12. Three of the best country road trips in New Zealand
Let us guide you through the best road trip experiences for your New Zealand holiday: here is No. 12 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
Take a leisurely drive through the Manawatū, in the lower half of the North Island/Te Ika-a-Māui, away from the streams of trucks and cars on State Highway 1, and get in touch with local rural life and its hidden treasures. There are three routes to choose from, grouped together as The Country Road, each of them easily done in a day, although they will reward your taking time to stop and stay along the way.
The Manawatū Scenic route
The Manawatū Scenic route is appropriately named, taking you from Mangaweka, a little town frozen in time, towards Palmerston North. You’ll come across waterfalls, swimming holes and spectacular cliffs along the Rangitīkei River, where you can swim, kayak or whitewater raft. There are some little-known glow worm caves to explore at Limestone Creek. Hike through lush native bush, or enjoy cultivated nature at places like Pohangina Heights or Luttrells White Pine Gardens.
The Peep-o-Day route
The Peep-o-Day route, named after the local lookout that first sees the sun, includes the fascinating moss-covered cannonball concretions that are the Whitecliffs Boulders at Ōhingaiti, and a collection of impressive gardens at Kimbolton. There are many charming and unspoiled little villages to enjoy along the route, historic sites to visit, and locally produced goods to taste. The Iron Gates Experience is a great way to get really up close with it all.
You’ll finish in pretty Feilding, frequent winner of the country’s Most Beautiful Town award and centred on its iconic clock tower. The Friday farmers’ market in the town square here is a must-visit for tasting local produce. The same-day nearby livestock market tour is fun and fascinating, as busy auctioneers take bids for thousands of sheep and cattle at one of the largest markets of its type in the southern hemisphere. Guides will explain the process, and prevent you from inadvertently buying any livestock.
The Stormy Point route
The Stormy Point route begins at Feilding and is named after the hilltop lookout midway along that gives long views to Mts Taranaki and Ruapehu, and the west coast. You’ll gaze across lumpy green volcanic scenery that conceals many rural delights, including well-kept farms, bush trails, artists’ studios, local food producers, and the charming little village of Cheltenham. At Waituna West, near Feilding, you’ll find a boutique mill producing fine crafting yarns from its own flock of Corriedale sheep. The Rangitikei River features strongly along this route, with a series of spectacular terraces and cliffs of dazzling white siltstone.