Carved between the mountains thousands of years ago by the Manawatū River, and immersed in native bush, a visit to Te Āpiti - Manawatū Gorge is rich in cultural history and legends. Come face-to-face with the sculpture of Whātonga, the ancient Māori Warrior who has been immortalised in a six-metre tall sculpture along one of the many walking tracks. The feature walk is 11.2km taking you high above the river with panoramic views, and also winds its way through native bush filled with birdsong. If you’re after a shorter loop option, there’s the 4km Tawa Loop option as well, from the Ashhurst end of the track.
Whisk yourself off to our little slice of paradise. Escape to the country and wake up to views of beautiful rolling countryside at Ridge Top Farm Glamping or Makoura Lodge. Help feed the animals at Rangitīkei Farmstay, or soak in the outdoor bathtub at The Last Church in Āpiti or cedar spa at Rathmoy Estate - you’ll truly feel the spirit of Manawatū.
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.
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.
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. Book with Awastone.
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.
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.
For well-maintained trails through regenerating forest, head south of Palmerston North for these 30km of amazing mixed trails. There’s lots of downhill too for those that like fast flow, as well as a paid shuttle to get you up on top. The trails themselves are free to use but an online donation to help with maintenance is always appreciated by the club.
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.
Head to Mangaweka for some laid back rafting action with Awastone. For the more cautious, the Papa Gorge or Sandstone Gorge trips, lasting an hour or two, are a great introduction to rafting in a beautiful area with lots of rapids, rock fossil areas and swimming pools. For something a bit different head to the whitecliff boulders by raft – and cement them as adventurers for life! There are also specialist sit-on-top kayak lessons available, with guides providing gear and instruction before taking paddlers out on the rapids.