Enjoy Manawatu on a Budget
Fancy a healthy mix of forests, farms and small Kiwi towns? Then Manawatu is your place! The North Island region has many features well worth exploring. Better yet, we can think of many of those which are free (or cheap) things to do in Manawatu!
Inland, adventure can be found among the many hiking trails of the Ruahine Forest Park. On the other hand, find somewhere to chill out and be one with nature in the Totara Reserve campsites, Raumai Reserve and anywhere in the incredible Pohangina Valley. You’ll also find a few novelties along the way like the getting up-close to the giant wind turbines of Te Apiti or closer to the glowworm cave near Apiti village.
Speaking of villages, make sure you spend some time in the classic Kiwi settlements from the quirky town of Bulls, where many of the buildings contain a witty bull pun, to the town that has been voted New Zealand’s most beautiful town more than 10 times! By the way, if you are looking for more things to do inside Palmerston North city, take a look at our Palmerston North – Guide for Backpackers.
1. Hike the Manawatu Gorge
Offering impressive views from above the gorge, taking on the Manawatu Gorge Track is also an amazing way to view the iconic windfarm and railway in the area. The long track is worth the 4 hours it takes to get from Ashhurst end to Woodville.
We have a whole section dedicated to the Manawatu Gorge, so check it out on Tararua – Guide for Backpackers.
2. Swim at Himatangi Beach
With under 500 inhabitants, the small settlement of Himatangi Beach is truly off the beaten track. The peaceful beach is a local surfer mecca with its very own surf club. Stunning sunsets are the evening treats for the campers in the nearby holiday park. For more beaches, check out 22 Stunning Beaches in New Zealand.
Location: Himatangi is west of Palmerston North, just off State Highway 1. At Himatangi, turn off onto Himatangi Road.
3. Spend Some Time in the Ruahine Forest Park
The popular forest park in the area features tens of hikes ranging from an hour’s hike to a 4-day adventure. The Rangiwahia Hut Track pictured below is the most popular one taking trampers through the lush golden grasses of the Whanahuia Range. We guarantee an afternoon well spent! For walks in the Ruahine Forest, check out 26 Awesome Hikes Around Palmerston North.
Location: Ruahine Forest Park stretches almost 100km between Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay.
4. Take a Walk in Beehive Creek
The small creek is a bit of an oddity in Manawatu. Featuring exotic ferns, the track feels out of place in the landscape around. We have been told, however, that the forest is native of the area and that it has been only mildly affected by human presence. Check it out by yourself during this easy 2-hour walk.
Location: 33 km north of Palmerston North. Head towards Ashhurst from Palmerston North and turn onto Pohangina Road. Drive through Pohangina and follow the Beehive Creek signposts from there.
5. Check Out the Stunning Views of the Te Apiti Windfarm
The windfarm is such a symbol of pride in the Manawatu region that windmills are now featured on the official logo of Manawatu District. The farm is located on Saddle Road and is very easy to access and the public is allowed very close to the windmills. You will be surprised by their size and slow speed.
Location: Saddle Road, just outside Ashhurst.
6. Spot Some Glowworms
Glowworms are a bit everywhere in New Zealand. Manawatu’s little hidden spot to see those shiny maggots is Limestone Creek in Apiti village. Take the short loop track to a triangle-shaped cave and, voila, glowworms above! Check out more places to see glowworms in New Zealand in 7 Places to See the Famous Glowworms in New Zealand.
Location: North of Apiti village. Take Table Flat Road and follow the signs to Sixtus Lodge and the glowworm caves. There is a signpost directing you to the caves.
7. Visit the Totara Reserve Regional Park
The regional park features two campsites, although you’ll have to get in early in summer as they are on the first-come-first-served basis. The Totara Reserve includes walking tracks (obviously!), but also an impressive amount of native birds and a few natural swimming holes. So pack up your togs! (That’s Kiwi for a bathing suit).
Location: North of Pohagina on the Manawatu Scenic Route.
8. Take a Plunge in the Raumai Reserve
If sand is not for you, if salty water burns your eyes, then Raumai Reserve is where you want to be. The stone beaches along the river make for a perfect summer day out. The Pohangina River is not too strong and makes for an easy swim between the high rocky cliffs.
Location: North of Ashhurst. Take Pohangina Road north to Pohangina Valley East Road, where the Raumai Reserve is signposted.
9. Explore the Pohangina Valley
If you haven’t guessed by now, the Pohangina Valley is definitely worth exploring from top to bottom. Bathe by the Pohangina River, which offers green views over white cliffs. On the high points, traditional Kiwi farmlands can be seen as far as the eye can see and on the lower ground, you will find plenty of short hikes and swimming spots.
10. Shop at the Feilding Farmer’s Market
Voted as New Zealand’s most beautiful town (more than 10 times!), Feilding is the typical Kiwi peaceful heaven. Locals are friendly and time flows at a slower pace than anywhere else in the world. Time your pit stop in Feilding on a Friday morning to make the most of its traditional farmers market and treat that belly of yours to some local delicacies.
Location: North of Palmerston North along State Highway 54.
11. Explore Palmerston North by Bike
With so many bike stands, the city of Palmerston North practically begs to be explored by bike! What’s more, getting around the Manawatu by bike is super easy with the New Zealand Cycle Trail passing right through to Palmerston North, connecting the city with Mangaweka.
Location: Bikes can be hired all over the city, starting with the i-SITE.
12. Discover the Art of Palmerston North
Palmerston North has something artsy around every corner. Sculptures, murals, street art, statues… With all of this among historic buildings, there are lots to discover in Palmerston North’s city centre. The Square holds statues of public figures, Maori carvings, and even a little duck pond.
Location: Palmerston North