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Wanganui, New ZealandWanganui Scenic Highlights

Wanganui | Regional Information | Activity Highlights | Scenic Highlights | History

The dominating scenery of the Wanganui, New Zealand region are the spectacular Whanganui River and the Whanganui National Park.

Wanganui Scenic Highlights Overview

The powerful landscapes of the Wanganui region will find a permanent place in your memory. Mountain ranges, rivers and rock stand out in a sea of green pastures and swathes of native forest. Take an excursion on the famed Whanganui River, hike into the majestic Whanganui National Park, or discover the heritage and culture of Wanganui City.

The Whanganui River

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Canadian canoeing safari on the Whanganui River, Wanganui, New Zealand
Canadian Canoeing Whanganui River
Wanganui, New Zealand
Photographer: Ben Crawford
(www.bencrawford.co.nz)

The Whanganui River is the longest navigable waterway in New Zealand and the second longest river in the North Island. Rich in tradition, legend and mystery, a guided journey along the river allows you to learn its history and feel its many moods.

Large areas of intact lowland forest adjoin the Whanganui River in its central and lower reaches. These tracts of forest form the heart of Whanganui National Park. Within this forested environment, early Maori cultivated gardens and built their villages on strategic heights. In Maori mythology, every significant bend in the river has a guardian. Every rapid also has a name, and eel weirs were constructed precisely where the currents of the river converged.

The Whanganui River holds a special attraction for canoeists. The 239 named rapids offer a variety of challenges, yet the river is still considered suitable for beginners.

An unusual feature of the Whanganui National Park is the famous 'Bridge to Nowhere'. Built in the 1930's to provide access to developing farms in the Mangapurua Valley, the bridge is the only surviving sign that any settlement ever existed. The farms failed to thrive and the forest quickly reclaimed the track leading to the bridge.

An excursion from Wanganui—incorporating a drive to Pipiriki along the Whanganui River Road, a jet boat ride and a hike to the Bridge to Nowhere—is one of the most popular day trips available in the Whanganui National Park.

There are many beautifully preserved marae on the River Road. Visitors are welcomed; however permission must be obtained before entering a marae.

The village of Jerusalem (Hiruharama) was once part of a larger village called Patiarero. It has been home to two famous figures in New Zealand history—Mother Mary Aubert, whose Catholic mission remains today, and poet James K Baxter, who established a retreat and commune there in the 1960s.

Another historic and beautifully preserved marae is Koriniti (Corinth)—a popular stop for those enjoying a river trip by jet boat, canoe or rural mail coach.

The Rugged River World of Whanganui National Park

Image Source: Tourism New Zealand. Whanganui River, Wanganui, New Zealand
Whanganui River
Wanganui, New Zealand
Photographer: Ben Crawford
(www.bencrawford.co.nz)

The Whanganui National Park is located in the central North Island north of Wanganui City. The small towns of Taumarunui, Pipiriki, Ohinepane and Whakahoro provide access to hiking and canoeing experiences in the park.

The main point of this national park is to protect the upper reaches of the Whanganui River. Winding from Tongariro National Park to the Tasman Sea through wild lowland forests, this river was once an important transport route for both Maori and early European settlers.

Western tributaries of the Whanganui flow through mudstone gorges and valleys, which colour the river waters. To the east the waters are clearer and are an important habitat for the whio (a native torrent duck).

As New Zealand?s longest navigable waterway, the Whanganui turns on a great river journey. Taumarunui is the starting point for most canoe or kayak safaris; huts and campsites are spaced along the river. An overnight stay at Tieke Marae is a special highlight. Run by local Maori, the marae is a chance to see traditional customs in action.

Jet boating is another way to enjoy this national park. From Pipiriki you can journey up the river to the Bridge to Nowhere, which is all that remains of Mangapurua, an isolated settlement that was abandoned in 1942.

Exploring the History of Wanganui City

There are two city heritage walks to explore in the city of Wanganui. Choose from the Central City or the Old Town areas—free brochures provide a brief on each location plus line drawings of some of the various historical sights. Another pedestrian adventure is the journey up Durie Hill.

Stroll across the Wanganui City Bridge to the Durie Hill pedestrian tunnel, which leads to the famous Durie Hill Elevator. When you get to the top, climb the Durie Hill War Memorial Tower, built of fossilised shell rock. From this splendid viewpoint, take in the spectacular scenery of Wanganui and the Tasman Sea. On a clear day you'll also see Mount Taranaki and Mount Ruapehu.

Useful Wanganui Links

To help plan your Wanganui holiday choose from the main categories below


Wanganui Region Information


Wanganui Tourism Operators

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