You can drive the Manawatū Scenic Route in a day easily, but to really make the most of this unique experience we recommend that you plan it over at least two days. That way you’ll have plenty of time to stop off at the many highlights, scenic spots and more along the way.
Heading down the Pohangina Valley, this route takes you on an incredible journey through an evolving landscape and offers you an insight into real Kiwi back country where the journey is as much a part of the adventure as the destination. For the best insider knowledge of this expansive area, visit Iron Gates Experience.
Download i-SITE New Zealand’s official touring map with details on the Manawatū Scenic Route.
Distance: 115km each way
Surface: 100% Sealed Roads
The Manawatū Scenic Route starts in Mangaweka, heading off SH1 onto Ruahine Road. Soaring white papa (mudstone) cliffs will soon greet when crossing the Mangaweka Bridge. Call into Awastone Riverside Cafe for a coffee and bite to eat (open from October to April), or pre-book a rafting or kayak trip.
From here, you’ll pass the Ruahine Dress Circle Reserve, with waterfalls and swimming holes this is the perfect rest stop, and a local secret!
A quick detour into Rangiwahia affords you the domain for camping, plus public facilities and the stunning Rangiwahia Bush Reserve where you can walk through ancient native bush which once covered the local area pre-settlers.
Back on the scenic route, make sure you pull over at the intersection of Te Parapara Road and Main South Road. There is a picnic table, info board and incredible views too! From here you can detour down Renfrew Road and head to the start of the Rangiwahia Hut and Track, or visit the Ian McKean Pinetum for incredible views and walks. Continue your journey down Main South Road. You’ll pass Mangahuia Wetlands, a free wetlands for the public to enjoy, and the perfect spot for some bird watching.
If you’re after some adventure, take a detour to visit the team at Table Flat Trekking for some high altitude horse rides (pre-booking is a must). Nearby, you’ll find the little-known Limestone Creek Reserve Glow Worm Caves too.
Head into Apiti village for a highly recommended meal at Āpiti Tavern, free camping at the domain, a local museum and local artist studio to visit – Eric Brew. For some great local information, check out Iron Gates Experience.
Distance from Mangeweka
- Mangaweka Campground (1.2km)
- Awastone - Beautiful campground with cafe (1.6km)
- Mairenui Rural Retreat - Farmstay (10km)
- Āpiti Domain Campground - (41.1km)
- The Last Church in Āpiti – Renovated cosy and quirky church. (40km)
- Makoura Lodge - Luxury country accommodation with onsite activities. (48.1km)
Next petrol station is Ashhurst, 115km away. Make sure you fuel up in the township of Mangaweka before starting your journey.
Keep your camera on hand, the landscapes of Pohangina Valley are worth stopping for, especially in autumn when the foliage turns gold.
Book a garden tour or stay at night at Springvale Gardens & Accommodation. See their Rhododendrons in full bloom during the months of October and November.
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to native bush walks with the Totara Reserve stretching down the valley. Totara Reserve is not only renown for it’s stunning ancient native bush, it is also the perfect spot to camp, picnic and swim in the river. Public facilities, BBQ’s and a playground are all located here.
Tucked away at the foothills of the Ruahine Ranges, you won’t want to miss Pohangina Heights Gardens. With a uniquely high altitude and stunning views, wander through the gardens to soak up the clean mountain air, or book in to the romantic and rustic cottages for a night of relaxation and soak in the outdoor bath with views as far as Kapiti Island.
Raumai Reserve is loved by locals and a great place to cool off in the river, with public toilets available.
For a quick detour, head up to Pohangina Village and tick off Pohangina Wetlands, and Luttrells White Pine Gardens & Museum.
Get yourself back on track and you’ll soon come through to Ashhurst, a colourful town offering all your basic needs. Stop for a coffee and discover local pottery artist Suzanne MacAllen, or explore the tranquil garden setting of The Herb Farm & Cafe.
- Springvale Gardens - Best time during October and November
- County Fayre - On weekends this is humming with coffee and Devonshire teas.
- Blue Acres Blueberries - Pick your own blueberries (late Dec - Jan)
- The Herb Farm Café and gardens
In late December and early January, stop off for some blueberry picking, then head five minutes down the road to cool off at Raumai Reserve swimming spots.