A Day Guide to Victoria Esplanade, Palmerston North

Large palm trees on both sides of a road.

If you only have a day to spend in Palmerston North, make sure you spend most of it at Victoria Esplanade.

Words by: John Son

Photos by: Anna Briggs

Set on the fringes of Palmerston North’s CBD, Victoria Esplanade is a lush, green oasis that brings the entire city to life. With 26 hectares of bush walks, gardens, family-friendly activities and more, you can easily spend an entire day exploring the space, no matter how old you are or where your interests lie. A truly year-round attraction with something for everyone, here’s our guide to making the most of a day at the Esplanade.

Kick-start your day at Coffee on Ascot

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35 Ascot Street, Hokowhitu, Palmerston North

Your day begins with a shot of caffeine at Coffee on Ascot, a charming neighbourhood cafe a short drive from Victoria Esplanade. Wake yourself up amidst the comforting vibes while sipping on the cafe’s organic, fair-trade coffee, including their beloved range of superfood lattes - from the classic turmeric latte to intriguing options like the velvet or mushroom latte. Pair your morning brew with the tantalising range of raw slices and other sweet treats to ensure you’re fully energised for the day ahead.

The rose gardens at Victoria Esplanade in Palmerston North.

Wander through the rose garden and its surroundings

Victoria Esplanade is a sprawling space with plenty to explore, so the best way to start is with a leisurely stroll through the park. The heart of the Esplanade is undoubtedly the majestic Dugald MacKenzie Rose Garden, with its lush array of more than 5,000 roses spread across various sections. Once you’ve stopped to smell the roses, check out the myriad family-friendly activities dotted around the surrounding areas. From a mini golf course and a paddling pool to a charming miniature railway, there’s plenty to do for the whole family.

The blue and white entrance to Cafe Esplanade in Palmerston North.

Refuel at Cafe Esplanade

Your lunch stop is conveniently at Cafe Esplanade. Housed in a historic building that was once a post office, the cafe is nestled among the Esplanade's main attractions and offers guests splendid views across the gardens. Visitors have the option of tucking into cafe classics such as burgers, salads, and all-day breakfast favourites, as well as tasty cabinet items. Don’t forget to grab a scoop or two of ice cream on your way out.

Explore Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery

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20 Victoria Drive, West End

One of the Esplanade’s most intriguing attractions, Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery is a wildlife shelter providing recovery care for native animals following treatment at Massey University's Wildbase Hospital. Wander through the walkthrough aviary, housing tuatara and a variety of native birds, as well as additional breeding aviaries for birds such as the endangered Whio (blue duck) and Pāteke (brown teal). Offering a fascinating and intimate insight into our wildlife, the centre is a must-visit on any trip to the Esplanade.

Stroll along the Manawatū River Shared Pathway

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129 Dittmer Drive, West End, Palmerston North

Keen to venture slightly out from the Esplanade? Make sure you have your walking shoes on and take a leisurely stroll along the Manawatū River Shared Pathway, a picturesque route that winds through the heart of the city. Stretching over 10km, the pathway is a shared haven for walkers, cyclists, and animals, young and old. Among the many sights along the way, you’ll find Turitea Pā, a culturally significant site steeped in Māori history, with the stunning two-storey platform offering spectacular views along the river.

Finish with dinner at The Fat Farmer

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360 Albert Street, Hokowhitu, Palmerston North

Wrap up the day at The Fat Farmer, a cosy, classy neighbourhood bistro in nearby Hokowhitu. Signature dishes, such as the slow-roasted 1kg ANZCO lamb shoulder, slow-roasted on the bone, and the AngusPure flatiron steak, will leave any diner spoilt for choice. With gluten-free options and a thoughtful selection of vegetarian dishes, the menu here is one of the most inclusive in the city, ensuring an appropriate finish to your day of exploring the diverse and delightful Victoria Esplanade.

Neat Palmerston North Places

Café Cuba

Behind the counter at Cafe Cuba.
Place Palmerston North
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Located on (you guessed it) Cuba Street, Café Cuba is one of Palmerston’s most popular and long standing cafés and eateries. There’s something for everyone here and the cabinet alone is enough to entice even the most conscientious eaters.

Arrosta Coffee Roasting Co

Staff standing behind the counter.
Place Palmerston North
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At Arrosta Coffee you will find a welcoming espresso bar and functional roastery plus a cupping and training lab - it’s a complete coffee destination.

Te Manawa

A yellow and green exterior of the retro food store.
Place Palmerston North
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Te Manawa is the place to start if you’re looking to hit the ground running when it comes to getting acquainted with Palmerston North and the greater Manawatū. But we’re not just talking about historical context, Te Manawa is a museum of art, science and heritage.

Te Āpiti Manawatū Gorge

Three people walking under trees.
Place Palmerston North
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For a breathtaking outdoor adventure, simply pop “State Highway Three - Manawatū Gorge” into your map app and complete the quick 20 minute drive from downtown Palmerston North. Nestled between mountains and carved by geological forces over the last three million years, Te Āpiti is a natural time capsule.