20 Things To Do In Palmerston North

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When you first think of New Zealand, Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown and maybe Christchurch jump to mind. But other cities in New Zealand are just as deserving of a visit, and Palmerston North is one of those hidden gems. Growing up in New Zealand, I passed through Palmerston North a lot, but it wasn’t until I started university that I really spent time there. When I did, I quickly realised what a cool little city it is. 

Because Palmerston North is smaller than many neighbouring cities, it’s definitely under the radar and you’re not likely to find it on many lists of New Zealand “must-do” activities. So, to help you plan your trip and make the most of your time there, here are the best things to do in Palmerston North.

Palmerston North, New Zealand

20 Things To Do In Palmerston North

palmerston north at night
Palmerston North at night.

1- Visit The New Zealand Rugby Museum

New Zealanders are mad about Rugby, that’s simply a fact.

Whether you’re already a Rugby fan, or you’re trying to learn more about Rugby, a visit to the New Zealand Rugby Museum in Palmerston North is essential.

Here, you’ll get the chance to explore the origins of Rugby in New Zealand, through well showcased memorabilia, storytelling and interesting photographs.

Make sure you leave plenty of time, as it’s easy to lose track of time while you’re wandering around the New Zealand Rugby Museum.

The New Zealand Rugby Museum is This museum is open seven days a week from 10 am to 4 pm at 326 Main Street, Palmerston North Central, City Centre 4410, New Zealand.

2- See The Hopwood Clock Tower

One of Palmerston North’s most iconic landmarks is the Hopwood Clock Tower, also known as “Kerei Te Panau”.

This feature is set right in the center of town and stands out because of its height and unusual architecture.

There’s a fascinating history to this clock tower, as the clock was originally set in the town’s Post Office Building, nearly 100 years ago.

Following an earthquake, the clock needed to be rebuilt, so a resident paid for a clock tower to be constructed in town.

Since then, the tower has undergone several renovations and architectural changes.

With additions made in the 1960s, 1990s, and most recently in 2007, have a look and see if you can spot the different styles.

You’ll find the Hopwood Clock Tower at Palmerston North Clock Tower, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand.

3- Walk The Manawatu River Pathway

With more than 10 km of well-maintained track, the Manawatu River Pathway is a fantastic place to walk, run, or cycle.

It follows the Manawatu River, and no matter what time of year you visit, you’ll find beautiful scenery here.

There are numerous points that you can access this path from, so have a look at the map and decide whether you’d like to follow the whole path, or perhaps just part of it.

If you’re just looking to do a section, I recommend starting on the Stop Bank Path behind the Palmerston North Golf Course.

This is a great section, and it’s part of the Te Araroa Trail, so if you’re walking in Summer you might even meet some adventurous thru-hikers on your way.

You can access the Manawatu River throughout Palmerston North, including an access point at West End, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand.

4- Satisfy Your Curiosity At Te Manawa Museum 

To satisfy some of your curious urges when you’re in Palmerston North, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science, and Heritage.

This interactive and exciting museum is a brilliant place for both children and adults to explore.

There’s a range of permanent exhibits, showcasing local and international history, and then new temporary exhibits are regularly rotating through.

There’s always something new to see here.

There are genuine heritage buildings to explore as part of this museum, including a schoolhouse, and a cottage that’s considered the oldest standing building in Palmerston North.

As well as these exhibitions, there’s also a lot of information about Te Awa (the River) to soak in as the Manawatu River has played a huge part in helping shape the city.

Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science, and Heritage is at 326 Main Street, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand.

5- Explore The Ahimate Reserve

Ahimate Reserve is one of Palmerston North’s biggest and best-maintained parks.

Here you’ll find an exciting children’s playground, a well-organized dog park including an agility course, and mountain bike jumps and tracks.

There are also plenty of walking and running tracks to explore.

Ahimate Reserve is part of the Manawatu River Pathway mentioned above, but it’s worth dedicating time to the Reserve specifically.

I recommend bringing a picnic lunch for the family, as well as bikes and perhaps a kite so that you can enjoy the space.

The Ahimate Reserve is at Maxwells Line, Awapuni, Palmerston North 4412, New Zealand.

6- Wander The Massey University Campus

Palmerston North is home to one of New Zealand’s eight universities, Massey University.

The education offered here is quite different from the other institutes in New Zealand, as Massey University is the only place you can get a degree in Aviation, Nanoscience, or Veterinary Science.

As well as offering interesting degrees, Massey Univesity is also on an interesting campus.

It’s got gardens full of native trees, heritage buildings, and a solar farm is currently being built there.

You can wander around the University campus, which is also partly along the Manawatu River.

I recommend spending several hours exploring this area, keeping your eyes open for interesting buildings and sights, including the plaque commemorating 75 years of the University.

Massey University Campus is at Tennent Drive, Massey University, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand.

7- Gather Some Speed At Arapuke Mountain Bike Park

For some outdoor excitement when you’re in Palmerston North, take a trip to the Arapuke Mountain Bike Park.

Presently, there are more than 40 km of tracks, and the park is still expanding.

There are tracks of all grades and levels, so whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned rider you’ll be able to enjoy yourself.

If you don’t have a bike, don’t worry.

You can easily rent mountain bikes in Palmerston North, and there are also shuttles available at the Arapuke Mountain Bike Park, making it even easier to get up some of those hills.

The Arapuke Mountain Bike Park can be entered at Kahuterawa Road, Linton, Palmerston North 4474, New Zealand.

8- Get On The Water With A Rafting Trip

For some more excitement, book in to take a river rafting trip on the Rangiteiki River near Palmerston North to enjoy a day out on the water.

There are various options, depending on whether you’re looking for adrenaline or relaxation, and you can pick between a Grade 2 or a Grade 5 rafting trip.

As well as the day trips offered, there are also opportunities to get on the water for longer and enjoy an overnight experience.

This is something unique to Palmerston North, and will provide an unforgettable experience – just be prepared to get wet!

You can arrange a river rafting trip with River Valley Lodge, 266 Mangahoata Road, RD2, Taihape 4792, New Zealand.

For a more cultured experience in Palmerston North, a visit to the Zimmerman Art Gallery is a must.

This gallery was opened by Bronwyn Zimmerman in 2010 and focuses on showcasing the work of New Zealand artists.

The Zimmerman Art Gallery has two exhibition spaces, and the exhibitions regularly change to give you a taste of a different artist and style.

It’s open from Thursday to Sunday each week, between 11 am and 3 pm, so make sure you plan your trip in advance.

The Zimmerman Art Gallery is at 329 Main Street, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand.

10- Have A Coffee On Cuba Street

Cuba Street is an iconic Palmerston North street, and it’s just been given a renovation, making it even more pedestrian friendly.

This is a good street to wander along in the Central Business District, and here you’ll find a few great cafes to visit so that you can grab your morning Flat White.

As well as the cafes, Cuba Street is also home to bars, international restaurants, and curious shops to explore.

Palmerston North comes to life here, so once you’ve got your coffee, one of my favorite things to do is get a streetside seat and do some ‘people watching’.

Check out Cuba Street, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand.

11- Walk Across The He Ara Kotahi Bridge

The English translation of “He Ara Kotahi”, is “the path that brings people together”.

While only 194 meters long, this bridge is a central part of Palmerston North City, and it’s worth taking the time to walk along.

This pedestrian bridge was opened in 2019 and it’s been designed with the Karaka tree in mind: one side represents the roots, and the other side showcases the canopy of the tree.

With patterns and symbols etched into the whole bridge, take your time walking across it and see if you can spot the artist’s intentions.

At night the bridge looks even more spectacular: it’s lit up by gentle spheres of light, designed to represent the stars.

He Ara Kotahi Bridge is at 129 Dittmer Drive, West End, Palmerston North 4412, New Zealand.

12- See Endangered Birds At The Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery

New Zealand is famous for its unique, and often endangered, native birds.

It can be hard to see these creatures up close in the wild, but at the Wildbase Recovery Centre, you can see and learn about some of our most interesting birds.

As well as having an ongoing breeding program, the Wildbase Recovery Centre is also a hospital, where some of the birds with the most complicated injuries and illnesses are treated.

There are often kiwi in residence here, as well as the endangered takahē and yellow-eyed penguins.

It’s free to visit this center, and there are children’s programs on offer to help educate and inform young and old visitors.

Wildbase Recovery is open to the public on Tuesday – Friday afternoons, and on Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm.

You’ll find the center at 20 Victoria Drive, West End, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand.

13- Play In The Sun At Memorial Park

If you’re visiting Palmerston North in Summer, then a visit to Memorial Park is a must.

This family-friendly park is one of the best spots in Palmerston North to cool off, enjoy the sun, and have a whole lot of fun.

It’s got playgrounds for all ages, a great paddling pool, and a brand-new splash pad to help everyone beat the heat.

It used to be a quarry, but you wouldn’t know by looking at it.

The park has been well developed with bright colors, and themed playgrounds, and incorporates local and World War history as well.

While the water play is a main feature, at Memorial Park you’ll also find great picnic spots, places to ride bikes and scooters and to play sports such as cricket.

This is an excellent spot to visit, especially if you’ve got children with you.

Memorial Park is at Main Street, Terrace End, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand.

14- Find The Dazzling Street Art

If you’ve got time to explore some of Palmerston North’s hidden roads and streets, one of my favorite things to do is hunt for street art.

In the past few years, the Palmerston North City Council has commissioned local artists to brighten the streets and buildings.

There are sculptures, art installations, and murals hidden all around the town.

To help you find them all, the City Council have put a map up on their website, so download a copy of the “Palmy Art Map” and then follow it around town, checking out these bright and beautiful pieces.

The Palmy Art Map is available for download here.

15- Try New Activities At Makoura Lodge

If you’re looking for some relaxation, excitement, or to experience something different, then a visit to Makoura Lodge might be just what you’re after.

This unique place offers all kinds of activities, from 4×4 driving to axe throwing, to therapeutic horse sessions.

Those don’t sound like you? Then consider a cocktail-making class, scavenger hunt, or yoga session.

This fascinating venue is about 20 minutes drive outside of Palmerston North, and as well as an activity hub, it also offers accommodation, and an event venue too.

Makoura Lodge is at 736 Makoura Road, Feilding 4771, New Zealand.

16- Stroll Down Broadway Avenue

You haven’t seen Palmerston North until you’ve had the chance to stroll down Broadway Avenue.

This is one of the city’s main streets, and it’s full of charm and surprises.

It’s been an integral part of the city’s central business district for around 100 years, and it’s undergone a lot of change and development in that time.

While you’re wandering, look out for the Regent Theatre, which was designed in 1929 and is considered one of New Zealand’s best-performing arts centers.

Also keep your eyes open for the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit Church, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2025.

This iconic street is found at Broadway Avenue, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand.

17- Smell The Roses At The Dugald McKenzie Rose Garden

rose garden and rotunda in palmerston north nz
Wandering around the Rose garden is a relaxing thing to do in Pamerston North NZ.

There’s a reason behind the age-old saying “Stop and smell the roses”, and you’ll quickly discover that reason at the Dugald McKenzie Rose Garden.

Roses look, and smell, simply divine.

Taking the time to appreciate roses will bring a sense of joy and calm to your day, and this rose garden is one of the best places in New Zealand to enjoy them.

There are more than 5000 roses here, and it’s received an award of excellence from the International Society of Roses.

As well as the established flowers, the growth of new roses is trialed and researched here, leading to the development of some new varieties.

The garden opened in 1968 and has been well cared for and developed ever since.

The Dugald McKenzie Rose Garden is at 1 Palm Drive, West End, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand.

18- Take a Day Trip to Bulls

While there’s a lot to see in the Palmerston North City Centre, there’s also a lot to see and do on the outskirts.

One of my favorite places just outside Palmerston North is the quaint town of Bulls.

It’s about a 20-minute drive North of Palmerston North, and it’s 34 km (22 miles) away by car.

Bulls is famous as one of New Zealand’s most pun-filled cities.

Here you’ll find the library labeled “read-a-bull”, and the Police Station that houses the “Const-a-bulls”.

While you’re looking around the town, see what other puns you can find – the amount is simply unbelieve-a-bull!

The Bulls Town Centre is close to 4 Criterion Street, Manawatu, Wanganui 4818, New Zealand.

19- Explore The Square

Right in the center of town is The Square, and it’s certainly worth a visit.

Palmerston North City is arranged around The Square, and it’s an important historical site for the city.

Here you’ll find parks, fountains, and memorials to take in.

Two of the most important memorials are the War Memorial and the Memorial to Maori Chief Te Peeti Te Aweawe.

When you’re exploring The Square, make sure you don’t miss these.

There are also important city buildings around The Square.

The Square Edge Arts Centre is one, and you can’t miss its bright blue and red facade.

The Civic Centre, where the local council sits, is also positioned on the edge of The Square, so see if you can spot that one as well.

The Square can be found by going to The Square, Palmerston North 4410, New Zealand.

20- Go Shopping At A Local Market

Every week, several different local markets take place in Palmerston North.

Whether you’re looking for local produce, arts and crafts, or some second-hand bargains, you’re sure to find them at one of the markets.

I love checking out the Albert Street Farmers Market, which is held every Sunday.

Some other gems include the Highbury Flea Market, the Sanson Market, and the Palmy Sunday Market.

They’re all held on Sundays, so I recommend dedicating the day to shopping, and spending some time at each one!

You can find more information on these markets here.

palmerston north 25 c stamp
Looking for things to do in Palmerston North? Check out our top 20 list.

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Sarah Hyde was born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand. Now based in Innsbruck, Austria, she is getting out to experience Europe every chance she gets. When Sarah was in high school she spent a year living in Toronto, Canada, and hasn't stopped travelling since. She has explored India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and spent several months of 2020 in Covid lockdown in the village of Sidi Kaouki, Morocco. After hiking Te Araroa, New Zealand, in 2022 she developed a love for solo-hiking and thinks it's one of the best ways to really get to know a new country! Since then, she has gone on to hike Rota Vicentina in Portugal, and Haute Route from Switzerland to France, two incredible adventures. When she's not travelling, you’ll find her writing or reading. Sarah has a Bachelor of Communication Studies from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, as well as a law degree.