Your weekend escape in the Manawatū

A weekend escape to Manawatū can be action-packed or restful – you can experience sumptuous and fresh local cuisine at amazing restaurants and farmers markets, get the thrill of your life jetboating up the iconic Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge, soak up street art culture and a night at the theatre, and get up close to endangered, rehabilitating wildlife. Below would be a great itinerary of both active and relaxing activities when you’re looking for things to do in Palmerston North on a weekend away.

Friday Night

Check into Quest Hotel, an immaculate and modern hotel in the centre of Palmerston North – from there, it’s a 4-minute drive (or half an hour walk) to Hokowhitu Village for dinner at The Fat Farmer, a fantastic vintage-style, locally-run restaurant and bar with tapas-style sharing plates.

Quest Hotel, Palmerston North

Saturday Morning

Take a 10-minute walk for breakfast at Munch, a 100% gluten-free and nut-free cafe with eclectic decor and lots of cosy spaces – and this raved-about cafe will cater to your diet whatever your requirements. The eggs benedict, the salmon salad, and anything involving their incredibly crispy homemade batter is just perfection – and this will all be great fuel for your next adventure, jet boating up Te Āpiti – Manawatū Gorge in a V8-powered jet boat ride with the Manawatū Gorge Experience Jet.

The jet boat from the Woodville Ferry Reserve, 30 minutes from Palmerston North. The thrill and excitement of speeding past huge boulders, sheer cliffs, and through single chutes is next level – and to be able to do it in a spectacular location like the scenic Manawatū Gorge adds to the allure!

From there it’s a short drive for lunch at The Herb Farm near Ashhurst, a family-owned and -operated business set in rural tranquillity, with two acres of themed gardens and a beautiful cafe on-site with indoor and outdoor seating. The coffee is divine, and the food is beautiful (it’s mostly local, free-range, and organic) whether you’re ordering the French toast, the steak sandwich, or the halloumi burger plus plenty more.

Street Art, Berryman’s Lane

After lunch, drive the 15 minutes back to Palmerston North city, and park up for a self-guided street art and sculpture tour on foot. Grab a map from the i-Site to experience Palmerston North’s edgy street art scene that has popped up over recent years, from exuberant and light pieces to heavy and provocative. Many are by accomplished artists – check out the enormous mural of Apirana Ngata, Edmund Hillary, and Kate Sheppard, by Graham Hoete. It’s a great way to explore the city!

Dinner tonight will be at Little Savanna, a classy restaurant with a great atmosphere and a fusion of flavours from South Africa and New Zealand – think fresh seafood, flame-grilled meats, a taste of South Africa with the best of New Zealand seasonal produce. They also have a great collection of cocktails and mocktails along with wine and beer. The service, decor, and food are all top-notch for a special evening out.

You could now head back to your hotel (15 minutes walk or a couple minutes’ drive), but if the evening still feels young then a night out at the theatre would be perfect – whether you’re in the mood for comedy, political plays or something deeply thought-provoking. The Centrepoint Theatre is a real Manawatū icon, with outstanding cast and theatre production – you’ll see plays here that go on to tour nationally. From the theatre, it’s a 10-minute walk back to your hotel.

Sunday Morning

Take a 5-minute drive to one of Palmerston North’s farmer’s markets for breakfast (the Hokowhitu Village Farmers’ Market on the third Sunday of every month, and the Summerhill Farmers’ Market on the first Sunday of every month). These markets bustle with fresh produce, artisan baking and cured meats, great coffee, fresh-cut flowers, seedlings, music and it’s a great chance to talk to some local producers and soak up the local vibe.

After this, check out the Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery Centre, in Victoria Esplanade. The Wildbase Recovery Centre is a world-class centre holding wildlife while they rehabilitate from injury, before being released back into the wild – many were patients of the Massey University Wildlife hospital. There are also a few permanent residents, including tuatara, whio (blue duck), kererū (New Zealand Wood Pigeon) and korimako (bellbird).

Before you head home, grab a wood-fired pizza or buffalo chicken wings from Brew Union. This large, airy, buzzing venue is beautiful with original brickwork and solid wooden beams. They brew their own fantastic beer, and all the brewing equipment is on display. Manawatū is the perfect place for a weekend away – and there’s plenty of other activities you could throw into the mix! Check out Must-do walks, activities, and dining spots to design your dream weekend away in Manawatū.

Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery Centre, Palmerston North

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