Manawatu-Wanganui is a large region in the lower half of the North Island. It covers a big chunk of the middle area between Taupo and Wellington, and therefore gets lots of travellers passing through. It isn’t as big of a tourist draw as some of its neighbouring regions, but there’s a slower-paced “real New Zealand” feeling to much of the area, as well as diverse natural attractions, some interesting small towns and the cities of Wanganui and Palmerston North.
Some travellers come here to kayak the brilliant Whanganui River Journey in the Whanganui National Park. The Whanganui continues down and runs through the historic river town of Wanganui. Palmerston North is a provincial capital with the country’s second-biggest university, giving it an interesting mix of people and a good nightlife and café culture.
Rafting the Rangitikei River is another popular attraction. Close to Taihape is Mokai Gravity Canyon, home to the North Island’s highest bungee jump and an incredibly fast flying fox. There are also dunes, mountain ranges, the beautiful Manawatu Gorge and some fine gardens.
Much of Manawatu-Wanganui is rural and opportunities exist to get up close and personal with the farming way of life. The town of Feilding has been voted “New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Town” multiple times, and travellers can catch a traditional livestock auction there.
If you’re on the North Island, you’ll almost definitely be going through Manawatu-Wanganui; spending some time here can make an interesting diversion from the more beaten-down tourist trails.