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.
With no boat required, this wakeboarding park tows riders on a wakeboard around a freshwater lake, via a cable. Go for the sheer experience of learning to cruise along the water on a board, or up the adrenalin and try out some of the obstacles and jumps. You can also try out Stand Up Paddleboarding, or the brand-new floating inflatable aqua park obstacle course with 4m-high towers.
Palmerston North is increasingly filled with edgy street art, many from prominent artists. What better way for your teens to appreciate the art than to travel around the city viewing it on electric scooters or skateboards? They can be hired from Electric Bikes Plus, and some of the best pieces can be found with the Street Prints Papaioea 2020 Map.
For the over-16s, why not rent a bunch of jetskis, heading out on a supervised 2.5-hour scenic tour of the beautiful Manawatū River? Launching from the boat ramp at the Manawatū Boat Club in Foxton, you’ll head up-river in a safe and controlled group environment (with professional jet ski tour guides), but still get to experience plenty of full-throttle straights and swooping corners on glassy water.
Learning to kitesurf as a teen has so many benefits: it improves coordination, balance, concentration, reactions and core muscles, it’s social, and it’s very cool. Foxton Beach is magic for kitesurfing, with 22km of hard sand beach with small surf, and the largest flatwater estuary in the lower North Island. It’s the ideal place to get started, and Wind Warriors offers lessons for powerkiting, kitesurfing, kite landboarding, kite bugging and Stand Up Paddleboarding, with qualified instructors.
For a free 2-3 hour walk (one way), just one hour from Palmerston North, this is a winner! Head up through beautiful beech forest and onto the tops of the Ruahine Ranges, with waving tussock and incredible views out over the central plateau and Manawatū plains below. As another idea, why not pack sleeping and cooking supplies, and give the teens a hut experience by staying overnight at the 13-bed DOC hut. It’s an incredible location and fantastic first hut experience, with a wood burner, clean toilets, and spectacular views. Bookings can be made online November through April (outside of these months, it’s first in first served – check online for hut fees too).
Riding well-trained horses through incredible natural Manawatū scenery is many teenagers’ dream! Head to Āpiti (1.5 hours north of Palmerston North) for some horse action. Table Flat Trekking is a 600-acre sheep farm – they specialise in groups of 4 or less, and horse treks can be 45 minutes or up to 3 hours, taking in farmland, pine forest, native bush, and depending on experience levels, you may be negotiating swamps, steep banks, or a 1000-foot ridge. It’s a real backcountry adventure. Makoura Lodge is another Āpiti horse trekking outfit, with one-hour treks through farmland, native bush, waterfalls and rivers. Check out the lodge and its surrounds while you’re there – it really is a special corner of the world.
Walking in nature is good for the soul and body – and walking through one of Manawatū’s most significant landmarks is a good place to do it. The trail wends through native bush with rich birdlife, past greywacke cliffs, and from the tops you get awe-inspiring views of the gorge. It’s 11km one-way – you’ll have to organise for someone to pick you up from the other end. Alternatively walk halfway, coming back the way you came, or do the 4km Tawa Loop track.
Your teens might be interested to know the modern jet boat was developed right here in New Zealand in the 1950s, by farmer/engineer Bill Hamilton. He needed a boat that could navigate the shallow, fast-flowing rivers of Canterbury where he farmed – he then took his prototype to the Grand Canyon and stunned the Americans. You can take a ride in a jet boat right here in Manawatū, with the Manawatū Gorge Jet. The v8 engines will hurtle you up the river, past huge boulders and cliffs, and through narrow chutes, with stunning gorge scenery all around. The jetboat departs from the Woodville Ferry Reserve.
Get onto some go-karts and race with some serious speed around an indoor raceway in Palmerston North – most teens will agree this high-octane activity is the perfect way to spend an hour. The staff do a very good safety briefing, and you’ll be happy with the very reasonable prices.