Grabaseat Destination: Palmerston North

Palmerston North recently filed a complaint about a TVNZ item which described the city as boring. “We’re not boring,” seemed to be the general thrust of the complaint, “look, we have an indoor rock climbing wall.”

They’re right, Manawatu isn’t boring, but it is a lot of those things that media snobs don’t like: quiet, traditional, folksy and remote. To showcase these qualities, the locals have put together a series of touring routes under the banner “The Country Road”. Whether you’re driving or cycling, The Country Road will lead you to some memorable and spectacular settings – drinking a pint of Apiti Ale in the shadow of the giant Te Apiti windfarm, watching headwaters blast through the narrow gorge at the dramatic Iron Gates, or admiring the beautiful lavender fields at Piazza Verde.

See what we mean? You’d get a few funny stares if you turned up late to TVNZ drinks because you’d been out taking photos of lavender, but for the right sort of people, Manawatu has a special, soulful appeal.

Back in the city, New Zealand’s Rugby Museum is in Palmerston North – it’s like pornography for footy fans … the earliest ever All Black jersey, Don Clarke’s original boot, that sort of thing. It’s housed in Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and History – a fitting monument to knowledge in this smart, university town. Yes, we know the first year students are a bit of a write-off, but by the time they get to graduation most of them are doing some pretty interesting stuff.

Up the road, Feilding is a very charming little village. But don’t take our word for it: Feilding has been named New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Town a whopping 14 times. Paved streets, free parking, a cute little boutique movie theatre … they’re yet to build a statue of local music stars Evermore, but surely it can’t be far off. Actually, they should get the guy who made Riff Raff for Hamilton, he could save some money on design and put them all in that same outfit.