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Mangaweka — Palmerston North (2-3 days, 115km one way)

This ride through sceinc back-country New Zealand takes you through the heart of rural Manawatu and on into the urban centre of Palmerston North City. Cyclists will be treated to some of the very best New Zealand has to offer, including soaring white mudstone cliffs in Mangaweka, the dramatic backdrop of the Ruahine Ranges and lush farmland along the Pohangina Valley terraces. This off-the-beaten-track ride takes you on a journey to discover hidden places and tucked away treasures, ranging from convivial country cafes and pubs; heritage sites, galleries and gardens to scenic reserves, day walks, swimming holes, glow-worm caves, picnic areas, and camping spots. Recommended as a two-day trip, cyclists are able to truly enjoy the region’s friendly hospitality and stunning countryside. This route follows the Manawatu Scenic Route, the official scenic driving route.

The trail can be ridden all year round, but the best riding conditions are in Summer and Autumn (late November to early May).

The trail is Grade 3 (Intermediate) and includes a couple of good climbs, so it is recommended for fit and experienced cyclists only.

RUAHINE DRESS CIRCLE RESERVE

Be sure to check out the RUAHINE Dress Circle Reserve. This swimming and picnic spot off Lagoon Rd sits on a river bend and is surrounded by cliffs and dotted with waterfalls. Early settlers named the spot the dress circle because the cliffs reminded them of an opera house. The turn-off is 11km south from the Mangaweka Bridge.

POHANGINA VALLEY

As you head along Pohangina Valley East Road, be prepared for some amazing photo opportunities as you wind your way down through lush green terraces and valleys of native bush. You’ll be treated to gorgeous views, which are particularly spectacular during the autumn months. In summer there is blueberry picking and plenty of great spots to swim in the river.

TOTARA RESERVE

If nature is your thing, Totara Reserve has fantastic camping facilties surrounded by a large native forest. Bush walks, nature trails and great swimming spots all make for a good stopover.

RIDING THE TRAIL

Mangaweka to Apiti (45km 2-4 hours) – Grade 3 Intermediate Apiti to Ashurst (55km 3-6 hours) – Grade 3 Intermediate Ashurst to Palmerston North (20km 3-6 hours) – Grade 3 Intermediate

Ride past the Mangaweka Campground and over the bridge. Expect to be greeted with incredible views of soaring white papa (mudstone) cliffs and magnificent cobbled river terraces.

8km from the start of Ruahine Road, you will find Mt Huia Farmstay and a further 2km from here is Mairenui Rural Retreat. Rangiwahia is only 10km from here and has public toilets, campsites and amazing history.

Back on the road, past Ruapuna Park & Museum, head down Te Parapara Road for some of the best scenic views. Be sure to check out the Rangiwahia Dress Circle Reserve, this attractive picnic spot sits on a riverbend and is surrounded by cliffs and dotted with waterfalls.

Lush farmland with the Ruahine Ranges as a backdrop greets you as you enter Main South Road. Stop for a break at Michael Bourke’s Wetlands, a series of ponds that are home to native birdlife and trout. From the start of Main South Road, Apiti is 17km away, but well worth the journey. Along the way, be sure to get your photo taken next to Conspicuous Road. Head to the Apiti Bar & Grill for a hearty meal, wander through Mageo Woodcraft & Gardens or camp at the Apiti Domain.

On from Apiti, head back up Oroua Valley Road and into Pohangina Valley East Road. Be prepared for some amazing photographic opportunities as you wind your way down into the Pohangina Valley. 26km from here you will find the small basic Piripiri Campsite run by the Department of Conservation. Just down the road is Springvale Gardens & Accommodation, then the Pilgrims Rest Tea Rooms (open on weekends) – home of the friendly deer named Chicken.

This area is rich in native bush and has a good range of bush walks for all abilities. Head down past the historic Komako Church and you will find Totara Reserve, a playground of native bush, glow worm caves, swimming holes and campsites with great facilities. 12km on from here is Raumai Reserve, a great place to cool off in the river, camp or use the restrooms. Head down the road and turn left onto Pohangina Road (on weekends, a 5km detour into Pohangina Village is worthwhile to visit County Fayre, a community run tea room and heritage display site, and the nearby Cartwheel Creamery, makers of artisan cheese).  You will pass by Valley Road, which is home to the Pohangina Estate Winery. Next along the route is The Waterford Café & Bar, offering a deck and gardens for summer dining, or a roaring fireplace inside for the cooler months.

Continue down Pohangina Road for 8km and you will find the township of Ashhurst. Stop for coffee at Fusion Cafe, picnic on the Village Green or camp and explore Ashhurst Domain. Ashhurst Inn offers all day dining and good accommodation. From Cambridge Avenue, turn left onto SH3 (Napier Road). Continue down towards the bridge, then pull off to the left before ducking down under the bridge and onto the first section of the Manawatu River Pathway. You’ll ride along for 3km before turning right onto Raukawa Road which will bring you back out onto SH3 (Napier Road).

Head along SH3 keeping to the shoulder for 2.6km then turn left onto Te Matai Road. Follow Te Matai until Riverside Drive. Turn left down Riverside Drive and at the end of this road is the second section of the Manawatu River Pathway. You’ll follow a gentle, undulating path that follows the Manawatu River into Palmerston North City for 6km. At the Fitzherbert Avenue Bridge, take the path under and around the bridge and head up Fitzherbert Avenue. 2km later and you will find yourself in The Square of Palmerston North City.

Highlights of the inner city are the free WiFi, a smorgasboard of fantastic cafes and the unique arts trail offering up sculptures from all over the world. Make sure you visit Te Manawa Museum, Gallery and Science centre, also home to the New Zealand Rugby Museum.

Getting There

Buses go to Mangaweka, and both buses and trains go to/from Palmerston North.

Riders can access the Trail from North-South: Ruahine Road, Mangaweka, off SH1 or from South-North: The Square, Palmerston North City.

The Trail surface is 100% sealed.

Visitor Information

There are many fantastic places to visit and stay around the Manawatu Cycleway of The Country Road.

Free Wifi is available in Ashhurst, Apiti, Rangiwahia, The Square in Palmerston North City, Awastone Campground, Mangaweka.

Food is available at the following establishments: Papa Cliff Cafe, Mangaweka. Apiti Bar & Grill, Apiti. Waterford Cafe, Raumai. Fusion Cafe and Ashhurst Inn, Ashhurst. Four Square, Ashhurst.

For more detailed information on things to see and do, get your copy of the free Country Road Map and Guide, available from:

  • Palmerston North City i-SITE, The Square Palmerston North
  • Feilding & District Information Centre, Manchester Square, Feilding

Be Prepared

MOBILE PHONE COVERAGE: Available in most places, but not all of the cycleway.

FREE WIFI: Ashhurst, Apiti, Rangiwahia, The Square in Palmerston North City, Awastone Campground, Mangaweka.

TRAIL SURFACE: 100% sealed

DRINKING WATER: There are plenty of places to fill your water bottle along this cycleway.

Weather Info

The trail can be ridden all year round, but the best riding conditions are in Summer and Autumn (late November to early May).

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