Palmerston North's museum and art gallery scene
A city that's 100% Kiwi through-and-through, Palmerston North serves a local community that appreciates art and theatre just as much as it likes a thrilling game of rugby. While the agrifood and business sectors might be the biggest employer here, it's balanced by academics from Massey University and creatives who love the fresh air and freedom of Manawatu. In short, 'Palmy' has a cultural side that really deserves your attention.
New Zealand's famous Rugby Museum, Palmerston North
Rugby fans travel from far and wide to visit New Zealand's only Rugby Museum in Palmerston North. Established in 1969, it presents a chronological collection of photographs, rugby balls, jerseys, boots, souvenirs and stories that honour New Zealand's obsession with a game that continues to push the boundaries of sports fitness and strategy.
You'll find Don Clarke's famed boot, still carrying Lancaster Park dirt on its sprigs, as well as the historic florin coin that won the toss for New Zealand before the 1925 'Invincibles team' triumphed over England. If you're a rugby-obsessive, you could spend hours here. And even if you're just tagging along, you'll find the displays interesting, and the interactive have-a-go area.
Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and Heritage
If you're holidaying with kids or looking for a few hours indoors, to balance all your Manawatu outdoor adventures, award-winning Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and Heritage is a great place to look and learn. It showcases a significant collection of Maori taonga, a permanent exhibit that tells the story of the Manawatu River, a multitude of fascinating pioneer stories, and a changing programme of science and history-based exhibits. General entry is free, some touring exhibits are ticketed.
In the days before Christmas, your kids can visit Santa's Cave at Te Manawa for a gold coin donation. Housed within an exhibition of Christmassy artefacts, this very special Santa experience includes story telling by the man in red.
The Coach House Museum, Feilding
If you're planning to catch the livestock sales in Feilding on a Friday, don't leave town until you've visited The Coach House Museum, one of the best transport and colonial life museums in New Zealand. You'll get a glimpse into country life during the earliest days of Manawatu's farming history, plus there are volunteer guides to explain what you're seeing.
Allow about an hour to see the splendid collection of vintage John Deere tractors, horse-drawn buggies and coaches, sewing machines and much more. There's also a massive collection of photographs that reflect the way it really was.
Palmerston North art galleries
The Art Gallery at Te Manawa was recently refreshed to make collections more explorable. There are five exhibition areas, spanning from a large space for big artworks to the nifty floor-to-ceiling racks that display random collections of art and social history pieces.
Another uplifting art experience can be found across the road from Te Manawa at Zimmerman Art Gallery, a privately owned art space that represents established and emerging New Zealand artists. While the pieces on display are for sale, the gallery welcomes art appreciators who only want to look.
At any time of the year you can enjoy the street art in and around Berrymans Lane. Or time your travel plans to coincide with Art Trail Manawatu - a September tiki tour of galleries, artist studios and workshops involving Palmerston North and the countryside surrounding the city.
Palmerston North theatres
Palmy punches above its weight when it comes to live theatre. The local community is full of creativity that gets channelled into entertaining comedy, drama, musical and dance productions. You can be sure of finding a show that tickles your fancy while you're visiting. In particular, look for productions at:
- Centrepoint Theatre has been entertaining the Manawatu region for more than 45 years. As well as its large theatre, which hosts a wide range of productions, it has The Dark Room, where experimental and emerging artists get to do their stuff.
- The Globe Theatre in Main Street gives community drama groups and performance schools a place to wow their audiences with talent quests, live music, comedy shows, drama, film nights, burlesque and Shakespeare.
- Regent on Broadway is a fully-renovated historic theatre that was designed in 1929. Enjoy its gorgeous Art Deco architecture while you catch a show - from dance performances and pantomime to tribute bands and ballet, the scope is broad.