Manawatu-Wanganui region is located just north of the Wellington region. Palmerston North is the biggest town and is a hub for educational and research institutions including Massey University. Another large town is Wanganui, which is situated on the banks of the Whanganui River near the coast. Other towns include: Otaki, Foxton, Levin, Taihape, and Woodville.
The region is basically a large rural plain used for sheep and dairy farming. It has a coastline with some beaches to the west and the major portion of the Tararua and Ruahine mountain ranges to the east. These mountains offer a number extensive cross-country walks that cover low altitiude rainforest up to sub-alpine tussock country with seasonal snow.
There are three main rivers in the region. The Whanganui River (290 km), Manawatu River (182 km) and Rangitikei River (241 km). Popular activites on these rivers include white water rafting, fly fishing, and commercial bungee jumping. Of these rivers, the Whanganui is the only one that is navigable by larger boats and some of the surrounding area is protected under the name, Whanganui National Park which consists of lowland temperate rainforest.
The scenic Manawatu Gorge divides the Tararua and Ruahine ranges. State Highway 3 runs through the gorge about 20 minutes after passing Palmerston North on the Manawatu side. It runs through to the town of Woodville in the Wairarapa. The gorge offers great scenery including steep hills, canyon walls, temperate rainforest, and views of the Manawatu River. There are a number of places you can park allowing for easy exploration of the area. Barbeques, walks, and some longer treks are available.