The jewel in our region’s cycling crown, it won’t take you two long to realise why this is also one of Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trail's official Heartland Rides. Take your pick from a half, full or two-day journey – each with their own natural wonders, rural charm and hidden surprises.
For first-timers, our top pick is the Northernmost section, encompassing Mangaweka and Rangiwahia. Arrange shuttle pick-up from Palmerston North by Awastone before hitting the trail that traverses soaring mudstone cliffs, dramatic gorges and scenic nature reserves. On a hot summer’s day, be sure to pop into Ruahine Dress Circle Reserve for a dip in the swimming hole.
After your ride, swap pedaling for paddling on a laidback kayaking or rafting trip, or simply unwind with your special someone in Awastone’s ensuite accommodation, complete with hot tub.
Take some of the best bits of the Manawatū Scenic Route, add in a peaceful ride through two country townships, and you’ve got yourself a spectacular Saturday and Sunday of riding. Start your adventure in Ashhurst, where the 120km loop along sealed roads begins. Rural farms, wide-open plains and the majestic Ruahine Ranges guide the way. Quench your thirst at one of the charming pubs in Kimbolton and Cheltenham, and strike up a yarn with the locals.
After a big day on the pedals, relax and take a load off in Āpiti Village. Guests from near and far always receive a friendly welcome at The Āpiti Tavern and Eatery, serving up true Kiwi country hospitality. You’re spoilt for choice for accommodation – perhaps you’ll stay amongst the idyllic purple wonderland of Āpiti Lavender Farm and Accommodation, or in the stunningly restored Last Church in Āpiti – the latter’s roaring fireplace and outdoor cast-iron bathtub is perfect for soothing those tired muscles.
Prefer venturing off the beaten track? If you only have one day up your sleeves, and know your way round a mountain bike, then the 78km Pohangina Valley Loop is for you. Across a mixture of gravel and sealed roads, take in the sights, sounds and smells of the gorgeous Pohangina Valley. Keep your camera handy – the rolling hills offer sweeping panoramic views. Along the way, pop into Cartwheel Creamery to get your cheese fix – a delicious addition to a lunchtime picnic at the riverside Raumai Reserve.
When the day is done, Makoura Lodge is calling. Delivering tranquillity and indulgence in spades, spoil your partner with a truly romantic night in a cottage or suite. Let the team take care of dinner, bubbles and breakfast as you soak up the serenity – the homemade, farm-fresh cuisine incorporates lamb off the farm and vegetables picked fresh out of the garden. Add in a spa treatment or a spot of horse trekking for the ultimate active vacation!