12 Hours Palmerston North

People sitting at high tops in a brick brewery building.

Toss any preconceptions you might have, there is A LOT to do in Palmerston North. If you like food, drink, art, shopping, and friendly people, you’ve come to the right place. While you won’t be able to fit all the great places into just one day, this guide will lead you to some of the very best bits. Each spot offers something different, but they all have one thing in common - the owners, proprietors, chefs, artists, curators, shopkeepers, and staff take pride in their work and are excellent ambassadors for Palmerston North.

Morning

9am: Breakfast at Local

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240 Broadway Avenue, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North

Begin your day in Palmerston North at LOCAL Café and Eatery. As breakfast is the most important meal of the day, this café dishes up delicious and nutritious options that will power you up and satisfy early morning cravings. Options such as the Banter Bowls are full of colour and flavours, with combinations like the ‘Summer Bod’ which features sweet strawberries, boysenberries, toasted coconut, almonds and other fresh seasonal fruit. The smashed avo and feta toast and other classics are similarly tasty. Get a caffeine kick with any of their barista beverages made with locally roasted Arrosta beans.

10am: Exploring Square Edge

47 The Square, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North

After brekkie head straight for Square Edge, Palmerston North’s long standing community arts centre. For 40 years this space has been home to a collection of studios, galleries, workshops, cafés and other vibrant community spaces. Wander through the building and discover a vast array of local artworks, crafts and products and meet many of the makers themselves. If you haven’t quite hit your a.m. caffeine quota, drop into Café Royale for a cuppa. This wee café is nestled into the building and adjacent to the community gallery. Be sure to check out Square Edges events calendar during your stay in Manawatū, too. Past events have included artist talks, crepe making workshops and drag bingo.

11am: Shopping at Be Free Grocer

47 The Square, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North

Source some snacks for the big day ahead at Be Free Grocer. Located within Square Edge this inviting shop is a chance to check out local products, get a nibble and reduce your impact, as well. The staff can tell you all about their local suppliers, but highlights include treats and snacks from next door neighbour Wholegrain Organics, Shaddix and Co. rainbow soap, Katie’s Kombucha, Solid Dental Care toothpaste tabs and a host of other items for life sans plastic packaging. 

11:30am: Coffee at Café Cuba

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236 Cuba Street, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North

By this stage you may be ready for a second cup of coffee and a treat and Café Cuba is one local hub with both. This spot has been around for a long time and the cabinet alone is evidence of why. Bursting with homemade cakes, slices, and other treats -many of which have keto counterparts, there’s something for everyone. Other treats include the fudge slice, chocolate silk cake, and raspberry white cheesecake shortcake. Take your treats in hand or enjoy them outside on the spacious patio within the bustling central street. Lots of keto and gluten-free options are available, too.

Midday

12pm: Culture at Bruce McKenzie Booksellers

37 George Street, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North

One of Palmerston North's and perhaps New Zealand's best independent bookshops, Bruce McKenzie Booksellers has been trading for over 20 years on George Street. When they first opened, many locals thought it strange that a bookshop would open directly next to the public library, but the synergy that exists between the two just makes sense.

Locals who don’t want to give back their library books can pick up a copy at Bruce McKenzie’s and explore a huge selection of local and international titles. Notable sections contain NZ history, fiction, natural history, Te Reo Māori, art and architecture, transport and so much more. With many thousands of new titles on offer, it’s a bookstore you won’t want to leave. 

Afternoon

1pm: Lunch at Wholegrain Organics

134 The Square, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North

Stop in at Wholegrain Organics for a midday meal that is tasty, nutrient-dense and made with a mission. You’ll find salads, soups, smoothies, juices, and other seasonal treats on the menu. Everything is full of flavour, completely plant-based and prepared by local students who get hands-on, food technology work experience here. Specialties like the housemade carob chocolate and sprouted bread bring locals back time after time.

Wholegrain Organics has many components which you can experience at their location on The Square. Shop locally sourced groceries at the front and pick up some produce from Wholegrain Organics farm which is located just outside of Palmerston. View the open kitchen and chat with the team about how this unique community organization operates.

1.45pm: Jewellery shopping at Cameron Jewellery

114 King Street, CBD, Palmerston North

You may be in the market for a new piece of jewellery, an engagement ring, or a gift but even if you’re not, you should absolutely drop into this one-of-a-kind jeweller. The shop is a showroom and workshop rolled into one, meaning you can explore the handmade pieces at your own pace and then watch the jeweller and his team at work. The contrast between the polished finished pieces and the heavy-duty tools the atelier uses is one you might never have considered before and leaves many with a new appreciation for the trade. Peter Cameron, who started the business with wife Jill in 1983, still works and trains apprentices on-site. Jill and daughter Jessie handle design work and all three are available to answer questions. Other NZ jewellery brands are also on display here too.

2.30pm: Culture at Zimmerman Art Gallery

329 Main Street, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North

At Zimmerman, you’ll find contemporary New Zealand art in a variety of mediums in an open, approachable and free gallery and exhibition space. Prominent local artists like Fran Dibble, Naga Tsutsumi and Paul Dibble, are well represented, alongside other painters, sculptors and creators from around the country. Owner and curator Bronwyn Zimmerman knows all of the artists she represents personally and can tell you all about the techniques, styles and stories of these works and their creators.

The front exhibition space features a new exhibition every month and the large floor to ceiling windows beckon passersby inside. Pop in for a quiet look or a chat - this is the kind of place you can enjoy at whatever pace suits you.

3:30pm: Visit the wildlife at Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery

20 Victoria Drive, West End, Palmerston North

If you’re an avid birder, a supporter of native species or simply love to be outside, head to this wildlife recovery centre to learn all you can about some of our special native birds and what this organisation is doing to support them. The mission here is to provide shelter and world class care to native wildlife and rehabilitation after treatment at Massey’s University’s Wildbase Hospital.

In the walk through aviary you’ll meet permanent residents like Maya and Tane, two cheeky kakas. The birds found here can’t be released to the wild because they were either hatched in captivity or they have conditions that mean they can’t be released. Keep a sharp eye out on the ground too, as a few tuataras also live here. Peer through special screens in the recovery aviaries to observe birds that are working towards a return to the wild. When we visited, an adorable morepork was peacefully snoozing on his perch.

5pm: Go exploring at He Ara Kotahi Bridge

129 Dittmer Drive, West End, Palmerston North

Get some exercise and behold the mighty Manawatū river at the He Ara Kotahi Bridge and Pathway.  This stunning bridge is an architectural feat and its name means a pathway that brings people together. Walk or bike across and, if you have time, go for an extended wander.

The 7.1 km track connects Palmerston North to Linton Military Camp and Massey University, and along the way you’ll find farms, forests, pā sites and a host of native wildlife that make a home beside this stunning river’s banks. Be sure to take a look at the bridge’s design, which is beautifully lit at night and was inspired by a fallen karaka tree. The roots can be seen on the southern side of the bridge and the canopy at the northern end. A real time counter shows just how many bikers and walkers have come this way before you.

Access is available from Ruha Street, Fitzherbert Avenue, Dairy Farm Road or Bells Road.

Evening

6:30pm: Dinner at Yatai Japanese Izakaya Restaurant

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316 Featherston Street, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North

While Palmerston North showcases the best of New Zealand in many ways, the local dining scene is in no way limited to classic Kiwi kai. This is best seen at Yatai Japanese Izakaya. Barbara and Atsushi Taniyama opened this restaurant nearly twenty years ago in order to offer the city authentic Japanese fare in an environment to match.

As soon as you arrive, you’ll find that they’ve hit the nail on the head. The restaurant is calming and welcoming, with over 80 menu items to choose from, and the space is designed and decorated as a traditional Japanese home. You can even enjoy your meal on tatami mats in the private dining area. Each dish has been carefully designed and perfected over the years. The menu features beautiful photography and a name and description for each dish so you can explore all the options fully. Every dish is prepared with the highest quality ingredients possible - all the beef, chicken and pork is local and free range and every fish used arrives whole and is filleted on site. Yatai’s sashimi is a must try.

8pm: Beers and dessert at Brew Union

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41 Broadway Avenue, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North

After dinner head for Brew Union for a night cap or two. This local brewery has over twenty taps, plenty of seating, and an easy-to-view brewing set up at the front. One of their most popular beers is The Swamp, a hazy IPA with punchy hops and stone fruit flavours. At 6.7% it’s almost sessionable.

Don’t cross this spot off if you don’t drink beer though. They’ve also got extensive gin, wine, and cocktail lists, and the dessert menu is similarly stacked. Classics like sticky date pudding, dark chocolate mousse and affogatos are done excellently. Or if you prefer a savoury finish, the cheese boards are top-notch and made with local Cartwheel Creamery cuts.