Amazing Activities in Palmerston North
Conveniently located just a quick detour on the way between Taupo and Wellington, Palmerston North provides an interesting stop on a North Island road trip. The vibrant city is packed with beautiful parks, museums and restaurants, ideal for a short visit, while there’s also plenty of reasons to stick around. The hub of the lower North Island is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, from the slopes of the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges to the sandy shores of Himatangi and Foxton Beaches. Check out this list of things to do in in Palmerston North to make the most of your trip to “Palmy”.
For more things to do in Palmerston North, as well as more travel advice, see The Complete Guide to Palmerston North.
1. Walk or Cycle the Manawatu River Pathway
Palmerston North is certainly a cycle-friendly city, which is arguably the best way to do some sightseeing. A highlight is the Manawatu River Pathway, a 10km (6-mile) sealed and compacted limestone walk/cycleway on the banks of the river that gives the region its name. Ride through various parks, plantations and to a highlight of the city, Victoria Esplanade (see point #3). What’s more, with e-bike hire so abundant in the city, you won’t even break a sweat.
Location: Runs between Maxwells Line to Riverside Drive, Palmerston North city centre.
2. Take a Road Trip to Himatangi Beach
Surrounding Palmerston North are all sorts of landscapes, from mountain ranges to black-sand beaches. While we list some of the more mountainous and river valley landscape experiences in the 10 Palmerston North Must-Dos, if you’re more of a beach-goer, check out Himatangi Beach. Just a 30-minute drive from the city, Himatangi Beach is not only a stunning stretch of sand with driftwood huts and sculptures, but it’s a stellar place to watch the sunset. There’s also something for families, as the beach is backed by a children’s playground and mini golf course.
Location: Himatangi Beach Road, approximately 36km (22 miles) from Palmerston North city centre (The Square).
3. Wander Around the Rose Gardens, Native Bird Hospital and More at Victoria Esplanade
Back in the city, an unmissable park area to explore (and also along the Manawatu River Pathway) is Victoria Esplanade. Smell the roses at the Dugald McKenzie Rose Garden, have a picnic in one of the picturesque parks, grab a coffee from Cafe Esplanade, and let the kids loose on the mini railway, playground and paddling pool. You can also see native birds and reptiles at the free-entry Wildbase Recovery, the city’s wildlife hospital.
Location: Access is off Park Road, Manawaroa Street or Fitzherbert Avenue, approximately 3km (2 miles) from Palmerston North city centre (The Square).
4. Check Out Palmerston North’s Museums
Palmerston North has a couple of fantastic museums well worth exploring and are, incidentally, in the same building! Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and Heritage is a free museum telling the stories of the Manawatu Region, such as through its Manawatu River and Maori taonga (treasure) exhibitions. They also have ever-changing temporary exhibitions to enjoy. While you’re in the building, it’s also worth visiting the New Zealand Rugby Museum, which has a small admission fee to see its historical rugby union artefacts and “tackle” its rugby challenges.
Location: 326 Main Street, approximately 600m (650 yards) from Palmerston North city centre (The Square).
5. Go for a Hike
Lace-up your hiking shoes because Palmerston North is surrounded by amazing landscapes to walk and hike. A highlight is Manawatu Gorge, which separates two mountain ranges with wild and stunning forest and a couple of amazing walks. The Totara Reserves is also an excellent place for walking short forest loops. For something more adventurous, however, try the Rangiwahi Hut Track, which is a 2-3 hours return walk to a viewpoint with commanding vistas from the Ruahine Ranges.
Locations: See the walks and their locations in the 26 Awesome Hikes Around Palmerston North.
6. Experience Stunning Scenery on a Horse Trek at Makoura Lodge
Experience the Kiwi country lifestyle at Makoura Lodge. Not only does the lodge offer luxury accommodation on the edge of the Ruahine Ranges, but they are renowned locally for their horse treks. Ride to the views of the Ruahine valleys, across working farmland, through native bush, past a waterfall and even across a river. Treks are suitable for all riding abilities, even beginners. See how the ride compares in the 11 Awesome Horse Treks in New Zealand.
Location: 736 Makoura Road, Feilding, approximately 69km (43 miles) from Palmerston North city centre.
7. Tee Off at New Zealand’s Original Golf Course and Others
More of the country lifestyle can be experienced at Palmerston North’s golf courses where you can try New Zealand’s most popular sport. The Manawatu Golf Club is New Zealand’s oldest golf course, making it a great place to start. The Orlando Country Golf Club is Palmerston North’s premier golf course, while Feilding Golf Club is a picturesque course alongside the Manawatu River. Finally, Palmerston North Golf Club offers a more casual experience close to the city centre. See how the courses compare in the 21 Best Golf Courses in New Zealand.
Location: Manawatu Golf Club – 19 Centennial Drive. Orlando Country Golf Club – 748 Rangitikei Line. Feilding Golf Club – 1487 Waughs Road, Aorangi. Palmerston North Golf Club – 100 Brightwater Terrace.
8. Get Some Retail Therapy
Palmerston North is, after all, one of the main hubs of the lower North Island, so if you want to search for local souvenirs or need to stock up for your road trip, this would be the perfect place to do so. The Plaza is an indoor mall with around 100 stores in the city centre, while more shops can be found on Broadway Avenue running alongside The Square. Don’t miss George Street and Coleman Mall, which is where you’ll find the city centre’s boutique scene. Not too far from Broadway Avenue is Downtown, a smaller mall with a cinema, shops and restaurants.
Location: Palmerston North city centre.
9. Do Some Mountain Biking
Palmy is also an excellent place to enjoy two-wheeled adventures, from easy cycle trails in the city centre to multi-day scenic rides to epic mountain bike parks. The Arapuke Forest Mountain Bike Park is the city’s premier MTB park with easy to advanced downhill trails to tackle. For something scenic, do the Windfarm Ride on the backcountry roads underneath towering wind turbines. The Manawatu Cycleway is a 2-3-day adventure through Palmerston North’s surrounding rural areas, while the Mangahao Dams rides near Shannon offer fantastic day options.
Location: Find out more about each bike trail and their locations in the guide to Mountain Biking in Palmerston North.
10. Treat Your Tastebuds at Palmerston North’s Restaurants
Finally, if you manage to get through everything on this things-to-do-in-Palmerston-North list, then reward yourself with some exquisite eats! Some recommendations include The Fat Farmer which provides locally-sourced New Zealand cuisine in a vintage-style setting, Cyclista Espresso Bar & Roastery with decor inspired by many Kiwis’ passion for cycling, Wholegrain Organics – a cafe that also provides education food programs for Palmerston North’s youth, and Brew Union for in-house craft beer and Kiwi favourites. Check out honourable mentions and links to more recommendations in The Foodie Guide to Palmerston North.
Location: The Fat Farmer – 360 Albert Street. Cyclista Espresso Bar & Roastery – 54 George Street. Wholegrain Organics – 134 The Square. Brew Union – 41 Broadway and 78 King Street.