Whanganui is the River City for obvious reasons, as the Whanganui River meanders through the city to finish its journey from its headwaters in Taumarunui, before flowing into the Tasman Sea. West coast beaches are famous for their rugged beauty, and since it’s just a few minutes by car from the city centre to the coast, get your walking shoes on and explore.
In 1900 the vessel Aotea began operating on the Whanganui River. The vessel was renamed the Waimarie after it joined the Hatrick fleet of riverboats. You can take a trip on it today, thanks to those who have restored it to its former glory. On the banks of the river near where the boat is moored and leaves twice daily for trips is a museum dedicated to the story of this magnificent riverboat. Take time out for a cruise on the Waimaire, it’s one of a kind.
Further up the river is the Bridge to Nowhere, one of the AA’s 101 Must-Do’s for Kiwis. Departing from Pipiriki, tours run daily from this tiny, historic village nestled on the banks of the Whanganui River. Travelling upstream into the middle reaches of the Whanganui National Park, you’ll feel as if time has stood still. Native bush cloaks the banks and you’ll see deep gorges covered with ferns, caves, rapids and other unique and amazing scenery.
Whanganui is famous for its heritage and the arts. There is a vibrant and talented artistic community here. Galleries and studios feature glass, painting, sculpture, photography, ceramics, textiles and indigenous arts and crafts. Studio artists can be found in many of the heritage buildings. It also has two nationally renowned institutions, the Sarjeant Gallery and the Whanganui Regional Museum.
Children are well catered for in Whanganui. There’s our famous Kowhai Park playground that’s always lovingly maintained, and the new additions to the Splash Centre in Springvale Park including a hydro slide and various pools in the indoor complex, plus many more options available.
The history of Whanganui can also be seen in the city centre; Victoria Avenue (the main street) has many incredible heritage buildings. From an elegant building that once housed a bank in the block closest to the river (now a trendy café) to the art deco style of the cinema alongside it, all tell their story. Local authorities have taken great care to preserve a great deal of our heritage buildings and this is appreciated by both locals and visitors to the city. Our tree-lined Avenue with its hanging baskets is a picture anytime.
Saturday mornings see the River City Markets in full swing – a great farmers’/craft market on the banks of the river. With over 100 stalls to peruse, it’s easy to spend a few hours there. Lunch or coffee is also available with seating on our new boardwalk by the river. Or it’s only a short walk to the many cafés on offer in the city.
A trip back up Victoria Avenue and up St John’s Hill will lead you to the jewel in our crown, Virginia Lake and the Winter Gardens. A walk around the lake at any time of the year is definitely worth the journey. Beautiful mature trees and a wide selection of wildlife leads you to think city life is very far away. The Winter Gardens are a lovingly tendered showcase of colour, they never disappoint.
That’s just a brief overview of what Whanganui has on offer. Stay awhile and enjoy it, we love showing it off to you.