Palmerston North is another one of New Zealand’s understated yet gorgeous North Island towns. Lying just north of Wellington and nestled between the Tararua and Ruahine mountain ranges, Palmerston North (known locally Palmerston, or simply Palmy) parcels up the delights of a country town, within arms’ reach of the city and the sea.
The Manawatu River is the only river in New Zealand that commences its journey on one side of a main divide and joins the sea on the other. The river has taken over thousands of years to carve the spectacular Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge, which is surrounded by lush forests that can be explored on foot, bike or horseback. Not to be missed is the six metre metal sculpture of Whatonga, a Maori warrior and navigator, found on the Manawatu Gorge Loop Walk (1.5kn, 30 minutes).
The two longer walks (Manawatu Gorge Track, 10km, 3-5 hours one way; and Tawa Loop, 4km, 1-2 hours) will take you through ancient bush and forest, high over the gorge. Mountain bikers can enjoy the new Te Ara o Mahurangi downhill ride (rated 3-4, so requires intermediate skills). The 3.6km loop (the first 1.6km is an uphill ride up Hall Block Road) takes in some steep downhill sections, and can get muddy and slippery after rain, so watch out. Once you’ve finished exploring, have a pit stop at the quirky, rustic Bridge Café, which serves up hearty local meals and delicious coffee.
Palmerston North is a garden lover’s playground. With more than a dozen private gardens open to visitors, there is something to suit everyone’s style, from the formal country gardens of Greenhaugh to the Owlcatraz native bird and wildlife park. In town, the stunning and expansive Victoria Esplanade features bird aviaries, nature trails, walks, a large duck pond and the Dugald McKenzie rose garden. This incredible display features over 5,500 varieties and is considered one of the top five rose gardens in the world. The kids will love Victoria Esplanade – they can choose from the paddling pool, playground or (if they’re good) treat them to a ride on the miniature railway, which has extensive tracks through the garden.
If you’re after a relatively quiet day, Palmerston North still has plenty to keep you occupied. The Arts Trail Guide is a comprehensive guide to public art around Palmerston North, providing insight into the history and makers of sculptures, mosaics and murals around the city.
Rugby fans definitely won’t want to miss the New Zealand Rugby Museum, the world’s first museum dedicated to rugby. Open every day, the museum offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the history of rugby in New Zealand, plus to the chance to test their skills in the ‘come and try’ section.
Palmerston North accommodation
If you’re looking to stay in town, Palmerston North accommodation is abundant. Comfort Inn Kauri Court is located near the centre of town and within walking distance of the Manawatu River and Victoria Esplanade and surrounding parks. This Palmerston North accommodation option offers guests the choice of one, two or three bedroom apartments, each with internet access, Sky TV and kitchen facilities, including a fridge, microwave and hotplate for in-room catering. If you’re looking for a simply decorated, neat room in Palmerston North, accommodation at the Comfort Inn Kauri Court could be just what you’re after.