There are plenty of interesting places to dally along the way, from country cafes and pubs, galleries, gardens, scenic reserves, swimming holes, glowworm caves, picnic areas, and camping spots.
This trail provides a route touring link to other adjacent or nearby Heartland Rides, including Gentle Annie to Hawke’s bay, the OTT to Ohakune, and the Tararua Traverse which heads over to the northern Wairarapa.
Ride past the Mangaweka Campground and over the bridge where you will be greeted with the impressive sight of soaring white papa (mudstone) cliffs and magnificent cobbled river terraces.
Just 8km from the start of Ruahine Road, you will find Mt Huia Farmstay and a further 2km from here is Mairenui Rural Retreat.
Be sure to check out the Ruahine Dress Circle Reserve. This swimming and picnic spot off Lagoon Road sits on a river bend and is surrounded by cliffs and dotted with waterfalls. Early settlers named the spot the dress circle because the cliffs reminded them of an opera house. The turn-off is 11km south from the Mangaweka Bridge.
Rangiwahia is only 10km from Mairenui. It has public toilets, campsites, free Wi-Fi and interesting stories to tell.
Back on the road, head down Te Parapara Road. Be sure to savour the views along this particularly scenic stretch.
Lush farmland with the Ruahine Ranges as a backdrop greets you as you enter Main South Road. Stop for a break at Mangahuia Wetlands, a series of ponds that are home to native birdlife and trout.
Heading along Main South Road, you’ll travel through the dramatic Mangoira Gorge. After the Gorge, you can take a detour by turning into Table Flat Road (gravel) for some great panoramas alongside Table Flat Farmstay and some glowworm caves.
Back on Main South Road, continue down and detour onwards into Apiti for artist studios, the Apiti Tavern for a hearty meal or coffee, and camping at the Apiti Domain.
On from Apiti, head back up Oroua Valley Road and into Pohangina Valley East Road. There are some amazing photo opportunities as you wind your way down into the Pohangina Valley, especially in autumn when the foliage turns to gold. In summer, look out for blueberry picking and swimming spots in the river.
From the Valley Road junction, it’s 26km to the small, basic Piripiri Campsite run by the Department of Conservation. Just down the road is Springvale Gardens & Accommodation.
This area is rich in native bush and has a good range of bushwalks for all abilities. Head down past the historic Komako Church and you will find Totara Reserve, a playground of native bush, glowworm caves, swimming holes, and campsites with great facilities.
Another 12km on from here is Raumai Reserve, a great place to cool off in the river; there are also restrooms here. Ride the trail down the road and turn left onto Pohangina Road (on weekends, a 5km detour into Pohangina Village is worthwhile to visit County Fayre, a community-run tea room and heritage display site, and the nearby Cartwheel Creamery, makers of artisan cheese). You will pass by Valley Road, which is home to Pohangina Valley Estate winery.
Continue down Pohangina Road for 8km to reach Ashhurst. Stop for coffee and baked goods from the local café or grocery shop, picnic on the village green, or explore Ashhurst Domain where there is camping. Ashhurst Inn offers all-day dining and good accommodation.
From Cambridge Avenue, turn left onto State Highway 3 (Napier Road). Continue down and pull off to the left before the bridge, then ride down under the bridge and onto the first section of the Manawatu River Pathway. You’ll ride along for 3km before turning right onto Raukawa Road, bringing you back out onto SH3.
Turn right and head along SH3, keeping to the shoulder for 2.6km then turn left onto Te Matai Road. Follow Te Matai Road until Riverside Drive. Turn left down Riverside Drive and at the end of this road is the second section of the Manawatu River Pathway. You’ll follow a gentle, undulating path that follows the Manawatu River into Palmerston North city for 6km.
At the Fitzherbert Avenue Bridge, take the path under and around the bridge to the right (where you can detour into the stunning Victoria Esplanade gardens and cafe) and head up Fitzherbert Avenue. It’s just 2km to The Square.
Palmerston North i-SITE has luggage lockers and showers and can arrange your bookings while providing you information on your next stop.
‘Palmy’ has plenty to offer the visiting cycle-tourer, including street art and a sculpture trail, plus Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science & History and the New Zealand Rugby Museum. It’s also great for dining, with all sorts of cafes, restaurants, and pubs dotted throughout the central city.
A helpful source of information about this ride, and other Heartland Rides, is Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails by the Kennett Brothers.
Source: The New Zealand Cycle Trail