty Mt Ruapehu, you can easily spend a few hours exploring and marveling at this collection of trees. 

Find out more.

Ian McKean Pinetum in Rangiwahia

Ian McKean Pinetum, Rangiwahia

Mangahuia Wetlands

The Mangahuia Wetlands are home to abundant bird life: white and black swans float gracefully across the water and are joined by different breeds of rare ducks and other feathery inhabitants. Take a leisurely stroll around the one-kilometre walking track that winds its way around the lake to catch glimpses of the wildlife. The wetlands are surrounded by collections of exotic trees, like Cherry Blossoms and Rhododendrons which burst into vibrant colour spring or visit in the autumn when the trees turn fiery red and deep, burnt orange. 

Mangahuia Wetlands in Rangiwahia

Mangahuia Wetlands, Rangiwahia

Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve

This original native bush reserve is spread across 132 acres on the outskirts of Rangiawahia Village and was spared by the early settlers who were balloted land and felled most of the surrounding bush to farm the land. The walk through the reserve offers a glimpse into some of the area’s oldest native bush and includes a stunning collection of labeled native trees such as rimu, matai, maire, and kahikatea. The songs from the abundant bird life will keep you company throughout the 90-minute walk.

Hiking in Rangiwahia Reserve

Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve, Rangiwahia

Limestone Creek Reserve Glow Worms

Grab your gumboots and get ready to explore the glow worm caves that are as equally breath taking during the day as they are at night. A short walk down a steep track will bring you to a creek, which you’ll crisscross until you reach the main cave. These spectacular caves, set in lush native bush, are as natural as they come. Take a deep breath and a moment of silence to listen to the water droplets, chirps of native birds, and the gentle flow of the stream. You’ll leave with a sense of adventure – this 600m adventure can be enjoyed by all ages, although small children will need help walking across the creek. Rain jackets recommended and expect to get wet feet.

Apiti glow worm caves

Limestone Creek Reserve, Apiti

Apiti Lavender Farm

On the outskirts of Apiti is a quaint, small organic lavender farm, where the rows of purple flowers are pressed into oil, essential oil candles, soaps, wheat bags and eye pillows. You can stay on the farm overnight or make it a day trip to wander the rows of lavender when they’re in full bloom, or just sit back and soak up the relaxing scent of lavender and the serene rural location with a picnic. The simple and basic accommodation is ideal for bike packers, trampers or other visitors passing by who want to experience a real kiwi lifestyle.

Apiti lavender farm

Apiti Lavender Farm, Apiti

Grabbing a bite to eat

There’s no doubt you’ll need to refuel after a day of exploring. Pop into the Apiti Tavern and Eatery for some delicious pub-grub served up by the friendly hosts Sean and Kylie. Don’t be surprised if you see a tractor parked up or farm dogs resting on the back of a ute – this local favourite provides an authentic glimpse into the farming community. If you’re travelling home to Feilding or Palmerston North, the crafty and rustic Hansen’s Café and Store provides a delicious menu, as do the Kimbolton and Cheltenham pubs. Click here to discover more of the region’s top places to eat and drink.

Apiti Tavern and Eatery the heart of the community

Apiti Tavern and Eatery, Apiti

Looking to stay in the area?

Discover Manawatu’s family friendly farmstays.

Come and enjoy kiwi hospitality at its best!