For those who enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of parks and gardens – this is the place to be. The Manawatu Riverside Walkway and Bridle Track extends for 10km along the banks of the Manawatu River and the picturesque Esplanade is a superb park stretching along its shores only a few blocks south of the Square. Cross Hill Gardens is a 45-minute drive north of the city, but well worth the trip if your passion is rhododendrons and azaleas! Being in bloom from September through to April, these gardens represent the country’s largest and most varied collection and also includes lillies, hostas, dahlias and hydrangeas. Herb farms abound, with several offering tours and hands-on demonstrations of harvesting and the distilling of essential oils. These are unique attractions where you can enjoy a sensory experience, see and walk around natural themed gardens, taste delicious food and relax in delightfully scented sanctuaries.
As with other great New Zealand adventure destinations, this region hosts exciting jet boat tours in the shallow waters and rapids of the scenic Ruamahanga and spectacular Manawatu rivers. Horse trekking, bridge swinging, abseiling, drift and white water rafting, and kayaking are available in this incredibly scenic area that still remains relatively unspoilt by over-commercialism. Stockcar and Formula Ford racing features as an alternative thrill seeking adventure, and greyhound racing provides something a little different to the trots! For a complete contrast and breakaway from the norm, one could try their hand at indoor rock-climbing, aerobatic flying, scenic helicopter flights, mountain biking, 4WD safaris, or view the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere up close on 4×4 quad bikes! For a more relaxed outdoor experience, the Manawatu also offers superb tramping country – or take the time to enjoy the solitude of fly-fishing for some of the world’s fattest trout that reside in its rivers.
Being a university town there is a great selection of cafes, bars and restaurants catering for both the student pallet (and purse) and that of business travellers who visit the city in droves. Theatre and live music performances are staged in various venues around town, and popular student pubs come to life during the year providing raucous entertainment.
Most visitors to Palmerston North call for business reasons and there are several very good hotels catering for their needs. With the diversity of experience it has to offer, Manawatu is the destination of choice for a wide range of national and international conferences. Budget accommodation exists in the form of camping grounds and hostels, and very pleasant Bed and Breakfast guesthouses abound, including quaint farm stays in the rural surrounds. All in all, Palmerston North is a very beautiful city blessed with its campus culture and unpretentious lifestyle – why not check it out!