7 Best Things To Do In Palmerston North, New Zealand

things to do in palmerston north nz

Palmerston North offers the sophistication and diversity of a major city and is the gateway to attractions in other parts of the region, such as Tongariro National Park, the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges. The city has much to offer. Surrounding the city are roughly 100 parks and reserves. There is an internationally recognized theater scene and a vibrant local music scene. Art galleries and urban street art are prevalent in Palmerston North as well as an array of cafes and dining options. In fact, Palmerston North is reputed to have the highest number of restaurants, eateries and cafe bars per capita in New Zealand with a vast selection of ethnic food including Thai, French, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Japanese, Cambodian, Mongolian, Italian, Irish, American, Pacific rim and New Zealand cuisines.

The Plaza is the largest shopping center in the Manawatu-Wanganui region boasting over 100 stores. The Square is a park of lawn, trees, lakes, fountains, and gardens in the center of the city. Near the center of the park is the Clock Tower with its illuminated cross and colored lights. The location of Palmerston North bordered by the Tararua and Ruahine mountain ranges and divided by the Manawatu Gorge makes it a unique landscape that offers mountains to sea, city to countryside, all in one day.

1. Manawatu Gorge

Manawatu Gorge
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user SmokeySteve used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

The Manawatu Gorge (in Māori Te Apiti, meaning “The Narrow Passage”) runs between the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges in the south part of the North Island of New Zealand. It lies to the northeast of Palmerston North. The Manawatu Track runs parallel to the gorge on the south side through native bush and passes several lookout points with views overlooking the gorge and the Te Apiti Wind Farm. The track passes through a unique landscape of steep greywacke ranges covered in native vegetation of tawa and podocarp forest.

What makes this piece of forest so unusual is the predominance of the giant maidenhair fern which is only found in the Manawatu Gorge. Nikau palms can also be found which add a tropical touch to the track. The Manawatu Track is actually 12 different tracks with six levels of difficulty from easy access short walk to expert. The Manawatu Gorge Track is not a loop track, walkers will require transport at both ends which can be arranged from local providers.

Manawatu Gorge

Address: East (20 minute’s drive) from Palmerston North, adjacent to SH3

Website: Manawatu Gorge

2. Te Manawa Museum of Art Science and History

Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History 06
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Michal Klajban used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Te Manawa (Māori - The Heart) is a regional cultural center and museum with an art gallery and science center that provides interactive experiences in art, science and history and is the only regional museum in New Zealand to feature those three disciplines. The center is also a storehouse of regional and national important collections of Taonga Maori, New Zealand contemporary art, social and natural history. Te Manawa’s public spaces include semi-permanent exhibitions, local exhibitions, and touring exhibitions. Te Manawa is highly ranked as a tourist attraction by both Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet.

Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History

Opening Hours Friday-Wednesday 10:00 am-5:00 pm; Thursday 10:00 am-7:30 pm

Address: 326 Main St, Palmerston North, 4410, New Zealand

Website: Te Manawa

3. Victoria Esplanade Park

Beaucarnea recurvata, Victoria Esplanade Park (6)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Michal Klajban used under CC BY-SA 4.0

A favorite with locals and tourists alike, Victoria Esplanade Park is a beautiful and extensive inner city park adjacent to the Manawatu River, which was opened to mark Queen Victoria’s 60th Jubilee. The park has stunning gardens and features, including bird aviaries, nature trails with a number of walks, a large duck pond, free barbecue facilities and children’s paddling pool and playgrounds. The Dugald MacKenzie Rose Gardens contains over 5,000 roses in named beds.

The Peter Black Conservatory is home to a range of plants from tropical Africa, Mexico, Central and South America through to the Pacific islands, Papa New Guinea, and New Caledonia. There are native bush walks that take walkers through a fernery, arboretum, various gardens, out to the Manawatu River near the Fitzherbert Bridge. Cafe Esplanade is a good place to begin and end a visit to Victoria Esplanade Park. One of most popular attractions in the park is the Esplanade Scenic Railway, a miniature railway line with four different locomotives and two trains.

Victoria Esplanade Park

Address: Victoria Esplanade Drive, West End, Palmerston North 4410

Website: Victoria Esplanade Park

4. Hokowhitu Lagoon and Caccia Birch House

Hokowhitu Lagoon is a favorite spot for biking, walking, picnics, kayaking, fishing and model boats. It is home to much water-life and birds. The Hokowhitu Lagoon walkway follows the Hokowhitu Lagoon from beginning to end. It is a flat, easy limestone covered walk that follows the shore of the lagoon and includes a truss bridge which crosses the lagoon at roughly its halfway mark. The Caccia Birch House sits on the northern side of the lagoon. The house was built in 1892 and was donated to the government in 1941 and today is used as an event, conference and wedding venue.

Hokowhitu Lagoon

Address: Centennial Drive, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Website: Hokowhitu Lagoon

5. Arapuke Forest Mountain Park

Mountain bike in downhill race
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Paul Jerry used under CC BY 2.0

Arapuke Forest Park, a premier mountain biking park, has purpose built mountain biking trails of Grade 2 to Grade 6 mountain bike trails and forestry roads. The mix of trails includes “Jack Frost”, “About Time”, to the more advanced “Rambo”, and “Rocky” trails with challenging rollovers, jumps and drop-offs. Arapuke Forest Park is also popular with walkers. The national Te Araroa Trail runs along the shared Backtrack track and the various former logging roads and along the way has great views of the Manawatu plain. The Kahuterawa Rd end of Arapuke Forest Park, a scenic 25-minute drive from Palmerston North City, is the most popular access point to the mountain bike park.

Arapuke Forest Mountain Park

Address: Kahuterawa Rd, Linton 4474, New Zealand

Website: Arapuke Forest Mountain Park

6. Palmerston North Clock Tower

The Clock Tower, Palmerston North
Source: Photo by user russellstreet used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Hopwood Clock Tower, also known as Hopwood’s Tower, but most commonly known as simply The Clock Tower, has become somewhat the unofficial symbol of North Palmerston. The tower, located in the center of The Square, is named after local businessman Arthur Hopwood who financed its construction in 1953. The tower has been renovated many times since its construction with the latest refurbishments completed in 2007 and the addition of a cross to the top which added extra height to the tower. The modern tower has two luminous features, a ‘lantern cross’ at its top and glass panes below the clock that are illuminated different colors at night. Some of the best views of the tower are at night when it is illuminated with a light display by a range of colors.

Palmerston North Clock Tower

Address: Center of The Square, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Website: Palmerston North Clock Tower

7. New Zealand Rugby Museum

New Zealand Rugby Museum 06
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Michal Klajban used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Not just a museum of the New Zealand All Blacks teams, The New Zealand Rugby Museum contains New Zealand’s biggest and most comprehensive collection of rugby memorabilia and records, including some of the world’s rarest rugby artifacts such as the whistle used to start the first game of every Rugby World Cup. It is the first museum dedicated to rugby and explores the history and folklore of the game and the game’s heroes and legends. In the “Have a Go” area, visitors practice their rugby skills such as kicking, leaping, sprinting, or pushing.

New Zealand Rugby Museum

Opening Hours Daily 10:00 am-5:00 pm

Address: 326 Main St, Palmerston North, 4410, New Zealand

Website: New Zealand Rugby Museum

Palmerston North: sophistication and diversity

The city of Palmerston North has many cultural offerings such as a vibrant theater and local music scene, and interactive art museum, and perhaps the highest number of restaurants and cafes per capita in New Zealand, with an overwhelming number being ethnic. Venture out of the city and you will find spectacular natural beauty with plenty of outdoor activity options. Mountain biking being one or walking the Manuwatu Gorge. Palmerston North is situated so that it is possible for you to head to the mountains for a quick hike in the morning, then to an afternoon at the beach, and finally back in the city for dinner.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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I have been a freelance writer for 10 years writing for local and regional publications as well as online travel sites. I have been a traveler most of my life going back to my first trip to Europe...Read more

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