In only a few places in the world does a river pass through a dividing range and the Manawatu Gorge is one of them. The reserve straddles both sides of the Manawatu River and State Highway 3.

Place overview


  • Mountain biking
  • Walking and tramping


  • Information panels
  • Picnic tables
  • Toilets

Find things to do Manawatu Gorge Scenic Reserve

About track difficulties
About track difficulties

Kiwi Guardians programme

Receive a certificate and a medal for getting out and doing a Kiwi Guardians adventure, or completing one of the Kiwi Guardians activities. 

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    Today the Manawatu Gorge Scenic Reserve and surrounds is part of an inter-agency biodiversity project that will see DOC, Horizons Regional Council, Palmerston North City Council, Rangitaane, Tararua District Council, On Track, Transit and Ashhurst Action Group work together to protect the native flora and fauna of this special area.

    History and culture

    The formation of the Tararua and Ruahine ranges began about 1.5 million years ago. The rising of the greywacke ranges combined with erosion by the river has formed the steep gorges which exist today.

    In the past the gorge was a formidable barrier to west-east travel. Known as Te-Apiti, the gorge was travelled by Maori who would haul their canoes upstream through the rapids.

    Beginning as a surveyor’s line, by 1872 a “road” existed but was a perilous trip for coaches. Travellers had to cross the river by punt or take an aerial trip using a cageway, pulley and wire system suspended high above the river.

    The railway through the gorge was contracted for in 1886. Men worked in large gangs shovelling metal winched up from the river. The line was completed in 1891 and the first train over it carried 1500 passengers in eighteen double carriages.

    Getting there

    The Manawatu Gorge and Scenic Reserve form a link between the Manawatu province on the western side of the lower North Island and the northern Wairarapa province on the eastern side.

    It is approximately 12 km from Palmerston North. Drive north-east on State Highway 3 to the carpark at the beginning of the Manawatu Gorge.

    Know before you go

    The road through the Manawatu Gorge is susceptible to slips during times of heavy rain. Surrounding hills are often covered in low cloud.

    Pest control operation

    DOC is carrying out possum and rodent control in the Manawatu Gorge Scenic Reserve (southern side), Woodville Ferry Reserve and adjoining private land. Find out more about the operation.


    Te Papaioea / Palmerston North Office
    Phone:   +64 6 350 9700
    Address:   28 North Street
    Palmerston North 4410
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