Horowhenua is a special part of New Zealand. Just over an hour from Wellington and half that time to Palmerston North, but the feel of another world. From the calm quiet of bushwalks and gardens, history and culture to the exhilaration of rivers and the sea, the region offers something for everyone.
Stretching from Himatangi in the north to just north of the Otaki River in the south; the region is bordered by the Tararua Ranges to the east and the Tasman Sea to the west. There are a number of small towns including Foxton, Shannon and Tokomaru, several tiny beach communities, and the main centre of Levin situated on the junction of State Highways 1 and 57.
The region has a population around 30,000, many of whom choose to live here for the lifestyle alternative to urban living. The mild climate and rich soils make market gardening, horticulture and farming the mainstays of the economy. Manufacturing, food processing, construction and service industries are also important contributors.
For the visitor, Horowhenua offers rivers beaches and lakes, mountains, parks and golf courses. Also there is a chance to discover the special spirit of the people of Horowhenua, one that is determined and creative with a real Kiwi sense of humour and style. As you drive, road-side stalls sell produce direct from the local market gardens, berry farms and orchards to the public.
Just south of Levin, the village of Ohau with its school, domain and community hall is the centre of an intensive farming industry. Papaitonga is a 61.8 ha dune lake in the Horowhenua coastal plain. It has two islands, Motukiwi and Motungarara. The reserve is an important refuge for birds that depend on wetlands or lowland forests for their survival. Visit Lynwood Nursery and Buttercup Acres to enjoy farm experiences. If you are a nature lover, visit Ohau River Estuary, Kuku Beach and Lake Papaitonga Scenic Reserve. Other places to visit: Ohau Otarere Maori Craft Centre, Te Angiora horse treks, as well as the unique Wolfe Candles.
The heart of the Horowhenua, Levin is a thriving provincial town. It's nestled beneath the magnificent Tararua Ranges at the junction of State Highway One and 57. The main street is bordered by plane trees, and flower beds are dotted around the town. Bargain-hunting shoppers can satisfy their needs at the large selection of factory shops in the town. Historic Thompson House is situated in the botanic gardens and serves as the town's cultural centre. Levin provides recreation facilities including a multiplex cinema complex, aquatic centre, skateboard park, adventure playground and public domain with sports facilities. Lake Horowhenua is the scene of rowing, yachting, picnic areas and playgrounds, and there are two golf courses to choose from. Several beaches are within easy reach of the town.
Waitarere Beach, one of the best-kept secrets of the North Island's west coast is regarded as the place to go when you want to get away from it all. Within easy commuting distance from Wellington (New Zealand's Capital City), and from nearby Palmerston North, Waitarere Beach is an ideal spot for either a weekend getaway or as a permanent residence. The Waitarere Beach community includes a well-stocked Four Square Store, takeaways, café and restaurant. Levin, the nearest town, is 10 minute's easy drive should you need something more. Waitarere Beach is wide and sandy, allowing plenty of room for all your favourite beach activities including land yachts, four-wheel motor bikes, surfing and fishing. The beach slowly drops off into deep water so there's plenty of safe paddling space for the youngsters, and during the summer months the surf club set up patrol. Waitarere Beach is also a popular fishing spot where Kahawai, Snapper, Groper, Gurnard, Flounder and Sole are the most common catches. The large, flat beach is ideal to back your boat into with a tractor or a four-wheel drive. During the Whitebait season you can find a spot to sit your net at the Manawatu or the Ohau river mouths.
A well-established forest surrounds Waitarere Beach and is host to several popular annual events such as the 'Great Forest Marathon'. Orienteering and Mountain biking also make use of the forest floor and bring in a lot of interest from outside the Horowhenua. The forest is a popular spot to walk your dog and with the many tracks cutting through to the beach, you can enjoy the forest one way and the beach on the way back! Come and discover for yourself the peace and tranquillity of this waterfront paradise that is Waitarere Beach.
Foxton is not typical of the small New Zealand town in that it owes little of its existence to the surrounding farmland. It's beginnings are linked with the Bible, the first European to settle here was a Presbyterian minister; the shop counter, and transport in the mid to late 1800s. Flax was also important to the growth of the town - at one time 50 mills were operating within a 16 km radius of Foxton. There are several museums to visit, or take a ride on the horse-drawn tram or double-decker bus past some of the historic sites. The town also has a golf course, a race course, an authenic Dutch windmill and some fascinating curio shops.
Just 5km west of Foxton is the community of Foxton Beach. Located at the mouth of the Manawatu River this small town offers an abundance of activities including fishing, sea swimming, surfing, jet skiing, water skiing, kayaking, kite surfing and wind surfing.The Manawatu Estuary is an extremely popular spot for bird watching, and the largest and most important in the lower North Island. In the spring international migratory birds arrive from their breeding grounds in Alaska and Siberia to spend the summer here. Species include Wrybill (this estuary supports 1% of the worlds population), Godwit, Oystercatcher & Royal Spoonbill.
Shannon is a small rural township servicing a farming community. It's located on State Highway 57 just 1.5 hours from Wellington, and 30 minutes from Palmerston North. In the foothills east of the township is the historic Mangahao Power Station, and the site of the largest flax mill in New Zealand is just to the north.
Visit Owlcatraz Tourist and Educational Park, the historic Railway Station, or browse through the shops and relax over coffee.
Tokomaru is a small settlement just north of Shannon on State Highway 57. The Steam Museum houses a private collection of steam engines and locomotives and its own small railway station.Horseshoe bend, on the Tokomaru River is a favourite picnic and swimming spot. The Tokomaru River, and all its tributaries, are restricted to fly fishing and spinner only, with daily bag and length limits. The River is the water source for Tokomaru, processed at Horseshoe Bend by an infiltration gallery under the main stream bed. The water is pumped from a well in the river bed up to a break pressure tank located near the entrance to the Reserve. Tokomaru is very accessible to the surrounding towns of Palmerston North, Shannon and Foxton, as well as all the delights of the Rangitikei District.