Manawatu Gorge

Manawatu Gorge runs between the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges of the North Island of New Zealand. In the past the Manawatu Gorge was a formidable barrier to west-east travel. The Manawatu Gorge was travelled by Maori who would haul their canoes upstream through the rapids.

Linking the Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay regions, the Manawatu Gorge western end is near the small town of Ashhurst and its eastern end is close to the town of Woodville.

Manawatu Gorge is significant because, unlike most gorges, the Manawatu Gorge river is a water gap, that is – it runs directly through the surrounding ranges from one side to the other. This was caused by the ranges moving upwards at the same time as the Manawatu Gorge was eroded by the river, instead of the more usual erosion of an already existing range.

The road through the Manawatu Gorge was completed in 1872. It is the primary link between the two sides of the lower North Island. Alternative road routes cross the ranges on both the northern and southern sides of the Manawatu Gorge.

The railway through the gorge was contracted for in 1886 and the line was completed in 1891 and the first train over it carried 1500 passengers in eighteen double carriages.

The Old Gorge Cemetery lays on the north side of the Manawatu Gorge. Public access is available, but the cemetery was closed many years ago to further burials. The road is located just a few km out of Woodville on the north side of the Manawatu Gorge.

White Horse Rapids Manawatu Gorge: 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 Manawatu Gorge.

Native trees and plants in the Manawatu Gorge include tawa, tarata, mahoe, rewarewa and kawakawa. Also present are nikau palms, whauwhaupaku (five finger shrubs) and the giant maidenhair fern which is rarely found outside of the Manawatu. Birds present in the area include tui, tomtit, harrier hawk and grey warbler.

The Department of Conservation has a walking track on southern side of the Manawatu Gorge over the top of the Tararua ranges, through the bush, with some views of the wind farms. At the eastern end of the Gorge is the Balance reserve and picnic area. Here you’ll find the “Beyond the Bridge” cafe. At the western end is the Ashhurst Domain and river access – and the Cafe Domain.

Once a year, charitable groups organise the very popular Tunnel Walk, walking the length of the Manawatu Gorge on the railway tracks and through the tunnels.

Manawatu Gorge southern entrance is just a 15 minute drive from Harringtons Motor Lodge.