Horowhenua’s most interesting town is FOXTON, 38km southwest of Palmerston North, where the old-style shop facades line the broad main street bypassed by SH1.
Archeological evidence suggests that there was a semi-nomadic moa-hunter culture in this area between 1400 and 1650, predating larger tribal settlements. Europeans arrived in the early 1800s and settled at the mouth of the Manawatu River, subsequently founding Foxton on a tributary. It quickly became the flax-milling capital of New Zealand, the industry only finally dying in 1985. A historic walk tells the tale through 28 plaques around town.
By early 2013, look out for the proposed new cultural precinct next to the windmill. Known as Te Awahou–Nieuwe Stroom, it’s designed to celebrate local Maori and the strong New Zealand–Dutch heritage, along with a visitor centre and library.
The long, sandy Foxton Beach is 5km away on the coast, where there’s good surfing, safe swimming areas and abundant birdlife around the Manawatu river estuary.