Family Activities in Palmerston North
Need a break between the central North Island and Wellington? Or perhaps you’re looking for an alternative destination for a family getaway? Palmerston North with surely keep you entertained with its array of family-friendly activities. From outdoor adventures, like the hugely popular Victoria Esplanade and Manawatu Gorge, to all-weather fun at Te Manawa and Daytona Indoor Raceway, Palmerston North’s family activities feature variety and lots of fun. Check out our top recommendations for things to do in Palmerston North with kids in the list below!
For more family activities in Palmerston North and travel advice, check out The Guide to Palmerston North for Families and the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Palmerston North.
1. Spend the Day at Victoria Esplanade
Going to the park might sound like an unimaginative thing to do with the kids, but you’ll certainly earn some brownie points and might even enjoy yourself at Victoria Esplanade. You can spend hours on end at Victoria Esplanade, Palmerston North’s premier city park, with its array of gardens and family-friendly attractions. Ride the mini railway, operating weekends and public/school holidays, through the park and native bush. Let the kids loose on the playgrounds and smell the roses at the Dugald MacKenzie Rose Garden. There’s a cafe and conservatory garden to check out too. What’s more, the park is part of the Manawatu River Pathway, which is a fantastic walk for families along the river that’s bike and stroller-friendly.
Location: Access is off Park Road, Manawaroa Street or Fitzherbert Avenue, approximately 3km (2 miles) from Palmerston North city centre (The Square).
2. Visit the Birds at Wildbase Recovery
Also at Victoria Esplanade, but an experience in its own right, Wildbase Recovery is a hospital for New Zealand’s native birds and reptiles. You’ll have no trouble sticking to your family budget, as the wildlife hospital is free and open for visitors to see which patients they have in, whether its a kakariki, tuatara, blue duck, kereru, kaka or something else. See more activities like this in the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Palmerston North.
Location: At Victoria Esplanade, access is off Park Road, Manawaroa Street or Fitzherbert Avenue, approximately 3km (2 miles) from Palmerston North city centre (The Square).
3. Check Out the Exhibitions at Te Manawa
More educational experiences await at Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and Heritage, located near the city centre. The free museum has a range of exhibitions, many of which are interactive and ideal for little ones. Learn about the journey of the Manawatu River that flows through the city, see native wildlife like weta or native fish and admire Maori taonga (treasure). In the same building, you’ll also find the New Zealand Rugby Museum should you be travelling with any rugby fans.
Location: 326 Main Street, approximately 600m (650 yards) from Palmerston North city centre (The Square).
4. Do the Tawa Loop Walk at Manawatu Gorge
For families who are feeling active, head to the Manawatu Gorge just outside of Ashhurst. You’ll find the two-hour Tawa Loop Walk where you’ll venture through stunning native forest with twining trees and mosses and enjoy viewpoints of Manawatu Gorge along the way. At a junction on the trail, you’ll also see a giant metal Maori sculpture. This also features in our 10 Palmerston North Must-Dos.
Location: 1631 Napier Road, just at the entrance of Manawatu Gorge at the Ashhurst end, approximately 16km (10 miles) from Palmerston North city centre (The Square).
5. Explore the Gardens of The Herb Farm
On your way back from the Tawa Loop Walk, stop by The Herb Farm on the outskirts of Ashhurst to explore their 14 themed gardens. The garden is a working garden too, where ingredients are used in the natural health products sold at the retail store. On-site is also a cafe, which features kids’ meals, with an indoor and outdoor setting among tranquil gardens.
Location: 86 Grove Road, Kelvin Grove, Ashhurst, approximately 17km (11 miles) from Palmerston North city centre (The Square).
6. Take a Farm Tour of the Robotic Dairy Farm
You may notice a lot of cows and grassy farm paddocks as you travel around New Zealand and the Robotic Dairy Farm is a great place to learn more about them. Do a one-to-two-hour dairy farm tour to see how the cows milk themselves using a robotic system and get all your questions about cows and how milk is made answered by a Kiwi farmer. There’s also a collection of vintage farming machinery in “Poppa’s Shed”, while a flavoured milk drink is also included in the tour.
Location: Bunnythorpe, approximately 11km (7 miles) from Palmerston North city centre (The Square).
7. Have a Lick of Some Honey Ice Cream at Waireka Honey
The activity won’t take you long, nevertheless, be sure to treat the little ones and yourself to a classic New Zealand honey ice cream at Waireka Honey. It’s a great place for you to pick up some souvenir manuka honey that New Zealand is famous for, while the kids get to lick homemade honey ice cream! Make it a stop on the way to our next point, which is Hikurangi Beach.
Location: Corner State Highway 1 and Rongotea Road, approximately 26km (16 miles) from Palmerston North city centre (The Square).
8. Take a Road Trip to Himatangi Beach
What would a family trip in New Zealand be without the beach?! You’ll find an excellent beach for families just 30 minutes drive away from Palmerston North. Himatangi Beach is not only a stunning stretch of sand with driftwood huts and superb terrain for building sandcastles with the little ones, but it 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).
9. Get Competitive at the Daytona Indoor Raceway
For families with kids aged seven years and up, Daytona Indoor Raceway offers awesome go-karting undercover, so you can even do it when it’s raining. They have karts for various age ranges, including Junior Kadet Karts for ages seven to 10, Intermediate karts for ages 11 to 14 and adult karts. Join in for a casual race, racing other families or whoever else happens to be there, or you can book the entire track. See more activities like this in the 10 Things to Do in Palmerston North on a Rainy Day.
Location: 23D Bennett Street, Cloverlea, approximately 3km (2 miles) from Palmerston North city centre (The Square).
10. Have a Splash at the Lido Aquatic Centre
Finally, a local favourite is the Lido Aquatic Centre. This indoor and outdoor waterpark features hydroslides, water cannons, a lazy river and more. What’s more, mum and dad will probably like it too, with a huge SuperBowl slide and a Speed slide where it’s possible to reach speeds of 60kmh! Kids also love the AquaPlay area with around 51 features to interact with.
Location: Park Road, West End, approximately 2km (1 mile) from Palmerston North city centre (The Square).