Must-do activities in Manawatū

You are spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do in the Palmerston North and Manawatū region – from horse treks at altitude, off-road 4WD adventures and epic hiking and biking trails in the forest, to edgy street art and artisan farmers’ market experiences, let Manawatū treat you with a new experience.

Horse Trekking Table Flat Farm

Located less than 1.5 hours from Palmerston North in the gorgeous hills of Āpiti, these horse treks allow you to experience the serenity of high-altitude horse trekking on a 600-acre sheep farm. Treks range from gentle beginner rides on undulating farmland and pine forest, through to an epic ride through the native bush – on this trek, the sure-footed, well-trained horses will be scrambling up banks, wading through swamps and skidding down tracks – or a ride up a 1000-foot ridge for spectacular views. There are also basic riding lessons on offer.

Horse Trekking at Table Flat Farm, Manawatū

Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery

This world-class conservation centre is a beautiful place for injured or sick wildlife to recover – it is where you can get up close to baby tuatara, albatross, penguins, and other native wildlife while they are nursed back to health, in enclosures filled with greenery and water features. There are also resident birds and tuatara that are there full-time. The knowledgeable and friendly volunteers can take you through and teach you about the animals in each enclosure. Many of the wildlife patients have received treatment from the Massey University Wildbase Hospital. What’s more, it’s free of charge to visit and has a specially designed interactive education centre for the kiddos to enjoy as they learn.

Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery, Palmerston North

Street Art Tour

Palmerston North’s central city has in recent years become a vibrant scene of stunning street art and edgy murals. Street art festivals have literally left their marks around the town – with imagery from light and cheerful to heavy and provocative taking on local themes. Pick up a free map from the Palmerston North City i-SITE and take yourself on a tour of these artworks, many by accomplished street artists. Look out for a large-scale mural of Āpirana Ngata, Edmund Hillary, and Kate Sheppard by well-known artist Graham Hoete. The alleyway Berryman’s Lane is one formerly bland strip that has been transformed into a mural-lined masterpiece packed with colour and culture.

Street Art, Palmerston North

Whitecliff Boulders by raft with Awastone

Take a gentle drift by raft down the beautiful Rangitīkei River, to have lunch in a mystical boulder garden in the forest: the Whitecliffs Boulders. These giant “cannonball concretions” formed millions of years ago when chemical reactions took place involving river sediments and debris. Now, they look like moss-covered marbles from giants, scattered among the trees, and are truly a wonder to explore.

Whitecliff Boulders, Manawatū

He Ara Kotahi Pathway

This beautiful walking and biking pathway gives you a taste of Palmerston North’s surroundings: its rivers, streams, dairy farms, pā sites, military camp, and forests. The He Ara Kotahi Bridge is designed to resemble a karaka tree (which once grew in groves in the area) and connects the town with the educational centres over the river, as a safe and beautiful way to avoid highway traffic. Along the path, check out what a sustainably-run university dairy farm looks like at Dairy 1 Farm, or maybe you’d like to cross Greenwoods Bridge to the raised boardwalk above a canopy of native forest. The 45m Kahuterawa swing bridge connects to Linton Military Camp (keep an ear out for the gun range here). All along the way, you may spot wildlife: species such as karearea (New Zealand falcon), herons, kereru, pheasants, and gecko frequent the surrounds. For a map and more information see here.

He Ara Kotahi Pathway, Palmerston North

Te Arapiki a Tāne – The Stairway of Tāne

These steps are breath-taking – if the views over the river and surroundings from the top don’t take your breath away, then climbing the steps will!   Here’s a killer hill workout if you’re looking for one: you can also just take your time and enjoy the views as you ascend. This hillside was created from the steep Anzac Cliffs to allow for a subdivision nearby, and the steps were then constructed to create a connection to the river. One set of 222 steps takes you down to the river from the observatory above, and another 189 steps lead back up to Vaucluse Heights. The name of the steps honours Tāne Mahuta, the god of the forest who pushed the sky father Ranginui and the earth mother Papatūānuku apart.

Te Arapiki a Tāne, Palmerston North

Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge

Explore the mighty Manawatū Gorge, which separates the Manawatū and Hawkes Bay regions. Tackle the main 11.2km trail to walk along the tops of the forested hillsides that plunge down into the stony Manawatū River – with views out over Palmerston North and Ashhurst, and the impressive windfarms, and down into the lush native bush with beautiful birdsong. There is also a shorter 4.1km loop option from the Ashhurst end of the track. Make sure you take a peek from the lookout over the massive slip that took out the highway.

Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge

Off the Loop

Learn to wakeboard or refine your moves to an expert level at Off the Loop in Foxton, 30 minutes west of Palmerston North. This wakeboard cable park tows you on a cable around a freshwater lake. Beginners can simply get used to the sensation of cable wakeboarding for the first time and learn to turn, and experts can practice their air tricks, or negotiate obstacles such as a 20cm-high box or a 2m-high rooftop rail.

Off the Loop, Foxton

Limestone Creek Reserve Glow Worm Caves

The track to these triangle-shaped spectacular caves near Āpiti begins in a gully surrounded by tall rock walls covered in green moss and ferns. Take shoes that you don’t mind getting wet because this hidden marvel involves a 600-metre adventure through caves, gorges, and across a running stream. The main cave is absolutely filled with glow worms, and while you can see them during the day, they’re best seen at dusk.

Limestone Glowworm Caves, Āpiti

Arapuke Forest Mountain Bike Park

Featuring some of the best single track in the lower North Island, the 30 km of mixed trails at Arapuke will satisfy every rider from amateur to pro – and they even have a shuttle to take you up to the top for some epic downhill flow. They’ve got a huge amount of reforestation happening, and new trails are being created all the time. The park is free to use, but the local mountain bike club appreciates donations for maintaining the park and building new trails.

Arapuke Forest Mountain Bike Park, Manawatū

Makoura Lodge 4WD

For an exhilarating 4WD ride through farmland, rivers, past waterfalls, you must visit Makoura Lodge. Go for the safari option if you’d like an expert driver to take you places you wouldn’t dare, or if you’re up for taking the wheel yourself, that’s also an option. The track is professionally designed as a 4WD training facility to offer every tricky scenario you can think of encountering – so there’s mud, river-crossings, steep sections and bumps galore.

Makoura Lodge 4WD, Manawatū

Spend a Friday in Feilding: farmers’ market, saleyards and dinner

Experiencing the market vibe of Feilding Farmer’s Market is a wonderful way to begin a Friday morning. Set in a cobblestone quadrant amongst heritage buildings, from 8.30am it’s bursting with fresh produce, artisan delicacies, fresh-cut flowers, seedlings, great coffee, music, and it’s a great opportunity to meet some local growers and makers. At 11am, head over to take your $10 guided tour of the Feilding Saleyards, one of the largest saleyards in the Southern Hemisphere. You’ll experience the buzz of the sheep and cattle auctions (15,000 sheep and 1400 head of cattle are sold per week!) and learn about the history of livestock selling that goes back to the 1800s. That evening, go for dinner at The Strong Room – this place has a very cool vibe, and the food and service are second to none. Book a table because it’s very popular.

Feilding Farmer’s Market, Manawatū

These activities are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to do in Manawatū – check out our walks in Manawatū and dining experiences.

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