Walking in Manawatū opens up ancient native bush, groves of kahikatea or tōtara, riverside beauty, adventures into high-altitude tussock country, or through magnificent gorges. Whether you’re looking for active things to in Palmerston North city itself or you don’t mind driving, we’ve brought you the must-do walks of Manawatū below: from super easy strolls, to trails for those who are up for a challenge.
The shared Manawatū River Pathway is a great way to appreciate the Manawatū River, and it’s a flat asphalt walkway, with many access points along the way. He Ara Kotahi is another riverside pathway, a brand new one that connects the city with Massey University and Linton Military Camp. The 194m He Ara Kotahi bridge, designed to look like a fallen karaka tree from above, is lit up at night by luminous spheres.
These two loop tracks in the beautiful Tōtara Reserve Regional Park – some 348 hectares of bush, river flats, and hills – and form a figure eight if you do them both (each loop takes 1-2 hours). They take you down some gorgeous terraces that lead to the Pohangina River. The wet areas hold groves of kahikatea forest, and the drier areas have a lot of tōtara.
This is a stand of ancient virgin bush, preserved by settlers because it was considered to be a good water catchment for the village. The birdlife is prolific and many of the trees have been signposted – it’s one of the best places to see some magnificent giants of native trees, untouched through history.
This pleasant walk takes you up through beech forest and onto the open tussock tops of the Ruahine Ranges, where you can stay at the DOC hut at an altitude of 1327m. In clear weather, the views are spectacular, with the central plateau and Manawatū plains far below. Make sure you check out the waterfall and its pristine mountain pool near the top of the track.
For native bush, trails past greywacke ranges, rich birdlife, and awe-inspiring views of Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge, this one-way track is magnificent – it’s a way to get a feel for one of the most significant landmarks in the area. If you’re walking all the way through you’ll need to organise transport at the other end. Alternatively, walk halfway and then go back the way you came.
You’ll see all sorts on this beautiful section of the Te Araroa trail – native bush, pine forest, farmland, views, and access to the Massey Arboretum with rare, exotic trees of all sizes. Bledisloe Park is a gorgeous place to linger before or after your walk, with Turitea stream nearby. When you get to the open space at the Atawhai Road access point, you can finish here or carry on to the Turitea Walkway.
The first half-hour of this track is very easy, with waterfalls and swimming holes along the way. After this, it becomes quite steep, but experienced trampers will love seeing some of the region’s most spectacular scenery. At one point, there is a bridge that takes you into Arapuke Mountain Bike Park, which is also great to walk, but make sure you look out for cyclists.