With all this to sample, Manawatū would make for the ideal weekend escape. For an example itinerary, we’d stay at the Quest Hotel, and walk to the delicious Munch café for breakfast. The morning’s activity would involve an exhilarating jet boat ride up the Manawatū Gorge, followed by lunch in the sprawling organic gardens of The Herb Farm. That afternoon you’d be following a walking tour of edgy street art around Palmerston North city, and then going for dinner and drinks at South Africa-New Zealand fusion restaurant Little Savanna. Later that night if you were game, how about a night of thought-provoking or hilarious entertainment at Centrepoint Theatre? The next day you could head for breakfast at one of the farmers’ markets – the Hokowhitu Village Farmers’ Market on the third Sunday of every month, and the Summerhill Farmers’ Market on the first Sunday of every month – followed by a visit to the Wildbase Recovery Centre where you can meet rehabilitating wildlife before they are released to the wild. Finally, the BABCO bakery delivers the perfect sandwich or bagel for your way home from your weekend escape in Manawatū.
Manawatū was made for walking, which is one of the best ways to soak up its natural beauty. Manawatū River Pathway & He Ara Kotahi Pathway are easy flat walks that get you up close with the Manawatū River, and you can’t miss crossing the He Ara Kotahi bridge, designed to look like a fallen karaka tree from above. Walk a little of the famous Te Araroa trail with the Bledisloe Park to Old West Road walk, where you will pass through forest, farmland, and can take a side-walk to the Massey Arboretum. Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge Walk track takes you along the spectacular tops and to the bottom of our iconic Manawatū Gorge, one of the only places in the world a river runs the length of a mountain range rather than bisecting it. The Tawa Loop provides the shorter option for the gorge. The Pettifar and Gilchrist Loop Tracks take you down beautiful river terraces to the Pohangina River in the Totara Reserve Regional Park, and the Fern Walk takes you along the tops with stunning views. The Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve is a stand of ancient untouched forest, with prolific birdlife and signposted trees. Here, there is also the track up to the Rangiwahia Hut with epic views on top of the Ruahine Ranges. Finally, the Sledge Track is a great walk with swimming holes along the first easy leg, with the option of tackling seriously steep and rewarding country as you go on. See Walks in Manawatū for more details on these walks.
Must-do activities in Manawatū range from thought-provoking and inspiring to incredibly adventurous. You could do a horse trek at altitude, riding up onto peaks that have incredible views of Manawatū at Table Flat Farm, or you could raft down a gentle river to have lunch among the bizarre Whitecliff boulders with Awastone. How about an intrepid walk into glow worm caves near Āpiti, getting your feet wet in a running stream? Or get up close to rehabilitating endangered wildlife at the Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery. The fitter ones among us can get stuck into a workout, burning some calories up the formidable Te Arapiki a Tāne (The Stairyway of Tāne), while enjoying the views over Palmerston North city. Watch out for incredible street art in the city too, or head to Feilding to experience its Edwardian feel, farmers markets, sale yards, and dining at the Strong Room. For further adventure activities, Off the Loop cable wakeboarding park near Foxton is a real thrill, as is mountain biking on the world-class single track of Arapuke Mountain Bike Park, and you’ll be exhilarated by a 4WD safari involving river crossings and steep descents with Makoura Lodge.