Like links in a chain, the Manawatū River Pathway and He Ara Kotahi connect Palmerston North city, joining suburbs, our university and research institutes, forestry, farmland, and parks, providing visitors and locals alike an adventure and a commute, a convenience and an escape, a training course and a playground.

With over 15kms of clearly marked riverside pathways, bridges and trails to explore, it’s easy to see why so many enjoy exploring this network of trails, taking the opportunity to discover rich farmland, wildflowers, forests, pā sites, a military camp, streams, parks and gardens, and lush native bush filled with bird song.

Bikers and runners weave in and out of walkers, dogs and prams, whether they’re exercising, exploring, visiting or making their daily commute for work or study.

So, whether it’s your first exploration, your standard commute or your daily favourite, you can delight in many of the following gems along the way.

He Ara Kotahi and Four Bridges

The striking He Ara Kotahi bridge is named the “pathway that brings people together” allowing visiting explorers, trainers, and commuters to merge city with country, past with present and work with home and play.

Originally designed to provide a safe and direct route to educational centres east of the river. An added bonus was to create an opportunity for residents and guests to connect with the rich farmland, and the history of surrounding areas.

More than just a bridge, this piece of local art exists for the people and by the people. The entirety of the design gives nod to the the karaka tree grove that originally provided food and shelter for the local early settlers, the Rangitāne iwi. Though it will be tempting to soak up the views, be sure to watch underfoot for the bespoke Rangitāne design, cleverly lit at night and patterned to symbolise the puriri waka and koru – life in the tree and the people around it.

But don’t stop there!

Carry on to the lesser known, but just as much of an adventure, four unique bridges that follow on the undulating 7.1km track to Linton Military Camp. Each with its own impressive design, the bridges bring visitors up to forest blocks, amongst a canopy of native trees, over an eel breeding site, and swinging over a stream.


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Workout and Rest with a View

With wide open flat spaces and measured loops of every length, it doesn’t matter if you are exercising your pup or your person, there are options for every body, shape and size. Fitness fans will be pleased to find open-air gym equipment available near the Fitzherbert Avenue entrance near the road bridge. Those who prefer the slower approach will find bench seats strategically placed to stop and take in the seasonal views.








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Two Wheel Adventures

Cyclists, follow your nose through the fragrant pine forest by the Albert Street entrance to find a few special trails and ride a dirt pump track amongst the trees. Head west and you’ll find another hidden network of dirt trails and pathways at Ahimate Reserve.

Though walkers and cyclists share the path, those on two wheels will also find parallel mini-tracks to play along the way, with dips, jumps and bumps thrown in for those seeking adventure.


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Trail Down to the River’s Edge

Walkers, you are not left behind as you too can explore off the paved path. Follow well-trodden dirt paths down to the rocky riverbanks to skip stones, connect with nature, and quiet the mind. Along the way are several sets of giant steps where you can picnic, ponder and soak in the view right on the river’s edge.

Explore Victoria Esplanade

Between the Fitzherbert Avenue bridge and He Ara Kotahi you will find many bush trails that merge into Victoria Esplanade for another feast of micro-adventure opportunities. If you choose to explore, you will find world renowned rose gardens, public facilities, a wading pool, duck pond, aviary, a flying fox, Café Esplanade , the Esplanade Scenic Railway, Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery and a variety of playgrounds for all ages.








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Seek Hidden Gems

As you carry along the path, don’t miss Ahimate Reserve, a local favourite. At 22 hectares, this large riverside park is rich with local history and home to a riverside beach, a dog agility park, mountain bike tracks and even a natural playground. The path weaves through it all and, if you look closely you may even catch a fairy grotto, local art, and a resident ghost in the trees! 








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Experience Past and Present Manawatū

Between the five bridges, you will grasp a taste of the farmland and the river that originally made the region flourish. Regular signage offers a glimpse into the history of the region, reconnecting the past and present Manawatū and proving insight into our rich cultural heritage.   

Stop for a picnic and keep your eyes and ears peeled for local wildlife. Even though you are just minutes from the city centrekārearea (New Zealand falcon), pheasants, herons, wakawaka (fantail), tūīkererū, mallard and paradise ducks, and green tree gecko have all been seen along the Manawatū River Pathway. 

Whether you call Manawatū home, or are simply visiting for a weekend, the Manawatū River Pathway offers endless options that allow everyone to experience the pathway anew.

Ahimate Reserve is home to Palmerston North city’s must-visit dog park.

Click here to find out more about this destination for your four-legged friend.