The best things to see and do in the Manawatu

The landscape of Manawatu sweeps dramatically from the Ruahine and Tararua mountain ranges, and the picturesque Pohangina Valley, along the Manawatu River and through majestic gorges, and out to the coastal plains of Himatangi and Tangimoana Beaches.

The diversity of the Manawatu landscape is unexpected and alluring, and allows you to experience a fantastic variety of outdoor activities and adventure, where you can hike in the mountains, swim in the ocean, and dine in the city – all in one day.

Go hiking through native bush in the Ruahine Forest Park and Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge, or take a bike on one of the many spectacular tracks and trails. For a quieter day, grab a picnic of fresh local produce and treats from one of the superb farmers’ markets, visit heritage collections and man-caves of all sorts, trawl through art galleries, or meander through world-renowned gardens, and do a tasting at the local brewery or the boutique winery. Manawatu offers a colourful variety of leisure activities and specialty attractions, and offers unique experiences without the traffic, queues, or chaos.

The iconic Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge is only 16km east of Palmerston North city, and offers stunning walks and hikes through native bush, swimming and kayaking, wetlands, and more. Freedom camping for self-contained motorhomes is available at the newly redeveloped Ferry Reserve on the eastern side of the gorge, while the Bridge Café is a must visit destination while you are exploring.

Manawatu is home to The Country Road scenic routes and discoveries, taking you off the highways and onto scenic journeys, where you will find hidden treasures and meet interesting people. Four interconnected routes make up The Country Road experience, exploring convivial country cafes and pubs; heritage sites, galleries and gardens; to scenic reserves, wineries, day walks, swimming holes, glow-worm caves, picnic areas, and camping spots – to name a few.

Adventure awaits with white-water rafting, horse riding, four-wheel driving, jet boating, or even bungee jumping. For a real outdoors experience, spend a day tramping through the majestic Ruahine Ranges, where you’ll discover clear rivers, serene waterfalls, glow-worm caves and spectacular native bush, all topped off with incredible views.

Palmerston North City showcases a diverse urban landscape, with museums, heritage and art being prominent attractions. The city centre is dotted with sculptures and galleries, and is a premier shopping destination for the lower North Island.


The city offers a broad range of options: The Plaza, with more than 100 shops under one roof, houses all the major brands as well as quality niche stores; while George Street and the Coleman Quarter tempt with their various boutiques in the heart of the city’s art and cultural precinct – as well as being the city’s coffee mecca. All of this surrounds The Square – an open, architecturally-designed park in the city centre.

Feilding prides itself on its Edwardian heritage. It’s a welcoming and vibrant place to visit, with no traffic lights, no parking meters, and lots of friendly people, quality shops, cafes, and restaurants. Manchester Square is the centre of Feilding and is a must see, with beautiful paving and historical monuments, such as the clock tower. Every Friday in Manchester Square there is a hive of activity as the farmers’ market attracts people from far and wide. Locally produced and grown goods are aplenty and the quality and variety is second to none. Feilding can also boast that it has won New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Town Award no less than 14 times!

Things to see and do

Te Manawa: the regional museum of art, science, and history captures Manawatu’s past, present, and future.

The New Zealand Rugby Museum (also at Te Manawa) is home to one of the largest collections of rugby relics and memorabilia in the world.

Manfeild Stadium, Feilding: a world-class motor-racing circuit, currently home to the New Zealand Grand Prix.

Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge: only 16km from the Palmerston North’s city centre, this iconic landmark offers stunning walks and hikes through native bush, swimming and kayaking, wetlands, history and more.

The free map and guide for Manawatu’s Country Road scenic drive is available nationally through the i-SITE Visitor Information Centres.

Places to eat and drink

Roadside stalls: always take some loose change with you as there are a lot of roadside stalls selling fresh seasonal produce. Make sure you use the honesty boxes!

Regent on Broadway is a grand theatre that plays host to a full calendar of international, national and community shows.

The Globe and Centrepoint theatres: offering more intimate and often homegrown shows, the latter being the only professional theatre company outside of a main centre.

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