Plan a Family Trip to Palmerston North
An excellent city to break up the road trip between the centre of the North Island and Wellington, Palmerston North often amazes and surprises families. With waterparks, gardens with family-friendly features, go-karting, stunning beaches, wildlife centres and more – Palmerston North is a place families want to live, not just visit! Combine with a homely stay in the city’s motels and self-contained apartments and it will kind of feel like you do.
So plan activities, even free and rainy day experiences, as well as accommodation, with this travel guide to Palmerston North for families.
Things to Do in Palmerston North with Kids
- Spend the day at Victoria Esplanade
- Visit the birds at Wildbase Recovery
- Check out the exhibitions at Te Manawa
- Do the Tawa Loop Walk at Manawatu Gorge
- Explore the gardens of The Herb Farm
- Take a farm tour of the Robotic Dairy Farm
- Have a lick of some honey ice cream at Waireka Honey
- Take a road trip to Hikurangi Beach
- Get competitive at the Daytona Indoor Raceway
- Have a splash at the Lido Aquatic Centre.
For more information on each activity and their locations, take a look at the 10 Things to Do in Palmerston North with Kids.
Family Adventure Activities
Palmerston North makes an excellent base for road trips exploring the Manawatu Region. A great option for families is a drive to Ashhurst where you’ll find a family-friendly cafe and gardens and short walks in the Manawatu Gorge. First, take the kids to Manawatu Gorge where you’ll find the 2-hour Tawa Loop Walk. Venture through stunning native forest with twining trees and mosses and enjoy viewpoints of Manawatu Gorge along the way. The walk is just outside the town of Ashhurst, where, on the way back, stop by The Herb Farm to explore their 14 themed gardens. While you’re there, you might as well relax with a coffee and get something for the little ones off the kids’ menu.
If the beach is more your thing, you’ll find an excellent beach for families just 30 minutes drive away. 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 fantastic children’s playground and mini golf course.
An alternative family adventure is an educational one: taking the kids to Robotic Dairy Farm just outside of the city. One of New Zealand’s prime industries is dairy farming, which you and the kids can learn all about on a one-to-two-hour dairy farm tour. See how the cows milk themselves using a robotic system and get all your questions answered about cows and how milk is made from 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.
For more adventures nearby, check out the 10 Things to Do in Palmerston North with Kids.
All-weather Family Activities
If you find yourself in Palmerston North on a rainy day, then no worries. There’s still plenty to do no matter what the weather is doing. A local favourite in the Lido Aquatic Centre, an indoor and outdoor waterpark with hydroslides, water cannons, a lazy river and 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 60kph (37mph)! Kids also love the AquaPlay area with around 51 features to interact with.
For something more “touristy”, treat the kids to New Zealand-made 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!
And for families with kids aged seven years and up, Daytona Indoor Raceway offers awesome go-karting undercover. They have karts for various age ranges, including Junior Kadet Karts for ages seven to 10 and Intermediate karts for ages 11 to 14, as well as 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.
For more all-weather ideas including the amazing rugby museum, check out the 10 Things to Do in Palmerston North on a Rainy Day.
Free Family Activities
And we’re only just starting to get to the highlights of Palmerston North, which, incidentally, are free! You’ll have no trouble sticking to your family budget with these activities, including a visit to Wildbase Recovery at the Massey University’s Wildbase Hospital. The hospital for New Zealand’s native birds and reptiles is free and open for visitors to see which patients they have, whether its a kakariki, tuatara, blue duck, kereru, kaka or something else.
More educational experiences can be found at Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and Heritage, found in 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 observe Maori artefacts.
Finally, you can spend hours on end at Victoria Esplanade, Palmerston North’s premier city park. 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. The park is part of the Manawatu River Pathway, which is also a fantastic walk for families along the river.
For more ideas for affordable activities, check out the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Palmerston North.