Welcome to Te Apiti, a landmark of awe-inspiring legend, geographical magnificence, and cultural wealth.

Nau mai, tahuti mai e te tī, e te tā ki Te Āpiti o Manawatū

The people of the Manawatu have grown in the shadow of Te Apiti, for it has stood long before the arrival of man. Formed over 1.5 million years ago, it stands as a reminder of another time, when bush lands flowed untamed and wild across the region. It bore witness to great beasts like the mighty Moa, and it stood strong against the force of the Manawatu River. A land stepped in legend. A land shrouded in myth. A land of the people. It doesn’t matter how you experience its wonders, by foot, by rail or water, the only thing that matters, is that you experience it for yourself. To experience Te Apiti, is to experience the spirit of a region.

Track Guidelines

The wilderness and natural surroundings, make Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge a place of untamed beauty, and that beauty needs to be maintained and respected. The Department of Conservation promotes the principles set out by Leave no Trace. Following these principles will ensure the longevity of our native bush lands and walkways.

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Travel and Camp on Durable Ground

  • Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Leave What You Find

  • Respect Wildlife and Farm Animals

  • Be Considerate of Others

Note: Predator traps may be set near the tracks. If you come across a trapping device, please do not touch it.

Mountain biking / Te Eke Paihikara

Mountain biking is not permitted on walking tracks in the Manawatu Gorge. Please stick to the designated mountain biking tracks found here.

Dogs / Nga Kuri

Dogs are not permitted as poisons are used in the reserve.

Enjoy your visit and leave the land undisturbed.
Fiefia i to koutou haerenga, me te waiho i te whenua houkura

Geography & History

The Manawatu Gorge is the scenic divide between two mountain ranges (Tararua and Ruahine) that border the Manawatu District. It is a magnificent geographical structure formed over thousands of years by the Manawatu River. It is the only place in New Zealand where a river begins its journey on the opposite side of the main divide to where it joins the sea. With its native bush and wildlife, Te Apiti is a time capsule that preserves the bush that once covered the Manawatu, a place frozen in time.

The name Te Apiti, meaning ‘the narrow passage’ was bestowed upon the Manawatu Gorge by the Rangitane tribe, the tangata whenua. The passage was crucial as it connected eastern and western parts of their 700-year old border. Before the road was built, local Maori would haul their canoes upstream through the rapids of the Manawatu River, which they named Te Au-Rere-a-Te Tonga, meaning ‘the rushing current of the south’.

There is a large reddish rock in the Ruahine ranges just above the river named ‘Te Ahu A Turanga imua’ meaning the sacred place of Turanga, who was an ancient ancestor of the Rangitane people both east and west of the Gorge. Legend has it that the rock always remains above water even when the river experiences its highest floods. Its colour is said to change in intensity if a prominent member of the local Rangitane tribe dies or blood is shed. For this reason, Maori travelling by canoe would recite karakia to ensure their safety when passing

Te Apiti - Manawatu Gorge is home to an abundance of our native flora and fauna. Through collaborative biosecurity control programmes we’re ensuring this pristine habitat stays a precious taonga.


The Legend of Te Apiti

Maori korero is filled with legends that show Aotearoa through spirits, magic, and mysticism. The legend of Te Apiti is no exception. Its story is filled with supernatural beings, curiosities of nature, and a connection to the land that goes far beyond what can be explained.

Deep in the Puketoi Ranges there once stood a gargantuan tōtara tree. Strong and proud it endured in the ranges for many winters. This was no ordinary totara tree, for within its bark lived the mighty spirit Okatia. After years in the ranges, Okatia became restless and agitated. One day he decided to topple the tree and find a new home. As he made his way north-west, he decimated all that stood in his path, leaving a colossal channel in his wake. Nothing could stop his might, his size, or his sheer power.

One day he came upon a mountain range nestled high beneath the clouds. This mountain matched him in enormity and splendour. Okatia attempted to pass, but the mountain was strong and it resisted each blow of the mighty totara. After many attempts it seemed Okatia’s journey had ended. But, his back was not so easily to broken. Mighty and resilient, his will matched that of the mountain. He summoned all his strength and with one blow of the colossal tōtara, he broke the mountain in two. The Tararua and Ruahine Mountain ranges became separated. Te Apiti, the Manawatu Gorge was born. Okatia kept his direction and pace as he raced to the sea, never to be seen again. Te Apiti stands as a reminder of his power and its beauty is that of legend

Story of Whatonga

Sitting amongst the trees in Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge, stands Whatonga, a 6-meter tall Maori Chief. Whatonga was one of three recognised Chiefs on board the Kurahaupo Waka, which journeyed across the Pacific Ocean to Aotearoa, New Zealand possibly as early as the 12th Century.  The Ngai Tara and Rangitāne people trace their descent from Whatonga.


Before your next trip, make sure you read and understand The Outdoor Safety CODE, as well as telling someone your plans – your safety is your responsibility. Check out the links below to help you plan your next outdoor adventure.

Alerts   |   Weather   |   Tell Someone Your Plans   |   The Outdoor Safety Code   |   Leave No Trace