Welcome to the Beautiful City of Wanganui
Wanganui is located on the West Coast of the North
Island of New Zealand. The famous Whanganui River flows
from one of New Zealand's highest volcanoes, Mount Tongariro,
through the spectacular Whanganui National Park, to the
coast of the Tasman Sea, and the bustling city of Wanganui.
Internationally famous for the spectacular scenery of
the Whanganui River, this picturesque city is fast becoming
a 'get away' spot for visitors.
the early 1900's, visitors knew the Whanganui River as
the 'Rhine of New Zealand'; the longest navigable river
in the country, with 239 rapids, stunning bush scenery
- a place of tranquility and unmistakable beauty. Today
visitors discover Wanganui and its historic waterway with
a whole new sense of the past, meeting people who live
and work on the river, preserving New Zealand's early
river life and offering hospitality that is one of a kind.
Wanganui City has much to offer visitors and due to the
compact nature of Wanganui, all attractions are within
walking distance of the central city. The Whanganui Riverboat
Centre offers the opportunity to take a river cruise on
the beautifully restored Paddle Steamer Waimarie and is
characteristic of the distinctive attractions of Wanganui.
and Galleries - Shopping - Entertainment
Stroll across the Wanganui City Bridge to the Durie Hill
pedestrian tunnel, which leads to the famous Durie Hill
Elevator. Only a few steps away from the top of the elevator
climb the Durie Hill War Memorial Tower, built of fossilised
shell rock. From this splendid viewpoint, take in the
spectacular scenery of Wanganui, its River, and coastline.
On a clear day, you will see Mounts Taranaki, Ruapehu,
and the Tasman Sea.
the internationally recognised Whanganui Regional Museum
and Sarjeant Gallery. Spend the rest of the day exploring
the various dealer galleries in Wanganui and discovering
the talent of the many resident artists in Wanganui
a kit with passport and gold crayon and set off for the
day to explore Wanganui's heritage and architecture, taking
rubbings of the 30 plaques on buildings in the central
city. Polish the results later for a permanent record
of your brass rubbing skills and of the wonderful history
in a show at the 100 year old Royal Wanganui Opera House.
Its fabulous domed ceiling and ornate balconies bring
alive the history of this magnificent old building, which
stands as a tribute to early Wanganui architecture.
a family day at Kowhai Park and ride on the miniature
railway, see Goldilocks and the three bears and take advantage
of the free gas fired barbecues. The park also features
a skateboard park. Situated adjacent to Kowhai Park is
the Riverlands Family Park where you can play a round
of mini golf or take a ride on the go-karts or bumper
Museums and Galleries
Situated in Queen's Park, the cultural heart of the city,
Wanganui boasts the Whanganui Regional Museum and the
Sarjeant Gallery. The Whanganui Regional Museum offers
visitors a comprehensive museum experience. It houses
objects of both national and international significance
and serves a large region stretching from Taumarunui to
the sea and encompassing parts of South Taranaki and Rangitikei.
The Sarjeant Gallery is a magnificently proportioned building
with its unique naturally lit galleries, which continues
to be one of New Zealand's finest exhibition spaces. The
Gallery's collection of over 5,000 works feature 19th
and 20th century and contemporary art with a strong photographic
Another place of note is the Whanganui Riverboat Centre
Museum, which features photographs and memorabilia of
the Whanganui Riverboat era, plus displays of the salvage
and restoration of PS Waimarie. Waimarie is the last fully
operational steam paddler left in New Zealand and a cruise
on this historic vessel is a must for any visitor to Wanganui.
Our picturesque city centre has been revitalised by the
restoration of its heritage streets and buildings. Wanganui's
central shopping area is based in the revitalised Victoria
Avenue where gaslights, wrought iron garden seats, palm
and plane trees and wide paved footpaths combine to create
the beauty of Wanganui's main street. Retailers have restored
and preserved many of the buildings that reflect Wanganui's
rich history. Cafés, an art deco cinema and an
English-style pub all add to the attraction of shopping
in Wanganui. In amongst the heritage we have the modern
also, with an air-conditioned shopping mall that boasts
a small food hall in addition to a wide variety of shops.
in Wanganui is characterised by the small speciality shops
where you will be greeted with good old New Zealand warmth
and great customer service.
Wanganui In Bloom runs from December to the end of February
when over 800 hanging flower baskets adorn the streets
Wanganui offers a variety of entertainment options ranging
from ten pin bowling to movies in our beautiful art deco
cinema or having a quiet drink at one of our many attractive
bars. The Ceildh and the Celtic bars offer a touch of
the Irish while the Rutland Arms recreates the feel of
an English pub and serves many English beers on tap. The
Red Lion Inn is a great place to enjoy a drink with the
locals overlooking the Whanganui River or relax and enjoy
a café style meal or snack and a glass of wine
at Peppers, the Oaks, and the Buzz Bar.
From Wellington, Wanganui is a two and a half hour
easy drive, and passes through the picturesque small towns
of Levin, Foxton, and Bulls. Take State Highway One to
Bulls and State Highway Three form bulls to Wanganui.
Rotorua and Taupo, Wanganui is a scenic drive through
some of the most beautiful parts of the North Island.
State Highway Three takes you down the country from Rotorua,
through Taupo with State Highway Four taking you through
to National Park, Raetihi and then on to Wanganui. You
may wish to stop at National Park and enjoy a days skiing
on Mount Ruapehu before heading down to Wanganui. The
skifields are only an hour and a half drive from the city.
an alternative route to State Highway-Four is to take
the historic and scenic Whanganui River Road from Raetihi
to Pipiriki and down to Wanganui. This road takes you
through the beautiful Whanganui National Park and the
settlements of Jerusalem - home to James K Baxter Mother
Aubert two historical New Zealand figures - Ranana and
Atene, with many historical points of interest along the
way. The River Road is renown for its unspoilt loveliness
but it is a scenic route and not for those in a hurry
as it is windy and unsealed in places.
Legend of the Whanganui River
When the great mountains Tongariro and Taranaki came
into conflict over the love of the beautiful Mount Pihanga,
a mighty battle ensued. Tongariro eventually won this
fierce battle and Taranaki, wild with grief and anger
at he loss of his love, ripped himself out of the ground,
and tore a path through the country towards the setting
sun. When dawn arrived, Taranaki had reached the ocean,
where he paused and then turned north before coming to
rest in solitary isolation on the West Coast of the North
Island, where he still sits today. Soon after the mighty
battle, a stream of clear water sprang from Tongariro,
which filled and healed the wound Taranaki had made in
his flight towards the ocean. Green forests, filled with
the songs of birds, grew throughout the valley of this
new river, known as the Whanganui River.
Large areas of intact lowland forest adjoin the Whanganui
River in its central and lower reaches. These large tracts
of forest form the heart of Whanganui National Park. Within
this forested environment, the early Maori cultivated
the sheltered terraces of the land and built their villages
on strategic heights. The prestige of an Iwi or tribe
depended on the way in which the living space around it
was protected for sustenance, defence, and hospitality.
In Maori mythology, every significant bend of the river
had a guardian, which controlled the life force of that
place. Each rapid on the Whanganui River had a name and
the eel weirs were constructed precisely where the currents
of the river converged. Whanganui National Park this enjoys
a dual heritage that comes from nature itself and from
forty generations of river Iwi who have learned both the
passion and the patience of living within the clasp of
a great river.
Whanganui River Today
The mighty Whanganui River combines history with modern-day
recreational adventure along its diverse 290 kilometres.
The journey begins high on Mt Tongariro and flows through
ling stretches of steep rugged bush through its upper
and middle reaches. The river widens into a tidal estuary
as it nears its final destination, the Tasman Sea, and
the city of Wanganui.
Whanganui is the longest navigable waterway in the country
and the second longest river in the North Island. It is
full of rich cultural history, tradition, legend, and
mystery. It holds a special attraction for canoeists due
to its 239 listed rapids, which offer a wide variety of
challenges yet is still considered a novices river, suitable
for beginners. Thousands of canoeists take to its waters
each year, Canoe tour operators offer tours to suit all
ages and levels of experience, from fully guided tours
of the features of the Whanganui River and National Park
is the famous 'Bridge to Nowhere'. This fascinating structure
in the Mangapurua Valley was built in 1936 and provided
access for a rural pioneer settlement before the venture
was abandoned. Regenerating bush quickly covered the track
in this remote area leaving the relatively unused Bridge
as the only reminder. The Bridge can only be reached from
the river by jet boat, canoe or by a three-day walk.
boat trips are an exciting way to see the magnificent
scenery of the Whanganui River and commercial jet boats
operate throughout the year.
79 kilometres from the city of Wanganui, is seen as the
gateway to the Whanganui National Park and includes an
information centre and Museum located in the historic
Colonial House. There are several short walks of both
historic and scenic interest around the village of Pipiriki.
The River Road links Wanganui with Pipiriki and offers
an alternative for those who prefer to drive rather than
travel by canoe or boat. From Pipiriki you can either
retrace your journey to Wanganui or continue inland to
Raetihi. The road provides stunning views of the Whanganui
River and opens access to a wealth of Maori and European
history. Along the Road there are beautifully restored
Marae, visitors are welcome but permission must obtained
along the River Road, towards Wanganui is the picturesque
village of Jerusalem (Hiruhirama). Originally a larger
Maori village known as Patiarero, it was once home to
famous New Zealand poet James K Baxter, and Sister Mary
Aubert whose Catholic Mission remains there to this day.
are also many other sites of historical and cultural interest
along the River Road. A number of accommodation options
are available along the Whanganui River and River Road
including Department of Conservation huts, farm stays,
a lodge and camping and campervan grounds.