Your Self-Guided Urban Arts Tour of Palmerston North

A sliver metal sculpture of a house frame on stilts.

Palmerston North is a city that continues to surprise us with its abundance of neat cafés, shops and galleries, so it’s no great revelation that it’s also home to an active arts scene.

Words by: Nicole Mudgway

Palmerston North has a wide variety of studios, theatres and galleries to keep even your most ‘urbane sophisticate’ friend happy. Palmy is particularly well-appointed with public sculptures, and visitors with a few hours to kill could certainly do a lot worse than taking themselves on a self-guided urban arts tour of Palmerston North’s fledgling downtown core.

A sculpture of a lizard and a lady dancing outside the Regent on Broadway.

Public Sculpture Trail

The Palmerston North Public Sculpture Trust (PNPST) is responsible for many of the sculptures you’ll find around town. Grab a map, circle your faves and get your walking shoes on. The construction of these sculptures has increased the profile of art in the region and introduced numerous new points of interest to the city centre. Building on the success of the PNPST sculptures (figuratively, not literally), there have been a number of other sculptures popping up in recent times (namely at Zimmerman Gallery and Te Manawa, see below).  The PNPST website is a valuable resource, providing information not just about the sculpture itself but also the artists and inspirations behind each of the works.

Square Edge

Square Edge, 47 The Square, Palmerston North Central

Square Edge is a special place where local artists, community groups and the general public can come together and connect. On the outside, it’s an eye-catching art deco building. On the inside, you’ll find a lively hub of activity. There are a number of rotating exhibitions in the entrance and main foyer, beyond which is a hallway that invites you to discover a world of creativity. Meander down and see artists at work; an open door is a sign they’ll welcome a chat.

Square Edge was established as Palmerston North’s community arts centre over 40 years ago, and it now houses numerous studios, galleries, workshops, stores and even a coffee shop. It doesn’t stop there, though: the space lends itself to community events such as wellbeing workshops, crepe-making classes, drag bingo, French workshops and oh so much more. Pop in for a visit, stay for a while.

Te Manawa

Galleries and museum key icon.

326 Main Street, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North

Te Manawa, Palmerston North’s premier museum, was conceived at the intersection of art, science and history. There is a wide range of permanent exhibitions showcasing the region’s past, its people and the land. There are dedicated sections catering to children, lovers of heritage buildings and even rugby fans - with an interactive zone allowing All Black wannabes to test their skills in the official museum of New Zealand’s national game. Don’t miss the eye-catching kinetic sculpture in the museum’s internal courtyard. “Kowhai” was installed in early 2022 by artist Andrew Drummond and is inspired by the shape of a kōwhai seed - best viewed on a windy day!

Zimmerman

Galleries and museum key icon.

329 Main Street, Palmerston North Central, Palmerston North

Centrally located Zimmerman Gallery draws crowds with its ever-changing full window display. Inside, a wide range of contemporary artworks from local emerging and established artists awaits, most of whom friendly owner Bronwyn Zimmerman knows personally.

Paul and Fran Dibble are two local artists and bronze sculptors that commonly showcase their works in the gallery with Fran’s piece “In Still Ponds the Universe is Reflected” being installed outside the gallery’s frontage on Main Street in early 2022. The work pays homage to water -  evoking its simple familiarity, and highlighting its precious and powerful essence. It’s hard for anyone strolling down Main Street to miss the almost 2-metre-high gilded drop, so if you’re pounding that particular pavement, why not step inside and browse the rest of the works in the gallery itself.

Regent on Broadway

53 Broadway Avenue

Few will be surprised to learn that the Regent on Broadway has had a rough few years. Fortunately, things are now looking up. The majestic 1930s heritage building has been described as one of the country’s top performing arts centres and there’s a real thirst to get this particular show back on the road.

Playing a pivotal role in Palmerston North’s art and culture scene, many locals were particularly invested in seeing the theatre survive the rigours of the pandemic so that it could again thrive. Thankfully the 2022 calendar looks reminiscent of a pre-pandemic era, there is plenty on to tickle one’s fancy. From musicals and ballets, to concerts, comedy and school performances, the Regent’s upcoming bills are as good a sign as any that the arts are here to stay in Palmerston North.

Neat Palmerston North Places

Cyclista Espresso Bar and Roastery

An outdoor dining area by the street in Palmerston North.
Place Palmerston North
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Get on your bike - this Palmerston North café is not one to be missed, whether you’re a keen cyclist, a coffee aficionado, or a bit of both.

Ebony Coffee Roasters

A man roasting coffee.
Place Palmerston North
Goods key icon.

Ebony Coffee has been roasting coffee in Palmerston North since 1996. Their Featherston Street roastery, espresso bar and barista school represent and celebrate every stage of the coffee brewing process - even growing.

HARU Japanese Restaurant

The wooden interior of Haru.
Place Palmerston North
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A calming central city spot for top quality Japanese fare. At Haru Japanese Restaurant you’ll be quickly greeted and seated by the friendly staff. Order some warm green or yuzu tea and explore the menu which is varied but not overwhelming.

Saigon Corner

The inside of the restaurant.
Place Palmerston North
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Head to Saigon Corner on Princess Street for a taste of Vietnam. This local spot’s modern Vietnamese cuisine has earned excellence on TripAdvisor for over three years straight, and it doesn’t take long to figure out why.