Te Āpiti Manawatū Gorge

For a breathtaking outdoor adventure, simply pop “State Highway Three - Manawatū Gorge” into your map app and complete the quick 20 minute drive from downtown Palmerston North.

Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge is an icon in this region and offers visitors a range of experiences from full day tramps to quick photo ops. The river and gorge form the physical boundary between the Manawatū and Hawke’s Bay. Nestled between two mountain ranges, the gorge is home to ancient native bush and a host of native species. A walk or a wander here, is an opportunity to consider the forces of nature that have shaped this region.

If you’re keen for the full walk, get excited because it’s 11.2 kilometers of greenery and powerful water features without too much elevation gain. The track is one way, so plan to start from either the Woodville or Ashhurst end, and arrange for transport back to your car. If you’re tight on time, opt for the 4.1km loop track that begins at the Ashhurst end. This track will take you through native podocarp broadleaved forest and an abundance of Nikau palms, and you’ll pass above the iconic landslide site. Enjoy views of Palmerston North and Ashhurst along the way - the kids can even earn a Kiwi Guardians medal here.

Regardless of whether you walk the whole trail, do the loop or simply come for a look, you’ll be able to get a sense of the scale and power of this natural waterway. Te Āpiti is a ‘time capsule’ that formed over thousands of years as the result of the river’s flow and tectonic forces. It’s actually the only place in New Zealand where a river begins its journey on the opposite side of the main divide to where it joins the sea. The Tararua and Ruahine ranges on either side, formed three million years ago making them the youngest in the world. Keep a sharp eye out for korimako (bellbird), kāhu (swamp harriers), kōtare (kingfishers), pīwakawaka(fantails) and a host of other native birds that live here, too.

Words by Olivia Sisson & Photography by Nancy Zhou