Fresh air, your fave friends, and a full picnic basket – all the essential ingredients you need for a dreamy, sun-drenched day. Snuggle up beneath the trees in the lush grass, on a comfy blanket or on a picnic table and enjoy our region’s spectacular scenery while you snack on all your favourite treats.
Here’s some of the top spots to hang out with your hoa (friends) or family and dine alfresco – Manawatū’s parks and reserves are serving up delicious scenery every day of the week.
We couldn’t start without the gem in our region’s crown, the Manawatū River and the neighbouring Victoria Esplanade. The hard part is deciding where to feast first. Will you stop and smell the roses in the Dugald Mackenzie Gardens, pop to the epic playground, or wander down to the river? There’s also a popular paddling pool for the little ones to make a splash in – complete with covered barbecue facilities if you want to take your picnic game to the next level. Hardie Street Reserve is also a top spot to rug up with some fish & chips or a homemade platter.
This riverside reserve is made for the whole whānau to enjoy – including the furry ones! Everyone can let off some steam with the limestone walking trails, log-themed play area, fully-fenced dog agility course and mountain bike tracks – complete with jumps and see-saws. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the river shores with picnic blanket in tow, and enjoy a relaxing lunch or dinner as the awa bubbles away.
A Palmy summer hotspot – there’s no shortage of family fun to be had at Memorial Park. Slides and swings, climbing walls and balancing balls, the poppy-themed playground is a winner with tamariki of all ages. Get your skates on at the roller rink, and share some of your quackers at the duck pond. When it’s time for kai, take your pick from the picnic tables scattered throughout the park or the large grassy lawns. There’s also plenty of shade if required.
Lush green forest, clear blue waters, native birdlife of all colours – summer scenes don’t get much better than this. Park up at the end of Kahuterawa Road (about 20 minutes from Palmy), and lace up your walking shoes. Let the local tour guides – the friendly pīwakawaka, tūī and korimako – guide your way up the easy trail for ten minutes or so.
Here, you’ll reach a picnic table right next to the stream. Beat the heat with a dip in the swimming hole, then tuck into your snacks as you admire the lush environment from every angle. Eager explorers can continue along the trail for another 30-45 minutes towards Argyle Rocks – some seriously impressive boulders that are also a great spot for a scenic bite.
For a wholesome family picnic, you can’t go wrong with Ashhurst’s picturesque 54-hectare park. Choose a view to suit you – on the menu is ancient native forest, conservation wetlands, lookouts to Te Āpiti wind farm, and the Manawatū River.
The essentials are all covered – with playgrounds, sportsfields, shelter and toilets all readily available. Kids can speed down the flying fox while the parents get the picnic sorted – you can even use the free barbecues for a sizzling lunch. If it’s a warm day, pop your swimsuit on and cool off in the river after your feed.
Enjoy being serenaded by nature’s chorus - kereru, tūī, bellbirds, grey warblers and fantails call the Domain home. Or wander down to the wetlands to see white-faced herons, waterfowl, ducks, and pied stilts.
Get off grid and escape the crowds – Halcombe’s Mt Lees Reserve is an oasis of calm and natural beauty. Go bird-spotting and play I-Spy amongst the park’s flora and fauna before tucking into your picnic. A giant 1,000-year-old kahikatea and 600-year-old pukatea tree are a must-see, while young ones can go wild on the forest-themed adventure park. Stroll through the StoryWalk with the kids, an interactive literature crawl through the locally-written The Grizzled Grist Does Not Exist! story – there’s a special treasure awaiting at the end of the trail.