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Five of our fave family-friendly walks

FIVE OF OUR FAVE FAMILY-FRIENDLY WALKS

Get the kids out of the house and into nature – Manawatū’s trails and parks form a treasure map for young explorers to seek out their next adventure. We’ve thought of all the important bits to make a fun family day out – these pram-friendly tracks offer top-notch views, giant playgrounds, and handy restrooms. From Palmy to Feilding and everywhere in between, here’s five spots to escape the urban jungle, stretch the legs, and have a blast in the great outdoors with the whole whānau.

MANAWATŪ RIVER PATHWAY

The gateway to our region’s mighty awa (river), every adventure along the Manawatū River Pathway is unique. Grab some fresh air and sunshine – the flat riverside walkway is where families come together and is primo for a peaceful stroll. Bring your scooter, bike or skates along for a ride, and the pathway is also pup-friendly.  

Along the way, cross He Ara Kotahi – a striking bridge that’s inspired by the karaka tree. If you’re adventuring after dark, spot how the bridge is cleverly lit up to appear as if its floating on the water. Be sure to pop into Victoria Esplanade to climb trees, smell the roses, meet native birds, and ride the Palmerston North Esplanade Scenic Railway. And the playgrounds? Epic. 

Make sure to check our Guide to Staying Safe before getting into the water.

AHIMATE RESERVE

This 22-hectare riverside reserve is all about family fun – for the young, the old and the furry kind. The park has a collection of walks on offer to suit all ages, with paths weaving throughout taiao (nature). Roam the trails and you may even encounter a hidden fairy grotto! 

Bring your pooch along to run around leash-free in the fenced-in dog park, then test their skills on the dog agility course. If the tamariki need to burn off some energy too; the wooden forts, tree huts and tyre swings are just the thing to unleash their inner Indiana Jones. 

Make sure to check our Guide to Staying Safe before getting into the water.

TAWA LOOP WALK

Perfect for teens and intrepid young adventurers, the Tawa Loop track is a favourite with local families. Park the car at the Ashhurst end of Te Āpiti - Manawatū Gorge and enjoy a two-hour walk return full of flora, fauna and birdlife. Korimako, kotare and pīwakawaka are just some of our flying friends that call this area home. 

Bridging the Manawatū and Tararua regions, the Gorge is a time capsule that provides a glimpse into our landscapes before European settlement. It’s also a taonga (treasure) that holds a rich cultural history, and kids can learn something new as they come face-to-face with a sculpture of the chiefly warrior Whātonga. Another bonus? Eager explorers can earn a Kiwi Guardians medal here. 

Tōtara Reserve

Pack your walking shoes, some snacks, and even the tent for a 40-minute drive from Palmy or Feilding towards Tōtara Reserve, a 340-hectare gem in the Pohangina Valley. Popular with all ages, the hardest part is deciding where to headfirst. Meander down one of the many nature trails through the ancient forest, where kids can wander amidst brilliant shades of green.  

For older tamariki, a 5km fern-lined track takes roughly two hours to complete – challenge them to keep an eye open for wētā sleeping in wooden ‘hotels’ along the way. Once you’ve finished your walk, cool off in the river’s swimming holes, play on the adventure playground, and cook up a lunchtime feast on the barbecues. Campsites can also be booked on the council’s website – in fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if the kids don’t want to leave. 

Make sure to check our Guide to Staying Safe before getting into the water.

MT LEES RESERVE

An easy 2.3km loop path that’s popular with little ones, Mt Lees Reserve is a sheltered, peaceful park near Feilding. A giant 1,000-year-old kahikatea and 600-year-old pukatea tree are the stars of the show – with the scenery changing seasonally as various plants come into bloom or shed their leaves. Take a picnic, go bird-spotting or simply stroll and soak up the views.

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