Pongaroa (meaning tall tree fern or many tree ferns), is situated on Route 52 - approximately midway between Masterton and Dannevirke, at the point where Route 52 crosses the Pahiatua to Ākitio roads. Once covered in dense bush - over the past 120 years the land has been cleared to make way for the mainly sheep and beef farms of today with their reputation for high quality meat and wool production.
Early settlers began arriving in the late 1870's, moving up from Masterton in the south along what is now Route 52 and working inland from Ākitio River mouth to the east. To the west, the Puketoi Range formed a formidable barrier between Pongaroa and Pahiatua, and the packhorse track to Pahiatua was - for many years - impassable during winter. Due to isolation, visitors were always welcomed and were never short of a meal or somewhere to bed down.
Although now easily reached by road from Masterton or Dannevirke, along the scenic Route 52, or from Pahiatua through the impressive Makuri Gorge and over the Mount Butters summit, with it's spectacular views of the district, Pongaroa has maintained the hospitality of a rural community to this day. Around 300 people live in the village and surrounding area.
Being a true community, Pongaroa is well provided with facilities. These include Pre and Primary Education Schools, Rural Delivery services and Emergency Services. Many residents and business people in the community are proud to back it's young people through the many sporting, social and cultural services available. Visitors can drop in to the corner store for a drink and snack or enjoy full country hospitality and meals at the hotel in the main street. Fuel is available at the service station and there is a range of accommodation options. Camping and motor home facilities are available at the town domain. (Bookings for showers and power outlets can be made at the corner store). Additionally, backpacker hostels and various home stay choices are close by. Free camping is available nearby, at the four mile bush, which has a toilet and fresh water.
Wander the marked trails through the bushwalk minutes from the village centre and revel in the atmosphere as fantails flit around picking off insects disturbed by your movement. See the Kereru high in the tree canopy and hear the Tui and Bellbird songs resonating through the canopy. Put in a round of golf at the local course or take a drive out to one of the local waterfalls.
Thirty-five minutes to the east of Pongaroa is the stunning beach at Ākitio. This small coastal community boasts one of the best, unspoiled beaches in the region. The campground accommodates motor homes, tents and has cabins for rent. There is a small store, a boat club and good fishing at the river mouth.
Pongaroa is the birthplace of Dr Maurice Wilkins who won the Nobel Prize for his part in uncovering the secrets of DNA. A memorial to Dr Wilkins stands on the village green opposite the corner store.
Pongaroa and its surrounding areas offer an opportunity to touch the real New Zealand and get to know the real people behind this wonderful rural district.