The beautiful Manawatū was made to be travelled by motorhome – explore at your own pace its mountainous hinterlands, where you’ll find river-rafting, swimming holes and trails galore.
Driving through lush rural countryside, you’ll stop off for mouth-watering meals at off-the-beaten-track country pubs, and relax in gorgeous open-to-the-public gardens or soak up historic spots. In Palmerston North City, immerse yourself in hard-hitting theatre and treat yourself to fine dining, or sample the full-bodied fresh local produce. We’ve put together a list of great things to do when travelling by motorhome in Manawatū to make for an epic trip in this magical part of the country.
Horse trek at high altitude
Swap out your motorhome for some good old-fashioned horsepower! The horse treks in Āpiti, northern Manawatū, take you through some stunning locations: from the saddle you’ll be treated to views of the Ruahine Ranges, following rivers, ride through native forest, and over working private farmland. This is a unique way to see land you’d not have the chance to see otherwise – and with just the clopping of the horse’s hooves and the sounds of nature and wildlife, it’s a relaxing way to spend a morning or even the whole day. Check out Table Flat Trekking and Makoura Lodge.
Raft and camp at Awastone
Near the small village of Mangaweka, lie spectacular gorges carved into the landscape – featuring towering white mudstone cliffs and the beautiful Rangitīkei River that provides all sorts of fun. You can go for a peaceful drift along the Mangaweka Mudstone Gorge with no rapids whatsoever, or you can be taken on a half-day grade 5 adventure! Awastone also provides idyllic camping/motorhome sites (with bathroom/laundry/kitchen amenities) as well as a licensed café to top it all off, so you can stay overnight to really soak up this unique landscape.
Walk over a historic bridge
While you’re at Awastone, check out the Mangaweka Bridge which was built in 1904 over the upper Rangitīkei River, the only cantilever road bridge left in New Zealand. These days it’s a tourist icon, open to cyclists and pedestrians.
Mangaweka Bridge, Awastone
Sample local produce
One of the best things about motorhoming is being able to sample local produce by cooking your own meals. The fertile plains and hill country of the Manawatū make for amazing produce – and much of it can be found at the local farmers’ markets, where you’ll find vegetables, fruits, artisan meats, organic produce, flowers, sweet treats, coffee, breads, live music and much more. The Manawatū has no shortage of Farmers’ markets: the Feilding Farmers’ Market is held every Friday on the quadrant in Manchester Square, the Hokowhitu Village Farmers’ Market on the third Sunday of every month, and the Summerhill Farmers’ Market on the first Sunday of every month.
Feilding Farmers’ Market, Feilding
Calm your soul in a garden
Pack a picnic for an afternoon spent at Greenhaugh Gardens, just minutes from the city with two hectares of semiformal gardens surrounding a two-storey 1874 colonial homestead. Think a sprawling estate with roses, perennials, box hedges, wisteria-draped pergolas and water features, all with a peaceful backdrop of established trees. For more garden experiences you could head to Cross Hills Gardens, Heritage Park, Caccia Birch Gardens and Caroline’s Gardens and Store.
Greenhaugh Gardens, Whakarongo
Take a hike
The steep, forested Te Āpiti Manawatū Gorge is the divider between the regions of Manawatū and Hawke’s Bay – and features the main 11.2km walking track which takes you high above the river with panoramic views, and also winds its way through native bush filled with birdsong. The highway through the gorge hasn’t been used since 2017, this is nature’s domain now! If you’re after a shorter loop option, there’s the 4km Tawa Loop option as well, from the Ashhurst end of the track where you’ll meet Māori Chief, Whātonga immortalised in a 6ft sculpture.
Te Āpiti Manawatū Gorge
A night out at the theatre
Want to be challenged, inspired and entertained? Get some escapism for a few hours? See what plays are on at Palmerston North’s Centrepoint Theatre, a local Manawatū icon and the only professional theatre outside the four main centres. Plays can be anything from political to thought-provoking to comedy, and all in an intimate setting. Many of the plays that premiere at Centrepoint go on to do runs around the country, in part because the casts and theatre production are always top notch.
Centrepoint Theatre, Palmerston North
Good grub at a country pub
Under new ownership and with an innovative new menu (cooked by an award-winning chef), Āpiti Tavern & Eatery is situated at the foot of the Ruahine Ranges– perfect for that cold drink after an outdoor adventure. It’s a friendly country tavern with a relaxed feel and welcoming staff, and loads of seating both indoor and out. We love the smoked brisket burger and the sticky date pudding. Importantly, there’s plenty of room to park the motorhome!
Āpiti Tavern & Eatery, Āpiti