Levin is conveniently located between the capital city of Wellington and Palmerston North. With a population of 19,000, it is the 30th largest urban area in New Zealand. It’s also the biggest town in the Horowhenua District, making it a fantastic base for exploring the southwestern part of the North Island.
In the 1880s, European settlers connected Wellington, Palmerston North and Levin by railway, and a commuter train still connects the districts today.
In fact, Levin was named after William Hort Levin, a director of the Wellington and Manawatū Railway Company.
Along with its proximity to larger urban centres, the town offers far more than first meets the eye. Levin has its own lively town centre and is home to some fantastic cafes, outlet stores and lovely parks.
Although best known as a centre for local agriculture and light manufacturing, Levin is also situated between the sparkling Tasman Sea and the towering Tarurua Ranges, so don’t overlook Levin as a base for outdoor activities.
There is plenty to explore in the surrounding area, including splendid beaches, wetlands for birdwatching, excellent mountain bike tracks and bush walks.
An overview of Levin
|Main attractions||Lake Horowhenua, Waitārere Beach, mountain biking, hiking in the Tururua Ranges|
|Neighbouring destinations||Palmerston North, Foxton, Ōtaki, Paraparaumu, Paekākāriki and Wellington|
|Nearest airport||Palmerston North Airport|
Things to do in Levin
Though Levin isn’t considered a tourist hot spot by any means, there is a fair amount to do there.
Check out our top recommendations for your next visit to Levin.
1. Levin Adventure Park
If you’re visiting Levin with kids, the Levin Adventure Park is well worth a stop.
Fitted with a fun variety of colourful equipment, including rope courses, a climbing wall, a fitness trail, and multiple mini-sports courts, the playground will entertain the kids for hours!
Best of all, it’s fully fenced, so you can relax while your little ones race around.
Oh and don’t miss the miniature train, which offers free rides between 1 pm and 3 pm on weekends and holidays.
93 Oxford Street, Levin 5510
2. Lake Waiwiri and Papaitonga Scenic Reserve
Looking out for native wildlife within its natural habitat at the Lake Waiwiri wetland reserve is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
The best way to explore the lake is along the Papaitonga Scenic Reserve Walk, an easy trail primarily comprised of boardwalks that wind around the forest. The pathway leads to a viewing platform and picnic area with lovely views over the lake.
The lake is an essential habitat for wetland birds, including black swans, mallards, kingfishers, pūkeko, harriers, and kererū.
Birds aren’t the only native creatures you can expect to find there though.
In the northeast end of the reserve lives the world’s largest population of powelliphanta traversi – an endangered land snail species. The snails are carnivorous and are known to slurp up earthworms in the same way humans enjoy spaghetti!
Total distance: 2.1km return
Total time: 25 minutes
173 Buller Road, Ōhau 5571
3. Lake Horowhenua and Muaūpoko Park
Just a 30-minute walk from Levin (or a 5-minute drive), this stunning wetland is perfect for birdwatching while gently walking around the water’s edge.
The 2.9 square-kilometre lake is situated within Muaupoko Park, a landscaped parkland with a children’s playground, toilets and picnic area.
It’s a great place to take a picnic lunch and relax for an hour or two.
Muaūpoko Park – 185-189 Queen Street West, Levin, Levin 551
4. Thompson House Park
The well-maintained gardens at Thompson House Park are situated within the grounds of the historic Thompson House, which dates back to the 1920s.
This charming park is full of character, with plenty of space for picnics and play.
Serene walkways connect the gardens to the Levin Cenotaph and Remembrance Park.
4 Kent Street, Levin 5510
Hiking in Tararua Forest Park
Levin might not be the first place to come to mind when you think of outdoorsy destinations, but its proximity to Tararua Forest Park makes it an excellent base for trampers.
From full-day hikes to family-friendly short trails, trampers will find the Tararua Ranges well worth exploring during their time in Levin.
5. Waiopehu Hut Loop
If you’re prepared for a climb, the brilliant hike up to Waiopehu Hut will reward you with fantastic views from the 800m-high lookout.
However, this walk isn’t for the faint-hearted. It’s 4 to 5 hours each way and has a 1,292m elevation gain – but the panoramic views are incredible if you’re up to the challenge.
From the lookout, you’ll have a superb vantage point over some iconic New Zealand scenery, including the Kapiti Coast, Mount Taranaki and even Mount Ruapehu on a clear day.
You can also stay overnight if you want to break up the walk.
Waiopehu Hut is a standard backcountry hut with 18 bunk beds. It operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
Total distance: 22.2km
Total time: 8 – 10 hours return
6. Waitarere Forest Walk
This pleasant loop trail has an elevation of just 43 metres. It’s considered an easy walk, but take good shoes as the paths get somewhat boggy after rain.
You’ll walk through fantastic forest scenery as you wind through the trees and amble towards the beach.
This is a great walk for families and groups of varied fitness.
Total distance: 5.6km loop
Total time: 70 minutes
7. Waiopehu Scenic Reserve Walk
For a short and family-friendly trail, you can’t go wrong with a gentle stroll around the Waiopehu Scenic Reserve.
With large rimu trees, a gurgling stream and picnic tables, it’s hard to believe this peaceful spot is just a 5-minute drive from Levin.
This is another family-friendly walk.
Total distance: 1.3km return
Total time: 20 minutes
1154 Queen Street East, Levin 5571
Wineries in Levin
New Zealand has some fabulous wine regions, and Levin is one of the newest on the scene!
8. Ohau Winery
It’s well worth visiting the Ohau Winery cellar door to get a taste of what they offer and discover what’s unique about the vines grown here.
Bishops Road, Ōhau 5570
9. Celtic Winery
Or, for a very unique winery experience, head to Celtic Winery.
They make organic fruit wines inspired by Celtic traditions and have several delicious drinks to taste at their cellar door, including ginger wine, mead, plum wine and plum port, and ciders.
This winery is also home to stunning gardens and lake views.
324 Hokio Beach Road, Hokio Beach 5571
10. Focal Point Cinema
There’s always something extra special about watching a movie in a local boutique cinema, and the 1920s-themed Focal Point cinema is no exception.
With double-seater armchairs to unwind and delicious food and drink offerings (including local beers and wines) the venue has thought of all the special touches to make your cinema experience special.
14-16 Salisbury Street, Levin 5510
If you’re into thrifting (or op-shopping as we tend to call it in Aotearoa), definitely take a look inside Levin’s second-hand stores and quirky antique shops while passing through the area.
Arohanui Hospice Shop and Taitoko are two of the most well-known.
12. Downhill mountain biking
If you love the thrill of downhill mountain biking, Kohitere Trig is not to be missed. It’s the best mountain biking spot in the area, with several excellent intermediate and advanced tracks that take you full speed through the native forest.
If you prefer to take things at a slower pace, it’s still worth heading to Kohitere Trig for a walk.
It takes 30 minutes to reach the top of the trig from the car park, and the lookout has excellent views of the Kapiti Coast and surrounding volcanic scenery.
30 Denton Rd, Levin, Levin 5571
13. Waitārere Beach
After spending the day hiking or cycling around the ranges, there’s nothing better than unwinding at the stunning Waitārere Beach, just a 15-minute drive away from Levin.
The beach is perfect for fishing, swimming, surfing or watching a sunset, and the shallows are suitable for paddling with young children.
Waitarere Beach Road, Manawatu-Wanganui 5510
14. Levin Aquatic Centre
With four different pools, a 70m enclosed hydro slide, and inflatable obstacle courses, Levin Aquatic Centre is a great place to go for a dip when it’s too cold to head to the beach.
Whether you’re keen to swim laps for fitness, or you’re keen to wear the kids out, the Levin Aquatic Centre is a great choice.
Corner Queen and Salisbury Streets, Levin 5510
15. Ohau River
On a sunny day, Gladstone Reserve and Kimberley Reserve offer safe swimming in the Ohau River.
Both reserves also have grassy areas for picnics and nearby walking tracks.
16. Outlet stores (including a lolly shop!)
Though it’s a bit surprising, Levin is home to several outlet stores!
From golf equipment and beds to clothing and lollies (our personal favourite), this is a great place to pick up a bargain.
Sure, there are other stores, but the one that really counts can be found at:
RJ’s Confectionery, 5 Tiro Tiro Road, Levin 5510
Places to eat in Levin
Levin’s has a surprising selection of eateries and restaurants that offer homegrown local produce and diverse cuisines.
These are a few local favourites – we recommend checking them out when you’re next in Horowhenua.
This top-rated food spot is an excellent choice for a great feed with excellent service.
Raewyn’s offers a selection of home-cooked hot meals or cabinet food; all served within a homely setting with indoor or outdoor seating.
45 Oxford Street, Levin 5510
This unique local restaurant is best known for its excellent coffee and even better pizza.
The menu includes a great selection of gluten-free and vegan options, and its eclectic decor and friendly staff are quick to make guests feel welcome.
58 Oxford Street, Levin 5510
Salt and Pepper Cafe
Located within the lush and leafy setting of a garden centre, the extensive menu continues to delight locals and travellers alike.
There’s also a grassy area beside the cafe with a trampoline to keep the little ones entertained.
4 Buller Road, Horowhenua, Levin 5510
Where to stay in Levin
Budget: Levin Kiwi Holiday Park
The cheerful Levin Kiwi Holiday Park is the perfect place to stay for families or budget travellers.
Depending on your needs, accommodation options include everything from chalets with bunk beds to fully-equipped apartments.
In addition, you’ll also find a spacious and well-equipped communal kitchen, games room, and guest lounge.
Outside, you’ll also find a children’s playground, a massive bounce mat and BBQ facilities.
38 Parker Avenue, Levin 5510
Mid-range: Zachary’s Motel
Conveniently located in the heart of Levin, Zachary’s Motel is the top-rated accommodation in town.
The motel offers a range of comfortable couple, twin, or family rooms, all fitted with air-conditioning, a TV, a kitchenette with a fridge, microwave, and kettle, and complimentary toiletries.
Corner of Oxford and Essex Street, Levin 5510
Holiday Home: The Kauri Tree Pod
There’s something rather magical about staying at the Kauri Tree Pod. This off-grid experience offers guests a perfect way to unwind within its pretty garden setting, which includes a hot tub!
The holiday home also includes a living room, dining area, and kitchen. In addition, the outdoor space has BBQ facilities and comfy outdoor furniture from where you can sit back and enjoy the mountain views.
It’s fairly rustic and won’t be for everyone but we think this off-grid experience is definitely with checking out.
Gladstone Road, Levin 5571
Though Levin isn’t on map tourist maps, it is a great spot to spend some time as you pass through – and with our suggestions, you’re now ready and raring to make the most of your time there!