The longest navigable river in New Zealand gave birth to Wanganui – a town that proudly proclaims itself ‘The River City’.
For centuries this waterway was an important means of travel for both Maori and Europeans. Today the emphasis is on recreational travel with paddle steamer cruises, thrilling jet boat rides, and leisurely downstream canoe and kayak trips.
The Whanganui Journey is renowned as a scenic canoe or kayak trip from Taumaranui to Pipiriki within the Whanganui National Park. The beautiful bush-clad gorges are so spectacular that the down river paddle through 120 rapids is recognised as one of the ‘Top Ten’ journeys in the country. Note that the spelling of the river and national park has an added ‘h’ whereas the city and region keep the original spelling.
Wanganui has been careful to retain its charming Victorian architecture. You can relive the colonial past on the Old Town Heritage Walk which guides you through cobblestone paths under imitation gaslight lamps. In summer, Victoria Avenue is ablaze with flowers, hanging baskets and floral archways. Here you will find the cafès, restaurants and a variety of shops. This civic pride carries through to Queen’s Park, the city’s cultural heart, where the Regional Museum and outstanding Sargeant Gallery are located. The Museum is a major attraction as it has one of New Zealand’s largest collections of Maori artefacts.
Durie Hill across the river is an unusual ‘must see’ landmark. You can take an elevator to the watchtower for views over Wanganui. Mts.Taranaki and Ruapehu are visible on a clear day. Virginia Lake, just out of town, is a beautiful reserve set in park-like grounds.
The Whanganui River Road gives access to famous places such as Jerusalem, an original Maori village and mission station. Pipiriki, at the road end, is where jet boats zoom up river to fascinating points such as Mangapurua Track (‘Bridge to Nowhere’) and the Matemateonga Walkway.
Wanganui is a wonderful place to immerse yourself in the history, culture and ethos of a famous waterway town. The scenic highlights of this river are inspirational.