Manawatū is the ultimate family-friendly destination, whether you’ve got little ones or teens. From getting out into quintessential New Zealand nature, to finding epic playgrounds, to thought-provoking museums, to epic adrenaline activities, you’ll be spoilt for choice when looking for things to do in Manawatū with the family. Most of the activities we talk about below will be enjoyed just as much by adults as by the kids! Read on for inspiration.
Great Memories for Young Kids
With the children in tow, you could swing with them into extra deep foam pits and try somersaulting at the Cloud 9 trampoline park. Kids will love the children’s area at Te Manawa Museum, complete with play helicopter and electric vehicle – or maybe they’d prefer seeing the moa skeleton in one of the exhibitions. Victoria Esplanade provides the largest playground in the Manawatū, complete with mouse wheel, swings, forts, slides and spinners, as well as a delicious-smelling rose garden when in bloom. The Wildbase Recovery Centre gives kids the chance to get up close to some beautiful native species, which are rehabilitating there from injury before they are to be released. He Ara Kotahi cycleway is a great kids’ activity too: cycle along this river pathway to the Urban Eels feeding platform to spot some of these beautiful creatures, and learn about their meaning to Te Ao Māori.
An itinerary for a weekend away with the kids can be found here – we’ve got all the details on where to stay, where to breakfast, travel times, and all the other logistics on how to pack in the most meaningful couple of days in the Manawatū with the family.
Cloud 9 Trampoline Park
Adventures with the Teens
For teenagers, on the other hand, there are so many activities that will get this age group excited and engaged. Try cable wakeboarding at Off the Loop Wakeboard Park, or cycle down some amazing downhill on the smooth contours of Arapuke Mountain Bike Park. Palmerston North’s edgy street art scene can be viewed on rented e-skateboards, for a bit of fun. Teens will love hooning up the Manawatū River on a guided scenic jetski tour with Wake.X jetskiing, or tearing up some water in the wind at Foxton Beach with Wind Warriors kitesurfing. An impressive 2-3 hour walk to do with teens is the Rangiwahia Hut Track: the views out over the Manawatū from the tussock tops of the Ruahine Ranges are just breath-taking. For horse-lovers, a horse trek in Manawatū backcountry takes you through incredible scenic countryside: try this at Table Flat Farm or Makoura Lodge. Makoura Lodge is also great for some exhilarating 4WD adventure: either a safari option or a self-drive if your teen has a full driver’s license. The Te Āpiti Manawatū Gorge Walk is another walking option, with 11km one way of amazing gorge views and bush serenity – alternatively, take a thrilling jetboat ride through the gorge with Manawatū Scenic Jet. Rafting more your thing? Raft in Mangaweka under looming white cliffs with Awastone. Back in Palmerston North City, there’s the high-octane thrills on go-karts with Daytona Indoor Raceway, or cycling the He Ara Kotahi cycleway along the river.
With all this activity, the whole whānau will be demanding some fuel – and there’s no shortage of family-friendly dining in the Manawatū, where you can sample beautifully-cooked, often locally-sourced produce. The Herb Farm is great for wholesome organic food in a sprawling country garden setting. Pompeii Pizza will wow with its gourmet toppings and quality dough (with dough for kids to play with too). Café Cuba is famous for its sweet-treat-packed cabinet and coffee; Aqaba has lots of space and a great kids dinner menu. Mr Grumpy’s or Ocean Beach Eatery are two gems on Foxton Beach for great fish and chips.