PLAY AWAY WITH AVIS: NA­TURE, FOOD & CUL­TURE IN MANAWATU

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New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS FEATURES -

Stroll Vic­to­ria Es­planade, a beau­ti­ful and ex­ten­sive in­ner city park ad­ja­cent to the Manawatu River, opened to mark Queen Vic­to­ria's 60th Ju­bilee and a lo­cal favourite still. Stop and smell some of 5000 va­ri­eties of roses at the world renowned Du­gald McKen­zie Rose Gar­den, check out a book from The Lit­tle Free Li­brary – a box full of books wait­ing to be en­joyed in a sunny spot - or treat your­self to a deca­dent serve of high tea at the Es­planade Café, lo­cated in the his­toric Old Post Of­fice.

Just 12 kilo­me­tres from Palmer­ston North and a world away is the rugged wilder­ness of Te Apiti Manawatu Gorge – the scenic di­vide be­tween the Tararua and Ruahine Ranges. Stretch your legs on the two-hour Tawa loop. There's an­cient na­tive bush and stun­ning view points to re­ward your ef­forts, and you'll come face to face with Wha­tonga, an an­cient Maori war­rior im­mor­talised in a six-me­tre-tall sculp­ture.

Re­fuel at the quirky Bridge Café, lo­cated in Bal­ance, on the east­ern side of the gorge. Nestled in pic­turesque bush be­side the flow of the Manawatu River, this coun­trystyle café in a large, rus­tic build­ing, is a beau­ti­ful spot to visit. Owner and lo­cal lass Re­becca Al­gie makes use of sup­pli­ers close to home to add in­no­va­tion to tra­di­tional recipes, pro­duc­ing mem­o­rable, home­made food. In­dulge in their Turk­ish poached eggs, duck pate, or a wedge of caramel slice. Yum!

Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal artist and gallery owner Bron­wyn Zim­mer­man, the hottest trail in the re­gion is not clad in na­tive bush. She reck­ons it's right un­der

Fur­ther afield, ex­pe­ri­ence the beau­ti­ful Ran­gi­tikei River canyon from splash level with a River Valley raft­ing trip. For the ad­ven­tur­ous, there’s a world­class half-day white wa­ter raft­ing trip.

the noses of Palmer­ston North city dwellers. Get your hands on an arts trail guide and de­cide for your­self. The map takes you past sculp­tures, carv­ings, paint­ings, pho­to­graphs, mu­rals, mo­saics, and gal­leries, on a walk­a­ble tour of the cen­tral city.

Pre­pare to brave the breeze as you climb up Sad­dle Road, 10 kilo­me­tres from the city, to visit an un­usual tourist at­trac­tion – the Te Apiti wind­farm. A pub­lic view­ing area's been set up be­neath the

breath­tak­ingly enor­mous tur­bines, the spin­ning blades of which turn wind fun­neled through the Manawatu Gorge into enough elec­tric­ity to power 45,000 homes, plus there's panoramic views across the re­gion.

Roll into Feild­ing, 15 min­utes' drive north of Palmer­ston North, on a Fri­day to browse the stalls of the town's farm­ers mar­ket. Find tal­ented cheese­maker Adrian Wal­croft at the Cart­wheel Cream­ery stall. Try one of his favourite cre­ations - Blue Rhap­sody, a gold-medal win­ner. Let a lo­cal farmer take you on a tour of one of the South­ern Hemi­sphere's largest sale yards, where you can watch live cat­tle and sheep auc­tions. Kick back with a movie at the town's bou­tique cin­ema, decked out with plush 1920's dé­cor and a wine bar.

Fur­ther afield, ex­pe­ri­ence the beau­ti­ful Ran­gi­tikei River canyon from splash level with a River Valley raft­ing trip. For the ad­ven­tur­ous, there's a world-class half-day white wa­ter raft­ing trip that boasts 10 ma­jor Grade 4 to 5 rapids over 12 kilo­me­tres. Or for a more se­date op­tion, soak up the river's magic with a scenic day of pad­dling, pic­nic lunch in­cluded. Don't rush back to town; spend a night in a deluxe river­side suite at River Valley lodge, tucked into the base of the Ruahine Ranges.

Head west to Hi­matangi Beach, a small sea­side town that's home to a gi­nor­mous sand dune field – it swells to close to 20 kilo­me­tres at its widest point. Climb up the high­est sand dune you can find and on a good day you'll see Mt Taranaki and the South Is­land. Fos­sick for trea­sure amongst the piles of drift­wood bleached by salt and sun­shine. Grab some fish ‘n chips at the lo­cal store for a pic­nic tea on the beach or call in at The Wines Bar and Grill for a chow­der.

WORDS KIM BOW­DEN, PHO­TOS WWW.MANAWATUNZ.CO.NZ

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