A Travel Guide to Palmerston North
Located on the banks of the Manawatu River, bordered by the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges and a hub for its surrounding farm region, Palmerston North is the prime example of a Kiwi city. Natural playgrounds, whether it’s beach or bush, are never too far away while the community spirit of a farming region is a joy to experience through farmers’ markets and farm tours. The city itself has few attractions worth exploring between the Manawatu River Pathway, with its picturesque gardens and native bird hospital at Victoria Esplanade, and its significant museums, like the New Zealand Rugby Museum and Te Manawa.
So if you’re on a North Island road trip and you’re looking for a stop between the Central North Island and Wellington, Palmerston North provides welcome relief from the lengthy drive, as well as plenty of reasons to make you glad you popped in. Plan your visit with this complete travel guide to Palmerston North.
Fast Facts About Palmerston North
Location: In the centre of the lower North Island in the Manawatu-Whanganui region.
Climate: Daily average temperature – 13.3°C/56.0°F, yearly average rainfall – 980mm/38.6″
Find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
Time zone: NZST / GMT+12/+13
How to get to Palmerston North: Palmerston North is well connected to the rest of New Zealand by road, located on State Highway 3, just a short detour off State Highway 1. The closest international airport is Wellington Airport (2 hours drive) with plenty of car rental options available. It also has a domestic airport with regular flights from Auckland. Palmerston North is also on the main national bus route, which you can find more information about in Bus Networks in New Zealand.
Palmerston North for Budget Travellers
From the city parks to the surrounding landscapes of the Ruahine to Himarangi Beach, Palmerston North offers plenty to explore for free. Combine that with the city’s free and cheap museums and you have an affordable stay in this hub of the lower North Island. As a popular student city, Palmerston North has affordable recreational activities and eateries to match, making it an ideal pit stop for budget travellers. Plan where you’re going to stay, what you’re going to do, and where you’re going to eat in The Guide to Palmerston North on a Budget.
Budget Activities in Palmerston North
- Visit the Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History
- Check out the New Zealand Rugby Museum
- Wander through native bush in Bledisoe Park
- Hike in Manawatu Gorge and visit the Te Apiti Windfarm
- Walk or cycle the Manawatu River Pathway.
For elaboration on each experience and more, see the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Palmerston North.
Budget Accommodation in Palmerston North
Palmerston North is a city of motels, many of which offer cheap rates for an affordable self-contained stay. You’ll also find some but limited budget lodges, hostels and hotels. Check out your best options for cheap stays with our 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Palmerston North.
Palmerston North for Luxury Travellers
Palmerston North is your premier city destination for countryside living in the lower North Island. Play on New Zealand’s original golf course, ride among lush farmland on horseback, and visit the city’s surrounding villages and their boutiques. It’s also a place where you can discover new hobbies, perhaps kitesports on Foxton Beach, or simply enjoy the pleasures of doing nothing at all as you unwind with a luxury spa treatment. Stay in well-appointed hotels or one of the city’s nearby luxury lodges. Plan your entire stay fuss-free with The Luxury Guide to Palmerston North.
Luxury Activities in Palmerston North
- Experience sublime scenery on a horse trek at Makoura Lodge
- Tee off at Palmerston North’s premium golf courses
- Do some boutique shopping
- Tackle unique beach sports at Foxton Beach
- Indulge in a luxury spa day.
For elaboration on each experience and more, see the 6 Luxury Activities in Palmerston North.
Luxury Accommodation in Palmerston North
Palmerston North might not be a destination of five-star luxury, but you will find some four-star international hotels in the city, as well as premium boutique lodges on the outskirts. Plan your stay with the 5 Best Luxury Accommodation in Palmerston North.
Palmerston North for Families
Have a stroll around the parks and walkways, check out the indoor activity centres and museums and you’ll likely think that Palmerston North was made for families. The city makes a pleasant break from the road when travelling around the family, offering effortless and affordable fun. At the end of a busy or, if you prefer, not-so-busy day, retreat to one of the many self-catering motels to keep costs low or to a hotel where you can treat the whole family to dinner. Plan the perfect family stay with The Guide to Palmerston North for Families.
Child-friendly Activities in Palmerston North
- Visit the birds at Wildbase Recovery
- Explore the gardens of The Herb Farm
- Take a farm tour of the Robotic Dairy Farm
- Take a road trip to Hikurangi Beach
- Have a splash at the Lido Aquatic Centre.
For more information on each activity and their locations, as well as a few others, take a look at the 10 Things to Do in Palmerston North with Kids.
Family Accommodation in Palmerston North
Convenience is key in Palmerston North, which boasts an array of motels with self-catering facilities and other comforts of home, like laundry facilities. You’ll also find holiday homes and hotels should you be after something different. Take your pick from the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Palmerston North.
Palmerston North for Couples
To New Zealand standard, Palmerston North has a bit of a reputation for not being the prettiest. But with a picturesque river and walkway running through it and places like Victoria Esplanade with endearing gardens, we might beg to differ. The city is an exceptional place for date night with a wealth of quality restaurants while the nearyby beaches and mountain ranges certainly set the tone for romance. Plan your retreat with your loved one using The Honeymoon Guide to Palmerston North.
Romantic Activities in Palmerston North
- Wander around the rose gardens and native bird hospital at Victoria Esplanade
- Road trip north to see dramatic limestone landscape and glowworms at the Limestone Creek Reserve
- Indulge in a couples spa packages at the Hiwinui Country Estate
- Cosy up with a movie and wine at the Focal Point Cinema & Cafe
- Watch the sunset from Himutangi Beach or Anzac Park.
For more information on each experience and others, see the 7 Romantic Activities in Palmerston North for Couples.
Romantic Accommodation in Palmerston North
In the city, the premium hotels and a couple of the more upscale motels provide a romantic stay for couples. Check out some of your options in the 5 Best Romantic Accommodation in Palmerston North.
Palmerston North for Foodies
Where Palmerston North really shines is its food. Foodies will definitely want to make a stop here when travelling the North Island to get an insight into some of the Kiwi specialities: craft beer, wine, coffee, honey, and, of course, dairy! Yes, Palmerston North offers food tours and experiences about all of these items and then some. The city and its surrounding towns are also home to award-winning farmers’ markets, which are the perfect places to sample local produce. For more insight on planning a food-orientated trip, take a look at The Foodie Guide to Palmerston North.
Food Tours and Activities in Palmerston North
- Experience the vibrant farmers’ markets
- Take a tour of a coffee roastery
- Browse honey products and taste honey ice cream at Waireka Honey
- Take a tour of the Tui Brewery
- Treat your tastebuds at Palmerston North’s restaurants.
For information on all these experiences and more, take a look at the 7 Things to Do in Palmerston North for Foodies.