For a look at an authentic New Zealand farming town, take a side trip to Feilding, 20 km (12 miles) northwest of Palmerston North.
The Feilding Saleyards, which rank among the largest livestock sale yards in the southern hemisphere, are close to the Edwardian-style town square. At least twice weekly, farmers buy and sell more than 15,000 sheep and 1,400 head of cattle here. Every Friday at 11, the Feilding Saleyards Guided Tour (NZ$10, bookings essential) takes you through the sheep pens and state-of-the-art computerized cattle auction pavilion, providing a fascinating glimpse at one of New Zealand's oldest farming traditions. After the tour, visit the rustic Saleyards Café, where farmers meet for pie and chips or a toasted steak sandwich. Other local attractions include the Friday morning farmers' market, the Coachhouse Museum (displaying restored vehicles from the pioneering era; NZ$10), and Manfeild Park (which hosts events from motor sports to equestrian). You could
putter about for half a day in the town itself, browsing through bookshops, art galleries, the community Arts Centre, and Focal Point (a boutique movie theater and café). From Feilding, Kimbolton Road passes through prime sheep-farming country to Kimbolton Village, 28 km (17 miles) away. Within a few minutes' drive of it are two outstanding gardens with rhododendrons and myriad other plants: Cross Hills (NZ$10; daily September–May) and Heritage Park Garden (NZ$7; daily year-round).