General Information

Manawatu is a district in the Manawatu-Wanganui region of the North Island in New Zealand. Located halfway between Taupo and Wellington, Manawatu has the ability to provide a mix of rural and city experiences, second to none. Feilding is the 12 times winner of ‘New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Town’, and is well worth a visit. Manawatu is the main town of the district.


People of many cultures have played a part in the history of Manawatu. The first people to settle and domesticate Manawatu were Māori. Traders and missionaries were next followed by the settlers,were the first Europeans to arrive in Manawatu. They settled near the Manawatu river mouth, and inland along the riverbank. As the first large blocks of land were bought from Māori the port town of Foxton was established – on the site of a small Māori village called Te Awahou. As more blocks of land were purchased up river, Foxton became the gateway to european Manawatu.


The cities and towns of Manawatu offer a wide variety of shopping that is vibrant, fun, safe and accessible for all.


Maori Translation of Manawatu

The meaning of Manawatu is ‘heart standing still’.

Maori Mythology of Manawatu

Read how the Manawatu got its name.

Legend of Hau
Hau first reached a broad river which he called Whanganui (meaning expansive mouth).
The next river he called Whangaehu (crested foam).  He felled a tree to cross the next river which he called Turakina (turaki – to throw down).
With long strides he reached the next river and so called it Rangitikei (Rangi – day, tikei – extend stretch out).
He viewed the next river with great apprehension because it was so wide and so he called it Manawatu (Manawa – heart, tu – standing still).
As he travelled on he thought he heard the sound of the mythical Hokio bird, said to be bigger even than the moa, so he called the next river after this bird.  Then he rested for the night and continued his journey at daybreak, calling his resting place Ao-o-Hau (daybreak of Hau).
He suspected that Weku was not far beyond the next river and so which he crossed with the help of his staff, naming the river Aotaki (ao – day, taki – crossing with the assistance of a staff).  He was tired now and trudged on wearily until he came to the next river where he rested, calling it Waimea (being weary).
Again he travelled on wearily until he reached the next river which he called Waikanae (glittering water).
He ventured over the ranges into Wairarapa naming that river too (sparkling water). At last Hau found his faithless wife (Wairaka) near Paekakariki (Pae – assembly place, Kakariki – parakeets).  He ordered Wairaka to go into the sea.  But then could not bear her to drown, so to save her from this punishment he spoke a chant which petrified her into a rock. Which still stands today, at a point to the south of Pukerua Bay.

Legend of the Manawatu River
In the Puketoi Range of Southern Hawkes Bay, grew a giant totara tree called Okatia. A spirit, stirred the tree into restlessness and it began to move to the northwest, gouging out a channel. Soon the totara found its way was blocked by a range of high hills. Tumbling about in a frenzy, the tree bored the rock to make a way through. Thus Te Apiti (the Manawatu Gorge) was formed, and the tree, tired by its great task wandered over the plain to the west of the ranges. Forming a meandering course that would fill with the waters of the Manawatu River.



Manawatu offers stunning scenery, exciting outdoor activities, scenic tracks. Manawatu also offers some of the world’s fattest trout, lazing in its rivers. Manawatu retains the charms of a laid-back rural lifestyle.
Visitors can explore relaxing country retreats, award-winning gardens, play golf on uncrowded courses, hunt for antiques, browse in country craft stores, visit historical homes, or saddle up for an horse trek adventure.
For the thrill seekers there is kayaking or jet boating through the Manawatu Gorge, aerobatic flying, scenic helicopter flights, mountain biking, a 4WD safari, 4×4 quad bikes up to the windfarm, and formula ford single seater racing.


Manawatu has unique geographical features, for which geological experts from around the world are drawn too. Among the district’s more interesting geographical features are the Pohangina, Mount Stewart and Feilding anticlines – blocks of stratified rock which having pushed upwards, are now slowly bending the softer overlying rocks into large folds. The Manawatu anticlines are considered some of the best examples in the world, of what could prove to be the starting point, of new mountain ranges.
Sheltered from all weather extremes, Manawatu district experiences only moderate seasonal variations.