If you like travelling off the beaten track, this is for you.

Welcome to The Country Road in Northern Manawatū, the scenic alternative when you're travelling through the lower North Island. The Country Road is actually a series of scenic routes which are a trip down memory lane, into a beautiful and little-known scenic wonderland.

The Country Road begins from SH1 just north of Mangaweka, which is also where this story starts.

Steve and Mary Bielski are Rangiwahia residents who have spent more than a decade dedicated to putting Northern Manawatū on the map.

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Their advocacy, in partnership with other local agencies, has led to roads being sealed, The Country Road being developed, and a growing number of visitors travelling through the region.

"If you've got 30 minutes to spare on your trip down south or it's an even quicker way to Hawke's Bay, you can come through this wonderful place.

"In New Zealand, there is nothing like it," Steve Bielski said.

Along the routes are views of gigantic white papa-rock cliffs, rugged hill country farmland, and glistening rivers. It's common to come across a flock sheep or herd of cows on the road, and wind through a pocket of spectacular native bush.

Putting Northern Manawatū on the map: The country road follows the Ruahine Ranges south. Photo / Warren Buckland
Putting Northern Manawatū on the map: The country road follows the Ruahine Ranges south. Photo / Warren Buckland

"I've been in a lot of reserves over the years and I have never seen rata vines and unique trees like this," says Bielski about the Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve, 52ha of virgin native bush.

Tree lovers can also enjoy the Ian McKean Pinetum, one of the largest collections of conifer trees in the Southern Hemisphere, with views stretching beyond the scenic farmland to Mt Ruapehu.

"It is authentic," Mary Bielski said. "It's New Zealand. There's nothing fancy about it.

"It doesn't feel touristy, it's just as it is and that's something people will appreciate."

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