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.


9am: Breakfast at Local

Cafes key icon.

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 your 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

Square Edge, 47 The Square, Palmerston North Central

After breakfast 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: 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. 

11.30am: Coffee at Cyclista

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54 George Street, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North

By this stage, you may be ready for a second cup of coffee and a bite and Cyclista is one local hub with both. As the name suggests, this funky café has an obvious two-wheeled theme, but first and foremost it's a local favourite for homemade muffins, slices, cheese scones, toasties and other tasty treats, and of course, coffee — which is roasted in-house. Take your goodies in hand or enjoy them outside on the spacious patio adjacent to the bustling central street.


12pm: Culture at Zimmerman Art Gallery

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329 Main Street, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North

At Zimmerman Art Gallery, you'll find a new exhibition every month and the work from about 20 different artists at any one time. At this gallery, public access is paramount — the front exhibition space is visible 24/7, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Of course, you must venture inside to check out all else that is on display, from ceramics to bronze sculptures to paintings.

From Zimmerman, cross the road and check out Te Manawa, a place that pushes the boundaries of what a museum can be.


12.45pm: Lunch at BABCO

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3B/95 Albert Street, Terrace End, Palmerston North

Stop in at BABCO for a carb-loaded midday meal. You'll find their famous breads, croissants, danishes, handmade pastries and savoury scones, rolls and sandwiches on the menu. 

Everything is carefully crafted and specialties like their Everyday Sourdough bring locals back time after time. On the pastry side of things, there are all types of French pastries such as the delicious union of a Pain au Chocolat and an almond croissant. It’s a complete treat as are the caramilk croissants and fruit danishes.

1.30pm: Visit the wildlife at Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery

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20 Victoria Drive, West End

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.

3pm: Go exploring at He Ara Kotahi Bridge

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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 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.

4pm: 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 his wife Jill in 1983, still works and trains apprentices on-site. Jill and their daughter Jessie handle design work, and all three are available to answer questions. Other New Zealand jewellery brands are also on display here too.


6:30pm: Dinner at Haru Japanese Restaurant

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19 Broadway Avenue, 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 Haru, a cosy Japanese restaurant in the centre of town.

The space is dimly lit, with warm hues radiating from paper lanterns and the timber walls, floor and tables. Come solo for a quiet meal -  Kaiseki Ryori, a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner for one, is a specialty of Haru’s. Beautifully presented, the more than ten dishes of Kaiseki Ryori are a complete flavour journey (great for the indecisive among us). Or, bring some companions along to explore more of the menu. Many dishes can be made gluten-free on request, and there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.

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 nightcap 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 session-able.

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.