Scenic Route in Manawatu

Journey through heartland New Zealand and discover hidden valleys, vast rolling farmland and ancient native bush.

Distance: 96km / 61mi

By: Car, Motorhome, Motorcycle, Bike

Start: Mangaweka


  • Ancient Native Bush
  • Gardens & Heritage
  • Crystal-clear Rivers

Beginning in Mangaweka, make sure to check out the iconic Main Street tucked away just off the main highway. This is a main road frozen in time – the perfect place take a stroll, and you'll feel like you've been transported to the early 1900's! From Mangaweka, head north and turn right into Ruahine Road.

Your journey begins with the Mangaweka Bridge, leading you through a deep viaduct steeped with white papa cliffs. Soon after, you will pass the Ruahine Dress Circle Reserve, a local hot spot with waterfalls and swimming holes; the perfect rest stop. Continue on and you’ll pass Ruapuna Park & Museum - a great place to stop for those that love gardens and history.

If you’re ready to get off the road and go for a hike, take a detour onto Renfrew Road to experience Rangiwahia Hut Track, a must do when in Manawatu. Back on the route, you’ll pass Mangahuia Wetlands, the ideal spot for some bird watching or a picnic. If you’re seeking a dose of adventure, visit the team at Table Flat Trekking and enjoy a horse trek over a magical high altitude landscape.

Take a short detour into the township of Apiti to the Apiti Bar & Grill, the perfect place to meet the locals, enjoy a drink and one of their locally-famous meals. To stretch your legs, wander down the road and take a stroll around Mageo Woodcraft & Garden - their unique onsite woodcraft and pyrography shop is great to pick up a couple of kiwi souvenirs. There are plenty of accommodation options in Apiti for the night.

Heading through the picturesque Pohangina Valley, you’ll be treated to an ever-changing landscape of lush green valleys, stony river terraces and the impressive backdrop of the Ruahine Ranges. Along the way, there are hidden swimming holes and scenic lookouts to take in. Totara Reserve offers a wide selection of stunning native bush walks and is a popular spot to camp, picnic and swim in the river. Public facilities, barbecues and a playground are all located here. Further along the route you will find Raumai Reserve tucked away, another local gem for swimming.

For a quick detour, head up to Pohangina Village, and visit Cartwheel Creamery along the way, before stopping into Pohangina Wetlands, or Luttrells White Pine Gardens & Museum.

Through the day there are plenty of places for hungry bellies - cafes, tea rooms and bars all serve up tasty food and beverages. Continuing on you’ll come through to Ashhurst, a colourful town offering basic supplies, plus a great local cafe.

From here, you can divert off to the themed gardens at The Herb Farm & Cafe, dine at their tasty onsite café, explore the themed gardens or book in for a spa treatment. Alternatively, take the chance to visit the iconic landmark that is Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge, where you will discover native bush walks, swimming, jet boating, horse trekking and much more.  Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge is the gateway to Palmerston North City, Wairarapa, Hawkes Bay and Wellington.

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