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Free Activities in Palmerston North and Manawatū

FREE ACTIVITIES IN PALMERSTON NORTH AND MANAWATŪ

Bills piling up? Budget looking a little tight? Payday hasn’t rolled around yet? Let’s face it, life is getting a little spenny these days. The good news though? You don’t need to empty your account to have a fun day out in our neck of the woods. Get thinking outside the box and get your thrift on – there’s plenty to see in the Manawatū where you can keep your wallet in your pocket.

So whether you’re in savings mode or just love a freebie, here’s your guide to having a marvelous Manawatū adventure without having to spend a cent. As they say – the best things in life are free!

GET HIKING

Strap on your boots and go bush! Close to town or deep in the rugged forest, our network of nature trails forms a treasure map of discovery. Need a suggestion to get you started? We recommend adding Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge to the list. This 11.2km track takes 3-5 hours each way, leading you high above the awa (river) and through ancient native bush.  

Tune in to the sounds of birdsong and you’ll soon switch off from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. The shorter Tawa Loop track is also top-notch, where you’ll come face-to-face with Māori chief Whātonga, in the form of a towering six-foot-tall sculpture. 

ADMIRE LOCAL ART

Public sculptures, pop-up installations, and a vibrant mix of street art – Palmy’s city centre is abundant with creativity. Grab a free map from the i-SITE or simply roam and follow the trail of colour. Berryman’s Lane is a primo place to start, with its concrete walls now a canvas of bright and edgy murals. 

If there’s rain on the radar, head indoors to Te Manawa Museum. Jam-packed with interactive and immersive exhibitions – some permanent and some temporary – there’s always something new to see. Connect with stories of Manawatū’s journeys and heritage and get inspired with a gallery of toi (art) from established and emerging artists.

JOIN THE CONSERVATION CONVERSATION

The incredible team at Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery are experts in rehabilitating injured and sick native wildlife, providing them with the space to recover before being released back into the wild. It’s also home to a series of resident animals – including whio, pāteke, and tuatara.  

Free to visit, stroll through the aviaries solo or with a knowledgeable volunteer guide. You might encounter albatross, penguins, kererū, or other native birds being nursed back to health. Tamariki can enjoy the hands-on educational centre – and if you do have a few coins rolling around in the wallet, they welcome donations to further their conservation efforts. 

REVEL IN THE RURAL LIFE

The Feilding Saleyards is sure to be one of the most authentic country experiences you'll ever witness. Each and every Friday at 11am, the town comes alive with farmers auctioning sheep and cattle in a tradition that dates back to the 1880’s. For a few extra bucks, you can even embark on a guided tour with a local farmer and learn all about the saleyards’ rich history – and meet & greet plenty of dogs, sheep and cows. 

MAKE A BEELINE FOR THE BEACH

Pack your togs, towel, and sunscreen – a day at the beach has got your name on it. The wild and wonderful Himatangi Beach is a West Coast gem, and a true playground for locals and visitors alike. Go swimming, build a sandcastle, catch a wave, cast a line, or just stroll among the giant sand dunes. This sleepy settlement is also an idyllic sunset spot if you’re searching for an evening treat.

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

GET A GLOW UP

A glowing gem in Manawatū’s crown, pack a head torch and get your adventure on at Limestone Creek in Āpiti. Best seen after dark, you’ll wander down fern-lined pathways, through moss-covered gullies and across a few bubbling streams. The reward that awaits you is nothing short of mesmerising – switch off your torch and be awed by the thousands of glistening glowworms above.

GAZE AT GORGEOUS GARDENS

Flower fans, you’re in for a treat at Victoria Esplanade’s Dugald MacKenzie Rose Garden. Walking distance from Palmy’s town centre, these family-friendly gardens offer a splash of colour, bringing smiles to faces young and old. If the weather is off, wander through the Peter Black Conservatory for a dose of lush, tropical plants. 

Or for a floral day out, grab your best buds and head to either Caccia Birch Gardens with its stunning magnolias and a divine wisteria; or Caroline’s Gardens, set amidst a 100-year-old homestead. Take a picnic, a good book and your camera – the best blooms are during October, November, and December. 

Got more cash to splash? Here are some of Manawatū’s cheap eats to fill your puku without emptying out your wallet 

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