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The best of Manawatū: 2 nights, 3 days itinerary for active explorers

For weekend warriors looking for an extraordinary getaway, it’s time to discover some off the beaten path journeys in heartlands Manawatū. The rhythm of life is nice and easy with an eclectic mix of arts and culture, outdoor adventures from hikes to mountain bikes, and a tantalising taste trail of international cuisine in Palmerston North.

Let your wanderlust guide you to explore our great open spaces and rural landscapes with this fun-filled 2 nights, 3 days itinerary showcasing the best of Manawatū.

For weekend warriors looking for an extraordinary getaway, it’s time to discover some off the beaten path journeys in heartlands Manawatū. The rhythm of life is nice and easy with an eclectic mix of arts and culture, outdoor adventures from hikes to mountain bikes, and a tantalising taste trail of international cuisine in Palmerston North.

Let your wanderlust guide you to explore our great open spaces and rural landscapes with this fun-filled 2 nights, 3 days itinerary showcasing the best of Manawatū.
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He Ara Kotahi, Palmerston North

Day 1

Wildbase Recovery

A world-class rehabilitation centre for injured native wildlife, Wildbase Recovery is a must-do when in Manawatū, centrally located in the heart of Victoria Esplanade in Palmerston North. You’ll explore shore and wetland aviaries, a kiwi burrow and of course meet the resident wildlife who call this space home – from ancient tuataras, to wild kiwis or maybe a kereru or two. Chat with one of the friendly staff to learn more about the vision and mission of this incredible facility and how you can make a difference. Open seven days a week, free entry with donations welcome.

Traverse bridge to bridge along the Manawatū River Pathway

Just a hop, skip and a jump from Wildbase Recovery, carry on to the popular 10 km Manawatū River Pathway shared walk and bike pathway, to explore along the Manawatū River. In Te Reo Māori, Manawatū means a place where the heart stands still – a fitting name for the sights and sounds you’ll find down by the riverside along Victoria Esplanade. Pass through native bush filled with bird song as well as well as sweeping views of the riverfront. Make sure to check-out the interpretation boards that share the stories and history of the region. And if the timing is right, sunset is a beautiful time of day to journey from Fitzherbert Avenue Bridge to the iconic He Ara Kotahi bridgeway– a 3.9 km loop pathway you can walk, run or bike – e-bikes can also be hired from the i-SITE at The Square for some two-wheeled fun.

Top Tip!

If you’re looking for some tasty inner city eats, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Palmerston North city has an awesome selection of international cuisine including Japanese, Afghan, Turkish, Mediterranean, Indian, Mexican, South African, French, Thai, and Cambodian….the world is really at your fingertips here.


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Limestone Creek Reserve Glow Worm Caves

Day 2

Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge Tawa Loop

Walk, run or forest bathe your way through Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge Tawa Loop – with your starting point beginning at the Ashhurst car park. On any given day of the week, this natural wonderland is a haven for active explorers of all ages and abilities. This 4.1 km loop walk is breath taking in every way with an initial steady climb along this undulating but well-formed track. The White Horse Rapids lookout gives you a glimpse of the ever-flowing Manawatū river from above and the impressive 6.2 metres tall Whātonga sculpture at the top of the loop track pays tribute to the traditional history of Manawatū and ancestor of local Rangitāne people.  

 The Herb Farm Café and gardens

Just a 15-minute drive from Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge, head towards Ashhurst to recharge at The Herb Farm Café and gardens. A hidden gem in rural Manawatū, the herb farm is a unique destination that offers a beautiful café, sprawling gardens and retail shop that showcases its range of award-winning natural skincare made on-site. If you’re keen, you can book in a hands-on workshop to make your own that you can take home with you.   

Limestone Creek Reserve Glow Worm Caves

A local secret in northern Manawatū is the beloved Āpiti Glowworm Caves in Limestone Creek Reserve. Just a short walk from the main road, come prepared with a torch and gumboots for this wilderness experience. Located on private property but open to the general public, remember to be respectful of this natural wonderland and leave no trace behind.  

Top Tip!

A good spot for great food is Āpiti Tavern and Eatery – a historic pub loved by the locals with delicious food and licensed bar.   


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New Zealand Rugby Museum

Day 3

BABCO – Brick Artisan Bread Company

What started out as a European style bakery has turned into an iconic spot for mouth-watering croissants, sourdoughs, cruffins (cross between a muffin and a croissant), danishes, pretzels, and so much more. From near and far, locals and visitors alike flock to BABCO for the most delicious creations, made fresh daily with love – you know because every bite tastes like sunshine.     

Te Manawa + New Zealand Rugby Museum

After a good feed at BABCO, learn about the history and stories of Manawatū at Te Manawa Museum of Art Science and History – always a buzz with exhibitions and activities that showcase regional and national collections that inspires discovery and innovation. Then head to the unique, highly acclaimed New Zealand Rugby Museum on the second floor for an exciting and interactive journey through the makings of New Zealand rugby. 

Top Tip!

If you’ve got a bit more time on your last day, head to Arapuke Forest Mountain Bike Park at the end of Kahuterawa Road. Over 30 kms of epic trails ranging from grade 2 to grade 6. A shuttle service operates on most weekend and selected times.  Or if you prefer, explore the stunning Sledge Track which is accessible from the same car park with access to walking tracks, swimming holes, waterfalls, and a swing bridge.  

Ready to look into places to stay? From award-winning holiday parks, traditional farmstays, and boutique hotels, there’s a range of accommodation options to suit every traveller.  

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