Tararua Guide for Backpackers

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Hikingin Te Apiti Manawatu Gorge

Wedged betweentwo mountain ranges, Te Apiti Manawatu Gorge is one of New Zealands most iconic natural attractions.

Manawatu Gorge Track (2-3 hours one way)

Join 44,000 people a year who enjoy this 10km walk in the hills above the Te Apiti Manawatu Gorge.Many find the hike bothphysically and spiritually rewarding, as they are surrounded by towering New Zealand native bush, hearing nothing but the songs of New Zealand birds and the rhythmic thud of hiking shoes. Look out for the enormous Maori sculpture of Whatonga, the father of the Manawatu people.In addition, there are five places to stop and be transfixed by views over the magnificent gorge; see the railway, the reserve and the wind farms.

Be prepared for a workout this walk takes at least 2-3hours.The track follows a 5% gradient and can be challenging at times.Make sure you take plenty of food, water and wet weather gear.The track is well marked and has toilet facilities at the halfway point.

You will need to have a car parked at both ends of the walk, as it is not a loop track.Alternatively, call the local i-SITE before your walk to arrange transport back to your car: 0800 TARARUA.

Tawa Loop Walk (2 hours loop)

If you want to experience the beauty and splendour of the Te Apiti Manawatu Gorge walk but dont want to tackle the main track, then the 4km Tawa Loop may be for you. It is less than half the distance of the main track and loops back to the Ashhurst car parkat the west end of the gorgethe car park on the left side of the road immediately before the gorge entrance.

Manawatu Gorge Loop Walk (15-30 minute loop)

This walk begins at the Woodville end of Te Apiti Manawatu Gorge and is the easiest walk of the bunch. It is a gentle 1km flat path that provides a native bush, fauna and wildlife experience. To get to the trackturn off State Highway 3 onto Ballance Gorge Road and cross the Ballance Bridge to the car park andtrack entrance.

 itravelNZ - New Zealand in your pocket on Flickr© itravelNZ - New Zealand in your pocket on Flickr

Waihi Falls

Situated in the middle of farming country, Waihi Falls stands majestic and spectacular.This stunning waterfall is one of Tararuas best-kept secrets and just an added bonus to the spectacular rolling countryside so characteristic of New Zealand’s North Island. The drive down countryside roads for about 45 minutes can be accessed off Route 52 near Waione.

Because it is such a mission to get to these falls, you may find that it can get pretty quiet up here, which is a great excuse to test some photography skills and enjoy the serenity. Take some food for the barbecuefacilities. There are toilets too.

Maree McLeod on Wikipedia© Maree McLeod on Wikipedia

Pukaha Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre

You know all those rare New Zealand birds? Well, the Pukaha Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre is one of the best places to see and learn all aboutthem. New Zealand’s rarest birds are carefully conserved here in a project designed to protect rare and endangered species in the Mt Bruce wildlife reserve.

See Manukura, the only white kiwi in captivity in the world, who lives in the Kiwi House.Get up close to some of New Zealand’s most threatened native birds including takahe, hihi, kaka and kokako. Learn how captive breeding research contributes to the survival of native species.Experience the colour, light and sound of the forest as it was millions of years ago.

There are also tranquil bushwalks through primal rainforest, six daily talks starting at 10:30am with the takahe talk and feed and seasonal kiwi chick feeds.Then watch eels devour tasty morsels at 1:30pm, and finally check out the kaka’s crazy antics at 3pm.

The Pukaha Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre is along State Highway 2, 10km south of Eketahuna.

 USFWS Mountain-Prairie on Flickr© USFWS Mountain-Prairie on Flickr


Tararua Country offers a unique experience for avid anglers and hunters. Get your saltwater-meets-freshwater fishing experience in the bag on Tararua’s long golden beaches with the surf rolling into rivers. You’re bound to catch somebrown trout.Visit the small coastal town of Akitio where there area number of fishing charters or places to set up your fishing rod along theAkitio River.

Looking to delve deeper into the region’s remote rivers? Anglers come from far and wide to fish the “five Ms”: the Mangahao, Makuri, Mangatainoka, Makakahi, and the Manawatu rivers. Make sure you check out our Fishing in New Zealand guide so you know what fishing licenses are needed to enjoy a day’s fishing.

The western boundary of Tararua includes both the Tararua and Ruahine State Forest Parks; the kind that trampers and hunters dream about. There’s a reason why we say the Manawatu-Wanganui region is one of the best for hunting in New Zealand in our Hunting in New Zealand article. There are numerous interesting bush walks and huts for the adventurous.

brent simpson onb Wikipedia© brent simpson onb Wikipedia

Tui Brewery

Its all about the iconic Tui Brewery in the small town of Mangatainoka.You dont need a reason or an excuse to stop, its practically compulsory!Beer is huge in New Zealand, with more than 160 breweries across the country. Tui is the brand you’ll see in every supermarket and likely the beer you’ll drink as a cheap backpacker. If Tui has been a particularly important element to your backpacking or working holiday experience then honour it at the Tui Brewery.

For NZ$25 you can enjoythe 35-minute tour, three beers and a complimentary Tui glass to take home with you.You can also have aTui-style BBQ lesson, wander through the Tui museum and then enjoy refreshments in the Tui bar and restaurant.

Read more about New Zealand’s beers in our article 25 Awesome New Zealand Beers.

If you have more time in Tararua…

  • Cycle through the wind farms of Tararua and Te Apiti
  • Get a Scandinavian-style experience at Johanna’s World Park with backpacker accommodation
  • Visit the Hovding Gallery in Norsewood
  • Discover the Wops Wops Wetlands in Norsewood
  • Visit the International Police Museum in Dannevirke.
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