Levin strikes you as an unassuming town at first glance. Once a vibrant industrial district in the 1940s to 1960s, the town used to manufacture textiles, wallpapers and even caravans. Although Levin has mellowed considerably since its heyday, don’t let the lull fool you. The town’s location between the Tasman Sea coast and Tararua ranges means you never have to venture far for an outdoor adventure. Within Levin itself, there is a hub of cafes, boutiques, parks and more. Here, we share seven hidden gems in and around Levin.
1. Papaitonga Scenic Reserve
Just 5 kilometers southwest of Levin, the Papaitonga Scenic Reserve is an environmentally and historically significant piece of land. As the only wetland forest in the Wellington and Horowhenua region, the reserve is a sanctuary for many wildlife, including waterfowls and other wading birds. It was thanks to the foresight of naturalist Sir Walter Buller, who acquired Papaitonga in 1897 to preserve the dune lake for future generations.
Feathered species aside, Papaitonga was also home to the Muaupoko people in early 19th century. The Muaupokos were driven out of their lakeside village in 1822 by Te Rauparaha, an important Maori Chief, and his people the Ngati Toa. If you didn’t think that was drama enough, Te Rauparaha had almost perished at the hands of the Muaupoko in an earlier incident, although his son and daughter were not as fortunate.
Papaitonga Scenic Reserve
Address: 173 Buller Rd, Ohau 5571, New Zealand
Website: Papaitonga Scenic Reserve
2. Kohitere Trig
For a good tramp right in the backyard of Levin, there is Kohitere Trig. The Trig, as it is known by locals, is a steep logging road adjoining to Tararua Forest Park. From the Denton Rad carpark, there are well marked walking and mountain biking trails leading all the way up to the track’s namesake: the trig station. Arapaepae Lookout is just another 15 minute walk away. There, it becomes evident why so many people are unable to resist the draw of Kohitere Trig, despite the strenuous effort demanded to climb it. On clear days, the lookout offers an unfettered view of the South Island, Kapiti Island, Mount Taranaki and Mount Ruapehu.
Address: 30 Denton Road, Levin 5571, New Zealand
Website: Kohitere Trig
3. Owlcatraz Native Bird and Wildlife Park
As its name suggests, Owlcatraz is a home to a variety of native New Zealand wildlife. Although catered mainly for the young (and young-at-heart), the park, coming up on its 20th anniversary, is an old hand at caring for its residents. Visitors can tour the specially designed owl homes, feed the eels and ducks at the idyllic Lake Osmere, be dazzled by glow worms at the Wairuru caves or simply nuzzle the farm animals who are more than delighted to have visitors, especially if you come bearing treats. If you are lucky, you might even hear Joey the Cockatoo, resident comedian of the park, crack a joke! Owlcatraz is a short 13 minute drive out of Levin, on the border of Shannon Town.
Owlcatraz Native Bird and Wildlife Park
Address: 44 Margaret Street, Shannon 4821, New Zealand
4. Waitarere Beach
If you are looking for a beachfront escape, Waitarere Beach presents the best of a coastal community. The beach is a quick 10 minute ride from Levin. Wide stretches of sand make it the perfect area to walk, cycle, ride horses or even launch your yacht. Fishing enthusiasts will be happy to know that Waitarere is a hot spot amongst local fishing clubs. Some of the more more abundant species include snappers, gropers and flounders.
Southward along the beach, visitors can discover the rusting skeletal remnants of SS Hydrabad. The ship crashed ashore in 1868 and has been mostly eroded or buried by the unforgiving elements since. A remembrance pole marks the site of the haunting accident.
Address: Waitarere Beach, 5510, New Zealand
Website: Waitarere Beach
5. Murrayfield Museum and Cafe
Murrayfield is a spacious compound just north of Levin that is at once a picturesque garden, a cultural museum and a petting zoo. Take your time to amble around the bucolic setting with views of the Tararua Ranges in the backdrop. Visit the Settlers Educational Museum with its fascinating collection of pioneer artifacts and be awed by the painstaking details of the miniature Helenstown village display. For the little ones, the yard and paddocks are home to a friendly bunch of farm animals. The visit is not complete until you have a meal at the Murrayfield cafe, loved for its calming views and its simple but scrumptious fare.
Murrayfield Museum and Cafe
Address: 14 Potts Rd, Levin 5571, New Zealand
Website: Murrayfield Museum and Cafe
6. Levin Adventure Park
Don’t be too quick to dismiss the Levin Adventure Park as just another playground. A popular site for the locals to gather, the colorful lively adventure park is equipped for playtime for all ages. The impressive list of attractions includes a flying fox, obstacle courses, ball courts, skating area and swings for the paraplegic. A mini train that chugs daily in the spring and summer months is of course a crowd favorite. Lest the older folks feel neglected, the park has a kiosk pavilion that provides instant hot water, a microwave to warm your lunch, picnic benches and even barbecue pits at no cost! Truly, there is no excuse not to bring the entire family here for some old-fashioned fun.
Levin Adventure Park
Address: 93 Oxford St, Horowhenua, Levin 5510, New Zealand
Website: Levin Adventure Park
7. Ohau Market
Just a 10 minute drive from Levin, the Ohau Market is held every third Saturday of the month, bringing together a bustling community of farmers, artists and musicians. Visitors can sample the superior quality of freshly grown fruits and vegetables, relish the baked treats, topped with a generous heaping of homemade jam, or even pick up some intricate crafts for a unique souvenir. Most important of all, dance, unwind and have a good time at this cozy country market.
Address: Ohau Public Hall, Muhunoa Road West, Ohau 5570
Website: Ohau Market
Romping in the underrated town of Levin
The provincial town of Levin has more to offer than it is given credit for. New Zealand’s legendary great outdoors sits right in Levin’s front yard, while an abundance of wildlife thrives in the town’s pockets of nature. Be it scenic walks, close encounters with native animals or simply a chance to interact with the friendly people who call the place haukāinga (home), Levin should definitely be on your itinerary.
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