Thick with sediment, the swift brown river fills its banks as it sweeps past the southern boundary of Palmerston North. A dirt stopbank protects the city against high water, and this walkway is largely confined to the grassy strip between the river and its stopbank. The walk, which proceeds from the eastern to the western city limits, is not exciting, with only limited views of the river. However, there is plenty of grassy space, access along the entire length, and room for families, and the walkway is open to dogs, horses, and cycles. The Esplanade west of Fitzherbert Bridge has a particular appeal, with parkland, native plantings, and tui nearby. The Manawatu River is unsafe for swimming.
Following the Manawatu River along the southern edge of the city, the walkway begins at Riverside Drive in farmland off Te Matai Road, south of Napier Drive (SH3). As the track winds westward, it passes a series of exits to nearby streets. The bridge on Fitzherbert Avenue is a significant landmark dividing the walkway in two and a convenient access point. The walkway ends unceremoniously at Paneiri Park on Maxwell's Line near the western city outskirts. From here there is little to do but turn around and walk back, wondering why you bothered.
Riverside Drive-Fitzherbert Bridge: 1½ hr, very easy
From the car park, a smooth shingle path leads between paddocks to the riverside. Following the river downstream for a few minutes, the path turns up an irrigation ditch to a bridge before returning to the river. The strip is treed pleasantly with a mix of natives and exotics. The stopbank hides the back fairways of the Palmerston North Golf Course, but your eye can take in the dreary, sand flats that open on the left as the river bends. A wide grassy field planted with memorial groves leads to a metal crushing plant. These are common along the river, although this one is closed. Bending away from the river to avoid the plant, the track comes out onto Albert Street. It recommences at the end of the street to the left. Dirt cliffs edge the opposite bank as the river bends sharply to the west at the back of the Manawatu Golf Course. Following a line of macrocarpas, the path soon leads under the Fitzherbert Bridge. Relatively good views are to be had from the footpath leading over the high bridge.
Fitzherbert Bridge-Paneiri Park: 1 hr, very easy
A wide grassy strip sets off westward along the willow-edged river. This is the Esplanade at the edge of Fitzherbert Park. Toilets are nearby. Numerous tracks lead up through a thickly revegetated section of the park, with the songs of tui and shining cuckoo audible. Beyond a plantation of eucalypts, the walkway passes a holiday park and follows a narrow grass strip beneath the prominent stopbank. Where the grass runs out, private land blocks the way. Climb over the stopbank and drop into suburbia, left onto Dittmer Drive. Left again at Buick Crescent, then take the long unmarked driveway just beyond Sharon Place, next to house number 102. The riverside parkland recommences with some worthwhile native forest nearby. Passing a metal crushing plant, the walkway edges around a sports field and gives up the ghost at the car park.