News & Events

Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge:(Re)discover this natural and cultural treasure in Palmerston North’s backyard

Tuesday October 8 2019

Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge is over 1.5 million years old, and an awe-inspiring scenic divide between the Ruahine and Tararua ranges. It’s a place where a once busy state highway now lies silent, providing a recreational reserve and biodiversity blessing 15 minutes from the city.

Photo shows smiling man and woman walking along flax-lined pathway with carved structure in the background.

Bestowed by Rangitāne, the Tangata Whenua, the name Te Āpiti means ‘the narrow passage’. Full of much myth and Māori legend, and once home to moa and huia, Te Āpiti is an isolated remnant of New Zealand native podocarp forest and an ecosystem that is still home to many precious native plants and animals.

Photo shows couple walking along shady track through native bush filled with ancient trees and moss.

An accessible natural playground for families and fitness fanatics to explore

  • The short 1.2km loop track near Woodville is a good introduction to the area
  • The 4km Tawa Loop track near Ashhurst is where ancient warrior Whatonga stands guard over the forest
  • The 4km Upper Gorge Bridge track offers a few steep climbs and great views of the Manawatū River
  • The full 11km track spans from entrance to entrance and is the most challenging option to undertake
  • For cyclists, there are two grade 3-4 mountain bike trails to enjoy
Photo shows drone shot of Manawatū Gorge with the river flowing through hills on either side.

Visitors to Te Āpiti pass through unique landscapes of steep greywacke ranges covered in vegetation such as tawa, tōtara, ramarama, and northern rātā, as well as nikau palms and the giant maidenhair fern which is only found in the Manawatū. Taonga species such as tītipounamu (riflemen), kārearea (NZ falcon), kererū (NZ wood pigeon), and kahū (swamp harrier) are also seen and heard in the area.

Make a day of it – or a weekend

The Ferry Reserve on the eastern side of the Gorge features:

  • Toilet and BBQ facilities
  • Freedom camping
  • Great fishing
  • Swimming areas
  • Te Waha o te Kurī whare - one of eight educational kiosks along the Manawatū River that detail the rich history and cultural values of the area.

On the western side of the Gorge, Ashhurst Domain has both powered and unpowered camping facilities among a public park and reserve.

Photo shows man and woman looking down at the river from the bush.

Protecting our native flora and fauna

Biosecurity control is carried out through a range of partners, including landowners, iwi, the Department of Conservation and Horizons Regional Council. Together with Palmerston North City Council and Tararua and Manawatū District Councils, the partners form the Te Āpiti – Gorge Governance Group. We work together to protect and enhance the biodiversity, recreational, educational and cultural values of the 1,400 hectares that encompass the Manawatū Gorge.

Learn more about Te Āpiti at

Photo shows giant carving of Rangitāne ancestor Whatonga in the forest.

This story was originally published in the spring 2019 issue of PalmyProud.