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 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. Alternatively, find somewhere to chill out and be one with nature in the Totara Reserve campsites, Raumai Reserve and anywhere in the scenic Pohangina Valley. You’ll also find a few novelties along the way like getting up close to the giant wind turbines of Te Apiti or exploring 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 things to do inside the city of Manawatu, take a look at 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Palmerston North.
1. Hike the Manawatu Gorge – FREE
Offering impressive views from above a river gorge, 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 in Tararua – Guide for Backpackers.
2. Swim at Himatangi Beach – FREE
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 an evening treat for the campers in the nearby holiday park. For more beaches, check out the 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 – FREE
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 (60 miles) between Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay.
4. Walk in Beehive Creek – FREE
The small creek is a bit of an oddity in Manawatu. Featuring exotic ferns, the track feels out of place in the surrounding landscape. 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: 33km (20.5 miles) 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 – FREE
The windfarm is such a symbol of pride in the Manawatu region that windmills are now featured on the official logo of the Manawatu district. The farm is located on Saddle Road, making it very easy to access the car park with a wind turbine in the centre.
Location: Saddle Road, just outside Ashhurst.
6. Spot Some Glowworms – FREE
Glowworms are a bit everywhere in New Zealand. Manawatu’s little hidden spot to see these shiny maggots is Limestone Creek in Apiti. 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 the 7 Places to See the Famous Glowworms in New Zealand.
Location: North of Apiti. 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 – FREE
The regional park features two campsites, although you’ll have to get in early in summer as availability is on a 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. Pack 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 – FREE
If sand is not for you or if saltwater 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 – FREE
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 – FRE
Voted as New Zealand’s most beautiful town (more than 10 times!), Feilding is the Kiwi heaven. Locals are friendly and time seemingly flows at a slower pace. 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 – FREE
With so many bike stands, the city of Palmerston North practically begs to be explored by bike! What’s more, getting around the Manawatu region by bike is super easy with the New Zealand Cycle Trail passing right through to Palmerston North, connecting the city with Mangaweka. Find out more in our Mountain Biking in Palmerston North guide.
Location: Bikes can be hired all over the city, starting with the i-SITE.
12. Discover the Art of Palmerston North – FREE
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