Sunset on Foxton Beach. © swifant

Loved by the locals: Horowhenua


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1. To be fair

Every Easter Sunday, those in the know in the lower North Island descend on Foxton for the annual fair. It’s become an institution, and not just for kids.

There are just about boundless opportunities to buy arts, craft and jewellery and meanwhile, the kids can enjoy the rides.

It is the first place on earth where I sampled the demonically delicious health and fitness antidote, the potato spiral. And when we go, we round out the day with a trip to Foxton Beach afterwards.

Spiral spuds!!! #yummy #foxton #foxtonfair #easter #easterfair #nz #newzealand

A post shared by jujucopyright (@jujucopyright) on Apr 19, 2014 at 8:09pm PDT

2. Steamed up

Not everyone is willing to share their train set, especially when it comprises one of the largest collections of actual stream trains in the Southern Hemisphere, but that’s what Colin and Esma Stevenson have been doing since the 1970s at the Tokomaru Steam Museum. They have lately run out of steam themselves: the museum has been on the market as a going concern for a while now, but it is still open by appointment and its collection is well worth seeing. Not only are the largest and the oldest steam engines in New Zealand on display, but there is a vast range of the grand old powerhouses of New Zealand agriculture and industry as well. Get in and have a look while you still can.

#tokomarusteam

A post shared by Andy McIvor (@andymac1972) on Apr 28, 2013 at 2:53am PDT

3. An owl of a time of it

The call of the morepork – Māori phonetically rendered it ru-ru – is an iconic New Zealand night-time sound, but such is the stealth of these gorgeous little birds that you seldom get so much as a glimpse of them. Owlcatraz will give you a close-up experience, and there are lots of other animals to mingle with, too.

Not only does the farm and wildlife side of things provide for an absorbing afternoon’s entertainment, but you can also revel in some of the cheesiest puns to be had south of Bulls. Owlcatraz, Lake Owlsmere... sheesh.

4. Home in the Ranges

Horowhenua can’t claim exclusive access to the Tararua Ranges, which is the backbone of the lower North Island, but it does have prime position when it comes to getting amongst the hunting and tramping opportunities in the northern ranges, including the Northern Crossing, one of the big four tramps in the ranges. Like the rest of this rugged and unforgiving piece of country, it’s not to be trifle with, but nothing makes you appreciate being a New Zealander quite so much as the ease with which you can drive as little as an hour north of a major city and be up in the clouds in the wildest of wilds.

Ridge lines to the summit.

A post shared by Rakairoa Hori (@rakairoahori) on May 3, 2017 at 12:33am PDT

5. Are we there yet? 

Just over an hour’s drive north of Wellington, the Levin Showgrounds boast one of the better children’s adventure playgrounds in the lower North Island – which is ideal, since it’s usually just under an hour after setting off that the kids start asking That Question. The playground is the perfect place to let them run wild for an hour while you sip a coffee. By the time they’ve climbed, swung, dangled, fallen, run, tumbled, slid and rolled to their hearts’ content, they’ll have exhausted themselves, all but guaranteeing a quiet three or four hours of driving. And if you’re so inclined, give the rolling barrel or the flying fox a go yourself. 

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Things to do while you're here

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Activities

Horowhenua: where the earth moves

Māori called Horowhenua ‘shaking earth.’ Historically it was a wetland – the floodplains of the Manawatū River – carpeted in flax with the odd stand of podocarp forest for variety.  Read the story . . . 

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Activities

Kāpiti Coast: from frowning bluffs to ancient rivers

Throughout history, and still to this day, the Kāpiti Coast has remained one of the best places in New Zealand to watch the sunset. Read the story . . . 

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Activities

Lower Hutt: take me to the river

The Hutt River was known by Tangata Whenua as Te Awakairangi, 'the river where food falls from the sky.' Bet there’s a story behind that name. Read the story . . . 

Where to stay in Horowhenua District

From $90
Amble Inn Motel

The Amble Inn offers the best 'mates-rates' in town. With queen-size beds and warm, comfortable units, we are a must for any wary traveller. . . . More . . . 

From $90
4.7 /5
From $135
4.7 /5
Celtic Motel Visit website

Celtic Motel - Foxton's Quietest Accommodation Nestled amongst rural landscapes in the sunny Horowhenua township of Foxton, Celtic Motel is where comfort and friendly hospitality . . . More . . . 

From $135
Foxton Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park Visit website

Friendly Family oriented coastal camp, adjacent to Manawatu Estuary, wetland and bird watching area. 200-plus large power sites and tent sites. . . . More . . . 

4.5 /5
From $90
4.5 /5
Panorama Motel Visit website

Enjoy your stay with us in a pleasant rural setting only a couple of minutes' drive from the hustle and bustle of Levin township. . . . More . . . 

From $90