The Victoria Esplanade

The Victoria Esplanade, a jewel in Palmerston North's crown.


The Victoria Esplanade, a jewel in Palmerston North’s crown.

Most have visited it but have we actually spent some real time exploring this park we call the Victoria Esplanade?

I consider myself very lucky having grown up on Fitzherbert Avenue and the Victoria Esplanade was my back yard, no computers or cell phone, just a huge park to explore and play in.

It was in 1877 that 80 hectares was granted to the then Borough of Palmerston North, which was covered in native bush, though by 1890 much of this bush had been destroyed by farming, so the land was divided and 39 acres known as The Esplanade was formed, there are other parts of the split that is interesting, like the 22 acres now named Fitzherbert Park, but I want to focus on The Esplanade. It wasn’t till 1897 that development really got started as a public recreation area and the name Victoria Esplanade was chosen to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 60th Jubilee.

The Victoria Esplanade has developed and flourished over the years, the well groomed and maintained gardens throughout this 39-acre park are a credit to the team that look after them, with flowerbeds that are always changing. The special Begonia hot-house named, the “Peter Black Conservatory” is well worth a visit, then there’s the “Dugald McKenzie Rose garden”, named after Superintendent of Parks and Reserves Dugald Mackenzie, opened in 1968, this is a rose lovers haven, I by the way am not a huge rose lover, but with well over 5,000 rose bushes of all colours, you cannot help but be impressed and there is bound to be many you have not seen before, top this off with the fact it is a recognized international rose trial ground, so always something new to study, and all beautifully set out and maintained.

The nature walks through the bush established by the Manawatu branch of Forest & Bird in the 1970’s are a great place to wonder and re-charge those weary work batteries, with massive trees and bird life that will keep you looking up, and speaking of the birds, the aviaries are full and the only place for miles around where you can get up close to a couple of our rare endemic natives, like the Kaka, the Kea, Blue Duck  (Whio) enclosure, and Brown Teal that Peter who is caretaker for the aviaries, tells me with there breeding program, have produced hundreds of young chicks that have been released back into the wild.

Lets not forget the miniature railway that was established in 1969 and is now a 2.2k loop track that goes though the park with two stations, yes park by our Lido Aquatic Centre and take the train to the next station beside the huge children’s play ground, which is another story itself, explore all you like then take the train back to your car, or just amble back through the park.

The Victoria Esplanade is not just the gardens, the birds, the beautifully restored and relocated post office that is now a Café within the huge palm tree lined avenue, it’s a stunning slice of Palmerston North that must be visited, but not just visited you need to spend some real time exploring the many different corners that make the Victoria Esplanade so special.

The Victoria Esplanade, a jewel in Palmerston North’s crown.


Paul Vandenberg