Palmerston North (Palmy in Kiwi-speak) is the beating heart of Manawatu, a region loved for its forested mountain ranges and relaxed country lifestyle. Here you can follow riverside cycle trails, whoop it up in mountain bike parks, hike to see original native forest, explore west coast beaches and visit the largest livestock saleyards in the southern hemisphere.
The city provides a perfect base for exploring the wider region. With its thriving art and live theatre scene, excellent craft brewery and a good choice of restaurants, there's plenty to see and do when you're not chasing adventure outdoors.
The forest-covered Te Apiti - Manawatu Gorge between the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges is a place of ancient Maori legends, abundant wildlife and magnificent landforms, with walking tracks that range from 30 minutes to four hours.
Where to go and what to see in Palmerston North
Mixing urban fun with outdoorsy adventures is easy in Manawatu. You'll find accommodation in and around the city centre, or you can choose a farmstay, Airbnb or lodge in the countryside. There are some excellent eating places and watering holes in the city, including Little Savanna for South African/Kiwi fusion food and Brew Union, a craft brewery gastro pub with a talented, award-winning chef. If deep relaxation and renewal is on your agenda, book a day spa session at Hiwinui Country Estate, a five-star luxury lodge just 15 minutes drive from the city.
Experience the grandeur of Te Apiti - Manawatu Gorge
The forest-covered river pass between the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges, known as Te Apiti or Manawatu Gorge, is a place of ancient Maori legends, abundant wildlife and magnificent landforms. Walking tracks through the lush native forest range from an easy 30-minute loop to around four hours one way. There are also mountain bike trails, guided horse treks and safe swimming spots for you to enjoy. Te Apiti is one of the most highly rated Manawatu and Palmerston North tourist attractions.
Discover He Ara Kotahi Bridge and the Manawatu Cycleway
If you're looking for exercise near the city, locate the He Ara Kotahi pathway and stroll to Massey University over the iconic He Ara Kotahi Bridge. There's also a 10km pathway along the Manawatu River for biking and walking.
Or why not pack your bike to do some of the Manawatu Cycleway, a country road ride that's part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail.
Visit the New Zealand Rugby Museum
Discover the history and folklore behind our national game. Not only will you learn about the 100-year connection between rugby and New Zealand society, you'll uncover fascinating stories of legendary players and see some of the rarest rugby artefacts in the world. You can even try out your rugby skills in the 'have a go' area where you can tackle, kick the oval ball, leap, push and sprint - just like an All Black! This is New Zealand's only rugby museum and it's rated among the top places to go in Palmerston North.
Enjoy art works and theatre
In the streets surrounding The Square, you'll find a great collection of public sculptures and an extensive variety of street art and murals from local, national and global artists that are perfect for Instagram posts. Art lovers will also enjoy browsing the excellent galleries around The Square, which showcase contemporary art from New Zealand. In inner-city areas like Berrymans Lane, street art wall murals capture the spirit of the city.
Catching a show is definitely one of the fun things to do in Palmerston North. There's a great selection of local and touring comedy, music, dance, musicals and drama shows to choose from. Be sure to check what's on at the beautifully restored Regent on Broadway, Centrepoint Theatre, The Dark Room and The Globe Theatre.
Explore hidden treasures
The top Palmerston North sightseeing attractions include three scenic driving routes - Stormy Point, Peep-o-Day and the Manawatu Scenic Route. Collectively known as 'The Country Road', they lead you away from the main highways through rural towns to country cafés and bars, scenic reserves, day walks, gardens, galleries, river swimming holes, picnic spots and more. These routes are best taken at a slow pace with plenty of stops, so you can meet friendly locals and learn about the area's hidden gems. Just be sure to begin with a full tank, as the only petrol station along the way is in Kimbolton on the Peep-o-Day Route.
Best time to visit Palmerston North
Palmerston North is quieter during the summer break from mid-November to mid-January, when many students return home. January and February have the highest temperatures and the least days with rain. Autumn colours are beautiful here and gardens are in full bloom during spring, when the region is jumping with new life - lambs especially.
How much will it cost?
This will depend on your tastes and what you want to do. As a rough guide, not including air travel and hotels, you should allow about NZD $100 to $150 a day per person for food and entertainment.