Experience a Native Forest in the North Island: Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve


The North Island of New Zealand is home to dense forests, mountain ranges and lush farmland plains, showcasing the natural beauty that makes New Zealand so special. The mighty Manawatū region is no exception, encompassing a big portion of the Island’s centre. The Manawatū River leads to the Tasman Sea, and the Ruahine Forest Park borders with Hawkes Bay. This region is bursting with natural wonders to explore.

The Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve is an incredible gem for Manawatū. This ancient forest is relatively untouched, allowing visitors to experience the reserve as it was before early settlers arrived; 130 acres of native bush that has been allowed to thrive. Pest control is a key focus for locals, and well-maintained walking tracks allow visitors to soak up this sanctuary.

Somewhat of a secret spot, the Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve and its walking tracks are treasured by locals and a visit here is one of the best things to do in Manawatū.

Ancient Native Forest

130 acres of ancient forest lies in the heart of Manawatū in the North Island. Setting foot under a massive podocarp forest and totara trees instils a sense of peace and connection. There are points of interest at every turn within the Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve. Follow the marked tracks and enjoy this slice of paradise just south of the historic settlement of Rangiwahia.

Rangiwahia Scenic Reseve Walk

Two loop walking tracks allow locals and visitors to discover the beauty of this scenic reserve. Both are marked and are trapped for pest control. A car park and visitor’s book are at the beginning of the track. 

The Reserve Track is 2.1kms return, and the Reserve-Lookout Track is 4.5kms return. Walk both for a top Manawatū day walk experience, making up a roughly 4-5 hour return walk.

Wildlife encounters

Left undisturbed by early settlers, the native bush in the Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve is impressive, with native trees and shrubs as far as the eye can see. A collection of giant podocarp trees thrive here, including matai, rimu and miro. Totara, northern rata, beech trees and low-lying ferns make this ancient scenic reserve utterly breathtaking. Pest control is a top priority, with trapping in place to eradicate rats, stoats, possums and feral cats from the reserve.

These pest control efforts along with the mass of magnificent flora keep a wonderful presence of native birds in the area. Tūī, fantail/pīwakawaka, grey warbler, bellbird, kererū, tomtit,  morepork/ruru and the New Zealand falcon can now be seen and heard in the reserve.

Along the Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve tracks keep your eyes peeled for around 70 labels identifying native tree species, and listen out for the birdsong.

Hidden treasure of Manawatū

The Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve is tucked away in the northern Manawatū village of Rangiwahia, just 20 minutes off State Highway One from Mangaweka. Venture an hour north from Palmerston North, stopping in charming small towns like Feilding along the way, and leave the urban life behind. It’s not often stumbled across by chance, and locals know that this is the best place to go for a short day walk. This hidden gem is well worth a visit to the depths of the centre of the North Island.

This article was created in paid partnership with Manawatū NZ.

Manawatu NZ

Sarah Campbell
Sarah Campbell
Founder of one of New Zealand’s largest independent travel media brands New Zealand Guide. Sarah is based in the tourism capital of New Zealand, Queenstown. She is well travelled across all of New Zealand and loves to help people get the most out of their travel across the country.

Latest Articles