Top 10 things to do in Palmerston North

With famously scenic landscapes, bike trails, river adventures and centuries of fascinating history to explore, Palmerston North has what it takes to exercise body and mind.

There are plenty of things to do in and around Palmerston North and the Manawatu region if you have some inside knowledge to guide your travels. To steer you in the right direction, here's our pick of favourite Manawatu attractions and the Palmerston North food scene.

1. Explore Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge

Discover the waterfalls, native forests, birdsong and untamed beauty of this spectacular river divide between mountain ranges. Walking tracks range from 30 minutes to four hours. There are also mountain bike trails and guided horse treks in the area. The 1.5 hour Tawa Loop Walk is a favourite with some great views to discover. It follows part of the four-hour, one-way Manawatu Gorge Walk.

2. Drive the Manawatu Scenic Route

Spend a day or two meeting locals and exploring the swimming holes, forest walks, farms and rural villages along this celebrated touring route between Palmerston North and Mangaweka. For an equally scenic return to Palmerston North, you can choose either the Peep-o-Day or Stormy Point country driving routes.


3. Ride epic trails in the Arapuke Mountain Bike Park

Take a shuttle to experience the 30+ kilometres of purpose-built trails in the Arapuke Forest Park. Ranging from grade 2 for beginners to grade 6 for advanced riders, there are exciting and challenging trails for everyone to enjoy. The shuttle service makes it easy to get to the top and power down the Arapuke trails again and again.

4. Immerse yourself in Manawatu heritage

Gain fascinating insights at Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and Heritage, and the adjacent New Zealand Rugby Museum - they're top attractions for family fun and learning. Permanent and temporary exhibitions cover the history, culture and innovation of the region. At the New Zealand Rugby Museum you can even practise your tackling and ball-handling skills and compare your effort to some of New Zealand's greatest All Blacks.


5. Experience rural New Zealand in Feilding

Head to Feilding on a Friday to visit the livestock saleyards, one of the most authentic country experiences you'll ever witness. If you book ahead, you can have a guided tour of the yards with a local farmer – super-insightful for city folk! After the livestock sale, call into the Feilding Farmers' Market for artisan foods and fresh produce from the region. It's on from 9am to 1.30pm every Friday.

6. Arts, Theatre and Coffee Culture

Manawatu is home to an array of theatres presenting a variety of local, national and international performances. Dotted amongst the city are many public sculptures, pop up installations, a vibrant array of street art and murals, and art exhibitions at a number of galleries – a perfect accompaniment to the eclectic offering of cafes and eateries.

7. Experience rafting and horse treks

Book a rafting, kayaking or camping adventure on the magnificent Rangitikei River with Awastone, previously called the Mangaweka Adventure Company. Or add horse trekking and optional lodge accommodation into the mix at River Valley or Makoura Lodge. Whether you choose a half-day, one-day or multi-day experience, you'll get to enjoy exciting activities and beautiful river landscapes that you'll talk about for years.

8. Hit the beach

Swim, surf, fish, walk or explore the immense sand dune fields at Himatangi Beach, just 30 minutes west by car. You could even book a stay at the award-winning Himatangi Beach Holiday Park. A little further south is Foxton Beach, another local favourite with a surf patrol and some great little cafés in a seaside village. To the north, Tangimoana Beach on the mouth of the Rangitikei River is great for fishing and walking.

9. Dine out on Broadway Avenue

Discover a world of delicious local and international flavours on Broadway Avenue, the eat street of downtown Palmerston North. Be sure to check out Brew Union, a talented microbrewery serving delicious food in a family-friendly environment. Local favourites include Wholegrain Organics on The Square, Little Savanna for South African style seafood and flame-grilled meat, and nearby Saigon Corner for beautifully fresh Vietnamese dishes and banh mi baguettes.

10. Enjoy world-class gardens

Wander through the beautiful Cross Hills Gardens, and Heritage Park Rhododendron Gardens at Kimbolton. Only 20 minutes apart by car, these magnificent gardens showcase thousands of varieties of rhododendrons, azaleas and roses. They're in full bloom from October to November, but still delightful at other times. Explore Victoria Esplanade, a family playground offering a range of activities including the world-renowned rose trial gardens at the Dugald MacKenzie Rose Garden.

Keep exploring Palmerston North