Housing the beautiful Dugald MacKenzie Rose Garden, the city of Palmerston North is located around 140 kms from Wellington and is enchanting in the very first sight with roses across the entire city from gardens, roundabouts, traffic lights, outside cafes, and even on the streets. Trust me, this city talks to you with its loud vibe and blushes if you talk back just like this duck in the picture below.
A close friend of mine belongs to Palmy short for Palmerston North and this city was always in our conversations regarding small yet vibrant towns of Aotearoa New Zealand. So, I took a day off from the hilly Wellington and keeping in mind my post-lockdown budget plans I went on for a solo day trip to soak into this long-held fascination. I traveled with Aotearoa’s amazing Intercity bus network which can take you to nook and corner of this wonderful place. The bus journey to Palmy takes around 2 hours through the spectacular mountains, huge farmlands, less explored beaches, and towns of the lower North Island. Of course, the cows and sheep on the way add to the beauty.
A day in Palmerston North
I spent over 6 hours in this rosy city exploring the gardens, museums, and walking around the city centre. My first point of exploration was Victoria Esplanade which is only a 30-minute walk (via Fitzherbert Ave) from the Intercity bus stop located in Te Marae o Hine. For nature lovers, Victoria Esplanade is a quick escape from the city which gives you a chance to be with these lovely ducks who are intelligent enough to find if you have food and eventually invite themselves for a lunch with you just like in the photo below.
Victoria Esplanade has bush walks, the cute little scenic railway, café Esplanade, and Peter Black Conservatory for the botanic experience. With diverse tropical plants from various parts of the world, you can find coffee bean plants, pitcher plants, vanilla plants, and frogs and fishes too.
It also houses a variety of parrots and birds which will enliven your day with their magnificent colors and songs. (Well, you do need to sit there for a while to understand the song). Here are some of the pictures I could manage taking from the fence.
The rose garden is another attraction which will make your day even brighter. Thanks to the well-coordinated rā (sun) and hau (wind), I could manage taking nice photographs.
The Manawatū river is about 350m away from the garden and it has a wonderful walkway along it. I met someone on the way to the river who was walking his dog and was very excited to tell me about the new bridge built recently on the river. He said, “They have just built it for the bikers and walkers. You should take this walk from the new bridge to the old. You are very lucky to be here on this day, it’s not windy at all.” I was surprised to hear that Palmy can be windy too like Wellington and just then he pointed to the breathtaking Te Apiti Windfarm on the Ruahine ranges with hundreds of wind turbines. There I was reminded again of the passionate winds of Wellington. Like all other rivers, Manawatū river holds many stories.
Whātonga journeyed Aoteaora (New Zealand) around 12th century and with the heart to explore made him discover new places in Aotearoa. It was Whātonga’s expedition which led to expansion of settlement in the Manawatū region. The Rangitāne people were the first settlers of Manawatū region and they continue to call it their land.
The tribe’s expansion led to the saying:
Tini whetū ki te rangi
Ko Tānenui-a-rangi ki te whenua.
Like the multitude of stars in the skyExcerpt from: The Origins of Rangitane from Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
So great is Rangitāne on the earth.
It felt nostalgic to sit on the banks of the river which has been witnessing settlers, explorers, and migrants from ages and centuries.
My next stop was at the Te Manawa museum which is approx. 30 minute walk from the Victoria Esplanade. Te Manawa is the go-to-place for lovers of art, science, creativity, and history. It is one place with all the stories about early settlement, wars, flora and fauna of the Manawatū district and river, conservation projects and a lot more. The best part is that admission is free except for the Rugby museum.
I felt more welcomed when I found that the museum was hosting the 100-year old Santa’s cave exhibition (admission by Koha(donation)). Christmas has already started in Palmy. The exhibition is an overload of creativity, imagination, and ingenuity. On a brief chat with the host, I found that she was from Wellington so we did end up having a good chat about wind and weather.
I won’t be able to tell you much about the eateries in the city. Remember the budget traveling! I was carrying my own food. Healthy and cheap. But I walked around the city centre and there were lots of vibrant cafes, restaurants, and takeaways for your taste buds. I did have a chocolate thickshake at The Verdict Cafe (32a the Square, Palmerston North). Yes, just like the sound if it, it was yum!
And in the end, I was lucky to see students from Massey University graduating dressed in their robes with family, whānau and friends around. The vibe got even better. Felt like a fulfilling trip!
While a lot of people call it Palmy, I would want to call it Rosy city for the roses, vibes, and stories.
Need more vibes?
Already been to Palmy? Would love to read your experience in the comments below.
Arohanui e hoa
Images subject to copyright © Srishti Moudgil