Bike Rides, Rugby and Street Feasts in Palmerston North

Palmerston North: what’s going on here? So a couple of days ago we arrived in the North Island city of Palmerston North, stayed in the grand historic hostel of the Railway Hotel Backpackers, and took a quick trip to Foxton to do some epic kite landboarding. But we are yet to actually explore the city of Palmerston North itself! Shame on us! It looks like it is time to explore the city that the locals call “Palmy”.

Catching some speed on electric bikes

After a free breakfast at the Railway Hotel Backpackers, we head on a 5-minute walk into the city centre known as The Square, easily identified by its tall modern clock tower. We walk past some Maori pouwhenua (carved poles) and some Pacific Island-inspired sculptures on our way to the Palmerston North i-SITE where we will be hiring some bikes from. Not just any bikes though, some electric bikes! (In fact, we have a choice of either a tandem or electric bikes, but we are pretty sure a bike for two would be a recipe for disaster). The most highly recommended city cycle route is the Manawatu Riverside Pathway, allowing us to do a loop cycle to explore the city. Emily from the i-SITE fits us up with some surprisingly comfortable helmets (you know how hard it is to find a helmet that fits!) and shows us how these electric bikes work. We have never tried these things before, so we are pretty surprised at how much of a boost we get from just doing one push of the peddles! There are three different levels of power and a throttle to help you speed along on the bike while putting minimum effort in.

Map at the ready, our rough route is planned and we are off on the road! However, Laura, being brought up on a farm, has never cycled in the city before, so Robin has to teach her city cycling etiquette along the way. (And she had read some of the City Cycling Rules in New Zealand, of course).

Taking Palmerston North by bike! Taking Palmerston North by bike!
Autumn has puked all over the Manawatu River Pathway Autumn has puked all over the Manawatu River Pathway
Returning back to The Square Returning back to The Square
Checking out the kinetic street art Checking out the kinetic street art

Meandering the manawatu River Pathway

It’s not long before we are out of the city and on the Manawatu River Pathway. This is so cruisy! Although we have to slow down for a few dogs along the way, most of the pathway is open for us to catch some speed and really put these electric bikes to the test. These machines are such a novelty to us.

The Manawatu Pathway passes small pockets of trees and open fields all along the river. As advised by Emily, we take a quick detour over Fitzherbert Bridge to Anzac Park which gives a great view over the Manawatu River and of the Palmerston North city skyline, including that big modern clock tower. We continue along the rest of the 10km long pathway and back into the city where we make a couple of pitstops at the city centre’s attractions. First stop, the New Zealand Rugby Museum.

It all kicks off in the New Zealand rugby museum

New Zealand is mad about rugby. You all know the All Blacks and the Haka, right? Well this museum goes through the evolution of the All Blacks. (You can read some of the history of rugby in What is The Difference Between Rugby League and Rugby Union?) The display cabinets are jam packed with awesome stuff, from the very early rugby balls which used inflated pig’s bladders to the first All Blacks rugby shirts to All Blacks fan souvenirs. When Laura spots a PlayStation 2 console with rugby games, she dies inside. How old does that make her feel seeing something she used to play on display in a museum?!

Ok, now we have wised up on New Zealand rugby, we cannot ignore that netted off area in the centre of the museum with some rugby challenge games. We test how fast can we run, how high we can jump, how hard we can scrum, how fast we can tackle, and how accurate we can kick a rugby ball all within this netting of fun. Each challenge gives you the score that a professional rugby player can achieve, just putting it into perspective how weak and feeble we really are!

Ending our bike ride in The Square (in 360 degrees)!

Te Manawa Museum and the ducklings

Downstairs from the Rugby Museum in the Te Manawa Museum, a free-entry museum with exhibitions on the local social history of both Maori and European. We look at caravans that are better than ours, go to an early 4Square shop (a New Zealand chain convenience store) and wander among some intricate Maori carvings. We can see some other sections of the museum under construction to add some science and art exhibitions.

Back on the bikes, which we parked in the conveniently placed bike stands outside the museums, we return to the i-SITE but are distracted by a duck pond with cute little ducklings at one end of The Square…

A menacing Maori warrior A menacing Maori warrior
Chatting to the stall-owners at The Village Night Market Chatting to the stall-owners at The Village Night Market
That's two slouvaki for the fatties That's two slouvaki for the fatties

Later that evening…

Yes, we finally left those ducklings alone, returned the bikes, and even had some time to have a quick coffee at the hostel before heading back out into the night for The Village Night Market in the Palmerston Central Library then the Food Truck Feast at The Square. Man, it’s all happening in Palmy!

The Village Night Market

Every last Friday of the month, the Library hosts a night market complete with bunting and fairy lights! (We don’t know why, but Laura loves bunting). Cake stalls, homemade ornaments, jewelry, hot water bottle covers, jams, clothes… This and more is set up for sale in the library, all to the sounds of a live acoustic guitar musician. Our favourite stall is a steampunk stall. That’s twice now that we have found some fascination around steampunk in New Zealand. Allan, the stall-owner wearing a top hat with mechanical pins and old-fashioned goggles, tells us there is even a steampunk club in Palmerston North organising events around the city. We have a feeling we are going to walk into steampunk worlds a lot more on this trip, especially considering there is a steampunk town in the South Island.

The Vintage Night Market is a neat place to meet locals, but many are now flocking to the Food Truck Feast, just across the street and in The Square.

A food truck feast!

More live music can be heard down one street of The Square lined with food trucks with food from all over the world! There’s a Mexican, an Indian, Greek, Chinese, Thai, Jamaican, Mexican again, Mexican one more time, Burgers (not sure of the nationality there), and even desert food trucks. As Laura has never even tried Greek food before, we opt for some slouvaki! It’s freakin’ delicious, what more can we say?

After demolishing our slouvaki under the rainbow colours shining out of the clock tower, we finally head back to the hostel. Wow, what a packed day! That was just in the city centre of Palmy. Tomorrow, we head to Palmerston North’s nearest and most popular hiking destinations: Te Apiti Wind Farm and Te Apiti – Manawatu Gorge. See you then!

Laura and Robin

Extreme eating at Palmy's Food Truck feast!
Extreme eating at Palmy's Food Truck feast! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

You’ve made it this far! Well done, that was a pretty lengthy day packed with Palmy goodness. Now check out these articles:

We have heaps of local recommendations waiting for you on HerePin to make your own visit to Palmerston North epic. Plus, we post daily travel tips on Facebook and pretty New Zealand pictures on Instagram.

See you tomorrow for more North Island adventures!

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