Looking for things to do in Palmerston North? We got you.

Palmerston North is located in the Manawatu region of New Zealand on the lower North Island. With scenic landscape, bike trails, roaring rivers and plenty of history, Palmerston North is a bit of a hidden gem and is not always at the top of people’s lists of places to visit in New Zealand.

Well, we’re here to convince you to add it in there.

Being off the beaten track, Palmerston North and the surrounding area is full of untapped treasures just waiting to be discovered. Locals love to welcome visitors from across New Zealand (as well as international visitors when they can) and you will be able to get some great tips on things to do in Palmerston North from the locals in cafes, bars, and restaurants.

If you are looking for some inspiration, however, here are 11 of our favourite things to do in Palmerston North.

1.      Victoria Esplanade Gardens and Scenic Railway


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Victoria Esplanade is Palmerston North’s premier park with 26 hectares of bush walks, bike tracks and formal gardens. It is rated by TripAdvisor as the number one attraction in Palmerston North and attracts thousands of visitors every year.

The park has a bit of something for everyone so is a super family-friendly day out in Palmerston North. There are thousands of mature trees and splendid roses with plenty of places to picnic or barbecue. For the kids, there is a junior road safety park, playground, and paddling pool, with the star attraction for kids being the Esplanade Scenic Railway – a 2.2km railway run by volunteers.

2.      New Zealand Rugby Museum

New Zealand is rugby mad. As a nation, nothing captures our attention more than a game of rugby so it’s no surprise to find the world’s first museum dedicated to the oval ball located in Palmerston North. The museum is a must-visit for rugby fans here in New Zealand and from across the world.

With such a rich history in rugby, there is no better place to learn about New Zealand rugby than the Rugby Museum. From the first All Blacks match programme to today’s playing kit, the museum is packed full of treasures from New Zealand’s rich rugby heritage that has both shaped and been shaped by our country.

3.      Arapuke Mountain Bike Park


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New Zealanders love mountain biking and we have some smashing mountain bike parks located throughout the country and Arapuke is right up there with the best of them. Formerly known as K-Loop, Arapuke is the premier mountain biking destination in the lower North Island with over 50kms of trails across all grades.

The park is a great place to visit all year round and is located right on the outskirts of Palmerston North, making it easily accessible. The Ripper and Rambo are two of the toughest trails in the park, both of which are grade 5 trails, however, the majority of the trails in the park are graded 3 so they are accessible to most levels of mountain bikers.

4.      Manawatu River Pathway

If you are looking for something a bit slower-paced, make sure you check out the Manawatu River Pathway. The walkway spans more than 10kms from end-to-end with plenty of access points along the way. It’s yet another family-friendly attraction in Palmerston North and as well as being a great path for walking and exercise, you will also be treated to some breathtaking views whichever direction you are walking in.

The path is a shared path, and you will find bikers, horse riders and dog walkers along the route. If you are a fitness fanatic, there is open-air gym equipment along the route as well as mountain biking trails.

5.      Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge

When you visit Palmerston North, a trip to the Manawatu Gorge is a must. Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge is a national taonga. Its unique geography and rich cultural history make it a must-do for any trip to the Manawatū-Whanganui Region. There is so much to see and do in the gorge that it’s essential that you plan out your day(s) to maximise your time exploring the gorge.

Some of the most popular activities in Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge include hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and horse trekking. The gorge is also packed full of history and before heading off on one of the hiking trails of Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge find out about the mighty Whātonga, ancestral chief of the Rangitāne and Ngai Tara people and one of the first settlers in what would become the Manawatū-Whanganui Region.

6.      Te Manawa Museum

Te Manawa Museum is the Art, Science and History Museum of Palmerston North and one of the most popular Palmerston North attractions. At the museum, you can learn about the local history, both Māori and European, and see some fascinating artefacts on display.

With constantly changing exhibitions, workshops, events and activities, Te Manawa Museum is an interactive experience that is great for families. Admission to the museum is free, although if you have a great time there, they always welcome donations so they can keep putting on fantastic exhibits and displays.

7.      Himatangi and Foxton Beaches


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OK, so you’re going to have to drive to get to the beach, however, Himatangi and Foxton beaches are located just a short 30-minute drive from downtown Palmerston North making them easily accessible and a great place for a day trip, especially in the summer months.

Himatangi Beach is a beautiful beach for walking, kayaking, and swimming and is renowned for some pretty amazing sunsets. There is also a huge sand dune field which is great for the kids to explore. Foxton Beach is another great beach for walkers and is also a popular spot with kiteboarders and surfers. There is also a nearby bird sanctuary located on the Manawatu River estuary.

8.      Day trip to Feilding

If you are looking to get out of Palmerston North for a day, a trip to nearby Feilding is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. The Feilding farmer’s market is one of the highlights of a visit to this sleepy rural town so make sure you check the dates and times and try and schedule a visit to Feilding on one of those days.

Another great experience located close to Feilding is “The Iron Gates Experience”. Beginning at the northern end of the Manawatu Scenic Route, it is named after the Iron Gates Gorge, a local natural wonder. There is plenty to do at the Iron Gates Experience including golf, fishing, cycling, swimming holes, bush walks, bird watching and more.

9.      River Rafting

River Valley, located just a short drive from Palmerston North, offers New Zealand’s premier half-day grade 5 white-water rafting trip as well as relaxing grade 2 scenic rafting trips on the Rangitikei River. The Rangitikei is one of the most beautiful rafting rivers in New Zealand and if you are looking for an adventure activity in Palmerston North, this is one of the best.

Grade 5 trips are of approximately 3 hours duration, and 11 kms in length. Grade 5 trips depart twice daily from River Valley Lodge, ending right outside the front door. Grade 2 trips are an all-day affair, with a picnic lunch on the river. The scenery on both trips is spectacular.

10. Horse Trekking

Horse trekking is another popular activity when visiting the Manawatu region and there are plenty of options when it comes to a horse trekking adventure. One of the most popular operators is Table Flat Trekking in Āpiti. It’s approximately 1.5 hours’ drive from Palmerston North or 50 minutes from Feilding and they specialise in small groups of four or fewer who want to experience the serenity that can only be experienced at high altitude.

We have already mentioned another couple of horse trekking opportunities in Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge and at River Valley where River Valley Stables provides a variety of rides, for varying riding abilities, over dramatic central North Island hill country near Taihape in the Rangitikei District.

11. World-Class Gardens

Palmerston North is home to some world-class gardens so if you are looking for some peace and quiet and a place to relax, try heading over to Cross Hills Gardens or the Heritage Park Rhododendron Gardens at Kimbolton. Only 20 minutes apart by car, these magnificent gardens showcase thousands of varieties of rhododendrons, azaleas, and roses. They’re in full bloom from October to November, but still delightful at other times.

The Victoria Esplanade is another place to relax in the tranquil gardens or for something more central, take a wander around or through the square located in the centre of Palmerston North where you will find sculptures, ponds, and walkways. The huge clock tower is the central point of the park, and it provides a wonderful bit of green space in the city centre.


Hopefully, our list of things to do in Palmerston North has at least made you take the next step and do some further research into this gem of New Zealand city. Palmerston North is New Zealand’s eighth-largest city with a population of 84,300 and with such a large population (for New Zealand!), it’s no surprise to find so many attractions in Palmerston North as well as lots of family-friendly activities.

If you live in Palmerston North and you think we have missed something off our list, we’d love to hear from you so we can make sure people don’t miss out on something amazing to do when they plan their trip to Palmerston North.

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