Two mountain ranges divided


Two mountain ranges divided

Only a few hours north of Wellington, the rural heartland of Manawatu sits between the Tararua and Ruahine mountain ranges to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west. An iconic feature in the region, Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge divides the two ranges and has long been an important link to eastern areas in this lower half of the North Island.

Manawatu region marker

Situated on the banks of the Manawatu River, the university city of Palmerston North (‘Palmy’) is the largest centre in the region. From here it’s a short drive to the coast or inland to Manawatu Gorge with it’s scenic walking and biking tracks through ancient native bush. Heading north into the steep and narrow Ruahine range offers more challenging but rewarding hikes.

Here are approximate travel times and distances to and from Palmerston North.

Drive times

  • Wellington to Palmerston North: 200 km / 124 miles – 2 hours
  • Palmerston North to Whanganui: 70 km / 43 miles – 1 hour
  • Palmerston North to Napier: 180 km / 112 miles – 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Palmerston North to Taupo: 250 km / 155 miles – 3 hours 10 minutes

Travel times can vary significantly, particularly in popular areas during peak visitor months (December – February). For current travel times and updates on delays, roadworks and road closures, use the NZ Transport Agency journey planner before travelling. It’s always a good idea to allow extra time for photo stops and, when travelling longer distances, rest stops.

The Northern Explorer runs northbound from Wellington on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday departing at 7:55 am and arriving in Palmerston North at 9:59am. From here, this service continues north towards National Park (for Tongariro National Park), terminating in Auckland.

The Capital Connection is a 2 hour commuter service that runs weekdays between Palmerston North and Wellington.

Palmerston North Airport is a 10-minute drive from the city centre.

  • Auckland (AKL) to Palmerston North (PMR): 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Hamilton (HLZ) to Palmerston North (PMR): 50 minutes
  • Wellington (WLG) to Palmerston North (PMR): 35 minutes
  • Christchurch (CHC) to Palmerston North (PMR): 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Nelson (NSN) to Palmerston North (PMR): 45 minutes

The Manawatu region has a temperate climate with an average high of 22 °C / 71.6 °F and average low of 13 °C / 55.4 °F in summer (December – February). In winter (June – August) the average high is 13 °C / 55.4 °F and average low is 5 °C / 41 °F with June being the wettest month.

Check current conditions and get the latest Palmerston North weather forecast on

While there’s not much you can do about the weather once you’re here, it’s worth knowing what to expect at different times of the year and in different parts of the country. These two articles are well worth reading:

Top things to do in the Manawatu

Looking for ideas to help you plan the ultimate New Zealand outdoor adventure? Here are some of the top things for active travellers to see and do in the Manawatu region.

Explore Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge

Only 15 minutes from Palmerston North, Manawatu Gorge is an easily accessible outdoor playground. Both one-way and loop walking tracks are available with the Upper Gorge Bridge Track providing spectacular views over the river. Mountain biking is not permitted on walking tracks but there are two designated rides, an intermediate 2 km downhill through native bush and the 41 km / 25 miles Grade 3 Windfarm Ride. Details on both the rides and walks are on the Te Apiti website.

Manawatu Gorge

Explore the Ruahine Forest Park

There are a number of roads that lead into the Ruahine Forest Park, each one providing access to a range of walks, from short family-friendly walks to day hikes and multi-day hikes with numerous huts to overnight in. All the information you need is available on the Department of Conservation website.

Ruahine lookout

Ride the Arapuke Forest Park trails

Arapuke is the region’s premier mountain bike park with a growing network of trails from Grade 2 to Grade 5. There are both downhill trails and loop trails and a shuttle service is available from Palmerston North. You can also hire bicycles in the city from Crank It Cycles. A trail map and trail details are on the Arapuke Trails website.

Arapuke Trails