Get into the thick of the action with this top to bottom Manawatū itinerary and make your next family holiday a non-stop adventure. Boot up, expect the unexpected and feed your curious nature this weekend with hidden gems that get your heart pumping and your spirit soaring.
Get off the beaten track to explore and discover - whether it's the sweeping views, mystical picnic settings, or the can't-go-past-it local hot spots that stand out as your favourites - the whole family are sure to love this two-day adventure in Manawatū.
Manawatū River Pathway
Start your weekend in northern Manawatū exploring Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve. With 130 acres of ancient native bush, explore one or both of the two pest-control tracks to immerse yourself in lush, thick bush that will make you feel like you’re in another world. This reserve is absolutely idyllic, with the trails winding up and down the forest, around giant trees and through moss and fern covered valleys. Breath in the fresh air and feel reinvigorated as you reconnect with nature at its most raw. A reasonable fitness level is required, and it can get slippery in the wet season so care needs to be taken.
Drive north to find the access to Whitecliff Farm before venturing down the 12km gravel road to the car park. Enjoy a peaceful 2km walk across farmland before finding yourself surrounded by the magical Whitecliff Boulders that stand as large as 2 metres tall. It’s a fantastic setting for a photo opportunity and makes the ideal picnic spot so be sure to pack some lunch. You’ll really be able to imagine you’re on a Tolkien-worthy adventure here! Be aware that the walk down (and back up) is fairly steep and could be challenging for some.
Start venturing south towards your accommodation at Ridge Top Farm. Don’t forget to stop at Stormy Point Lookout along the way for 360-degree views of rolling hills and mountain ranges. At Ridge Top Farm glamping experience, you’ll get the best of both worlds! The kids will enjoy the many lawn games available, and you can unwind in the twin outdoor tubs! End the day huddled around the outdoor fire pit to toast marshmallows and look back on the day's adventures.
For day two, you’re exploring southern Manawatū, beginning with the mecca of experiences that can be found bordering our region’s namesake: the Manawatū Awa (river). On the northern bank of the river, explore the 19 hectares of the iconic Victoria Esplanade including extensive indoor and outdoor gardens, nature trails, playgrounds, aviaries and even a scenic miniature railway! Don’t forget to visit the Wildbase Recovery Centre, where you’ll see native wildlife up close! Some are temporary residents recovering from their trip to Massey University Wildbase Hospital before they’re released back into the wild. There are permanent residents here too, including the ancient tuatara and a cheeky kea! What’s more? Entry here is completely free!
For more exploring, make your way to the banks of the mighty Manawatū river where you’ll find the meandering Manawatū River Pathway! With over 15kms of riverside path, including He Ara Kotahi on the Southern bank, you’ll be able to wander to your heart’s content! You’ll find plenty of great spots for a break – yes, there are hammocks – as well as points of interest such as the eel feeding platform, Turitea Pā site and the must-see He Ara Kotahi pedestrian bridge which lights up at night.
Take a well-deserved lunch break at local favourite, Boho Café! Tucked away in the suburb of Riverdale, Boho Café is an unexpected delight to stumble upon. Located near the Manawatū River Pathway, this café is perfect for refueling after an adventurous morning and they’re also doggo friendly: bonus! All your brunch and lunch favourites are here as well as a mouth-watering array of baked doughnuts, muffins and scones too! Other nearby favourites include The Elm Café, and Café Esplanade.
After lunch head west towards the coast and start winding your weekend down with an afternoon at Himatangi Beach. Watch on while the kids make a driftwood hut, play in the dunes or splash around in the shallows before rugging up with some fish and chips as the sun sets over the sea. Spend the night at the award-winning Himatangi Beach Top 10 Holiday Park – just 200 m from the beach itself – the ultimate kid friendly vacation option.
This itinerary is best for those travelling North to South. If travelling North, simply do it backwards!