Manawatu region is unfortunately often forgotten by tourists, and it is not the only region to suffer from this lack of balance between very touristy regions (such as Rotorua or Queenstown, not to mention them) and forgotten regions.
How frustrating to be pushed to the background especially when Manawatu’s location is great! It is located north of Wellington and Wairarapa, so whether you come from Hawke’s Bay, Tongariro National Park, or the Taranaki region, you will cross it or pass nearby. Yet, very few tourists stop by.
Manawatu is, above all, about the ambiance and meeting the locals. As an example, we have been working for years with the lovely Mairenui farm, which offers a real cultural immersion during your stay.
In the same spirit, we cannot recommend enough staying two nights at the gorgeous Ridge Top Farm, to hike on the property. From there you will get to see Mount Ruapehu, a volcano located in the Tongariro National Park if the weather is good, but also Mount Taranaki on the island’s west coast.
My daughter is in a boarding school in this region, that's how I discovered Manawatu. We drove on the Manawatu Scenic Road, whose vivid green hilly landscapes are incredible, so are the Ruahine mountains. We stopped over for lunch in Apiti, a tiny village with a genuine kiwi atmosphere. The pub’s walls are covered with rugby shirts, the food is made with fresh and locally sourced products, and the locals, who are very friendly, turn on Jukebox set up a good mood (Yes, I too, thought these had disappeared!).
The Rangiwahia hike will take you to discover a lovely wooden bridge in the middle of a rain forest after an hour's walk.
For whitewater activities lovers, the Rangitikei River is the perfect playground where you can go rafting or kayaking over one day or even several days.
Finally, if you want to discover New Zealand differently, away from the crowds, in one of our 4WD itineraries we suggest going to North Range Road. This track forges a passage in the middle of dozens of wind turbines, a rather surreal atmosphere with once again the possibility of spotting the Ruapehu and Taranaki volcanoes in the landscape.
Our message is clear, you can follow the majority of tourists and cross Manawatu without stopping by, but if you are curious, trust us and you will discover a totally unexpected New Zealand.
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