With a landscape that sweeps from sea to Tararua Ranges, the Manawatu and Whanganui region is made up of remote forests, lush green hills and tussock beaches. Whanganui and Palmerston North are its larger and better-known cities but it is also home to small and beautiful town of Fielding and Levin. With its rich Maori and European heritage, and welcoming country towns, it is ideal for travellers who want to get off the beaten track and enjoy an authentic New Zealand outdoor experience.
KEY TOWNS AND REGIONS
Located on the West Coast of the North Island, Whanganui sits on the north western bank of the historically significant Whanganui River, also one of the longest navigable rivers in the country. The region is steeped in Maori and colonial history, and the river is regarded as sacred to Maori. Whanganui River begins on Mount Tongariro’s volcanic plateau, travelling north towards Taumarunui before heading south to Whanganui city, a journey of nearly 300km through the fern-clad hills of Whanganui National Park.
Whanganui is known as an arts destination and the launching point for multi-day canoe and kayak journeys along the Whanganui River, such as the five-day Whanganui Journey. One of New Zealand’s Great Walks, this journey starts at Taumaranui and ends in Pipiriki, taking you through stunning bush-clad hill country and long narrow gorges.
The Rangitikei District is located between Manawatu and Whanganui, and the mighty Rangitikei River gives way to vibrant towns and flourishing communities, including Taihape, Mangaweka, Hunterville, Marton, Ratana, Turakina and Bulls. Taihape, known as the gumboot capital, boasts the Mokai Gravity Canyon and River Valley, while Bulls, with the river running through the southern part of town, offers numerous cycle trails and picnic spots on the banks of the river.
Affectionately known as ‘Palmy’ by locals, Palmerston North is located 140km north of Wellington, and is home to many major educational and research institutions, including bio-industry, defence, agriculture and sports performance. Palmerston North’s best attractions are located just off the Square on Main Street – Te Manawa (science centre, museum, art gallery) and The New Zealand Rugby Museum. Nearby, the architecturally awarded Palmerston North Library is an inspired place to relax before grabbing a coffee and delving into George Street for some boutique shopping.
Feilding is a thriving rural town with a relaxing, rural atmosphere, approximately 19km from the city of Palmerston North. The Edwardian-themed town has been voted “New Zealand’s most beautiful town” 14 times. There are a large number of historic brick buildings that have been restored in late-Victorian and Edwardian styles throughout the town, including the 1902 town clock. Feilding plays an important role for the surrounding farming district, with the Feilding Saleyards playing a vital part of the wider Manawatu community for more than 125 years.m Kowhai Park on South Street is a popular park in the town, boasting an aviary amongst the beautifully sculptured rose gardens.
About 50km south of Palmerston North is the town of Levin, situated with the Tararua Range on one side and the coast of the Tasman Sea on the other. Levin’s surrounding landscapes offer a wide variety of outdoor adventures, with Lake Horowhenua, a popular rowing and yachting venue, and Lake Papaitonga close by. North-east of Levin is the stunning Waitarere Beach, home to the rusting remains of the sailing ship Hydrabad, which was blown ashore in 1878. The Tararua Range provides an outstanding variety of tramping, hunting and walking opportunities. Tararua Forest Park includes more than three-quarters of the Tararua Range, and extends from the Pahiatua Track in the north, to the Rimutaka Saddle in the south.
Getting here and around:
Whanganui is serviced by flights from Auckland, Wellington and Taupo.
Intercity and Naked Bus provide regular bus services to and from Whanganui with local buses operating within the regional council boundary.
Regular shuttle services run from Tamaranui and Whanganui to the Whanganui National Park.
Palmerston North Airport is 10 minutes from the city centre and serviced by flights from all major centres around the country.
Palmerston North is a stop on the Northern Explorer rail journey between Auckland and Wellington. A two hour commuter Capital Connection train links the city to Wellington from Monday to Friday.
Palmerston North and the Manuwatu region are well serviced by buses, including Intercity and Naked Bus.
Spring (Sep-Nov) – warming up with showers clearing, 9-17°C; Summer (Dec-Feb) – dry and sunny, 15-27°C; Autumn (Mar-May) – cooler but clear and settled, 10-18°C; Winter (Jun-Aug) – 3-15°C