Road trips: Manawatu and Whanganui

By: Road Trip


Take a road trip through the Manawatu and Whanganui region and check out these things to see and do.

Manawatu -Landscape

The sprawling Manawatu and Whanganui region is the second largest in the North Island, containing an abundance of rural and recreational land. This dramatic area in the lower North Island is bordered by two mountain regions, contains the spectacular Manawatu Gorge, and is dominated by two major rivers, sacred to Maori and of such importance to the European history of exploration and commerce they helped define not only the region, but the nation.

The Manawatu/Whanganui region comprises more than eight percent of New Zealand’s land mass. It borders the regions of Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa, and Wellington, comprising coastal margins, fertile plains, and vast tracts of impenetrable bush.

The uniquely rural nature of the Manawatu/Whanganui region – where more than half the population lives outside of the major cities and towns – only adds to the allure for the traveller. Not only is this vast region largely underpopulated, it is also sprinkled with a plethora of charming towns, each with its own unique character and numerous attractions. Feilding has 14 times been named New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Town, and its Saturday farmers’ market has frequently been voted the country’s best. Meanwhile, Taihape – known as the nation’s Gumboot Capital – is actually a hub of high fashion and home to Incept Marine, an internationally-acclaimed inflatable boat factory. Palmerston North is the largest city in the region. ‘Palmie’, as it is locally known, is home to Massey University, the country’s largest tertiary institution.

Yet even as the Manawatu/Whanganui prides itself on being contemporary, the region is steeped in early Mãori and European history, which can be found in the sacred landmarks, buildings, and stately homes, as well as in the numerous unique museums.

The region’s second city, Whanganui, is home to the nation’s longest navigable river. The densely-inhabited Whanganui River area became a major trading post with the arrival of colonial settlers and retained its significance as a communication route through New Zealand’s growth.

Above all, the contrast and diversity of Manawatu/Whanganui combines in a region of unparalleled beauty and diversity, rich with natural resources and attractions.

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