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Travel guide

Whanganui attractions, things to do and places to visit

  • 7 minutes
In this Article

Grab the experience & get up close to authentic Aotearoa NZ. Maori culture, and one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s oldest towns is a gem hiding in plain sight of the Whanganui river. The Whanganui river with its personality and legal identity is the heart of the town’s story.

Whanganui top 10 attractions

Wow Whanganui, grab the experience

In this Article

Get up close and experience Whanganui attractions with several days exploring the river, the Bridge to Nowhere, walks past Victorian shop facades and pop into world class galleries and art studios.

TOP 5 UNMISSABLE SIGHTS IN WHANGANUI

Wow, a town where the Whanganui River is the dominant personality. Since the 13th century Maori ownership has woven a tight relationship with the power of the Whanganui river. The Whanganui river provided access to the central North Island and provided a rich food resource. Today Whanganui continues to flourish with the river as its heart offering visitors a unique river journey.

Bridge to nowhere, New Zealand
Bridge to nowhere
  1. Whanganui River journey, NZ Great Walk is where paddle power, kayaking the Whanganui River is a holiday highlight. Discover a working riverboat, the Waimarie and spend a half day cruising the river. Explore with local Pipiriki guides and paddle to hidden caves and past waterfalls tucked behind cliff faces. The Bridge to Nowhere is a must-go destination for many visitors to Aotearoa New Zealand.
  1. Stroll around Whanganui town centre and take in the delicate glass artworks of NZ Glassworks or find out how to make a paperweight in a workshop. Enjoy fascinating stories narrated by the custodians of the Whanganui Regional Museum
@nzglassworks
@nzglassworks
Whanganaui memorial tower, Whanganui, North Island, New Zealand, Pacific
Whanganaui memorial tower
  1. Grab a lift in an elevator to the top of the hill. Durie Hill tower offers visitors an easy way to catch panoramic views of the town. The quaint vintage elevator trip is unique to Whanganui and a definite visitor favourite
  1. Rotokawau Virginia Lake with its hot houses, Winter Gardens, lakes and woodland walks is a great way to get and about in Whanganui. Kowai Park has a great children’s playground and a mature arboretum to linger in and Bason Botanic Gardens is another great spot for garden lovers to explore Whanganui botanical offerings.
Kowhai Park, Whanganui, Wellington, New Zealand @mae_thomson89
Kowhai Park @mae_thomson89
Koriniti Marae meeting grounds, Whanganui, New Zealand
Koriniti Marae meeting grounds
  1. Plan your visit around one of the many festivals and party in Whanganui whether it be heritage month or cultural offerings as you stroll through artists studios during the Festival of Glass

OUTDOORS – WALKS

Whanganui is a walkers destination with the iconic Bridge to Nowhere a short jet boat ride away, a viewpoint where you catch the DURIE HILL TUNNEL elevator and parks to picnic and walk around lakes.

Photo

… read more Whanganui best 8 short walks and Whanganui River Journey, a NZ Great Walk

Bridge To Nowhere, Whanganui, Wellington, New Zealand @forgottenworldadventures
Bridge To Nowhere, Whanganuid @forgottenworldadventures

WHANGANUI FAMILY FRIENDLY THINGS TO DO AND SEE

Jump, run and skip around the Kowhai playground or spend a day at Kai Iwi beach. For a local secret visit a small beach on the Whanganui river at Mosquito Point.

TIP

Check out the Whanganui Council ‘PLAY TRAIL BROCHURE’ found in the Travel Pack Section. The Play Trail Council brochure is a great resource for families.

An early morning photo of a canoe on the bank of the Whanganui river, New Zealand
Whanganui river

Dreaming of sharing the experience of a Whanganui river canoe journey with the kids?

The Whanganui river is a great place to go paddling with the kids on a guided tour. While lifejackets are a must, the grade one river offers beginner paddlers kayaking for the first time a chance to test their new found skills amidst the beautiful gorges and forested hills of the Pipiriki section.

TIP

Check out the holiday parks in either Kai Iwi beach or Whanganui Seaside Holiday Park, Castlecliff for a relaxed accommodation option with playgrounds, a beach to burn off energy and within 15 minutes drive from Whanganui town centre. Kai Iwi beach is home to Sea Dogs Gallery with the classic fish n chips supplemented with pork belly and sushi.

 

… read more about Whanganui family friendly things to do

 

FOR MORE ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN WHANGANUI CHECK OUT

WHANGANUI ROMANTIC PLACES, THINGS TO DO FOR COUPLES

Where to go for a sunset photograph

  • Kai Iwi beach with its moody cliffs and driftwood backlit by the setting sun
  • Whanganui river dinner cruise on the Waimarie steamboat
  • Couples selfie moments with one of the many heritage buildings as the background

Where to go to eat for a romantic brunch / dinner

  • Frank Bar + Eatery for a touch of nighttime glamour
  • Sea Dog Gallery for fish n chips on the beach at Castlecliff beach
  • Bason Botanic Gardens for a picnic
@Waimarie.co.nz
@Waimarie.co.nz
Whanganui Information Centre, beautifully curated artshop, gallery and adjoining cafe, Whanganui, Wellington, New Zealand
Whanganui Information Centre, beautifully curated artshop, gallery and adjoining cafe

Check out Whanganui heritage trails for places to discover together and find out if the Whanganui government council chambers are open to peek at the beautiful stained glass windows.

Go window shopping and gaze at magnificent glass object d’art and decorative pieces and wonder how to transport a piece home with you. Whanganui art gallery  trail is a highlight for couples interested in unique art.

The BRIDGE TO NOWHERE and Whanganui River is an unforgettable shared occasion with plenty of lush emerald green forest, a massive river, an evocative bridge to nowhere and the chance to test your hand at paddling the Whanganui River.

WHANGANUI 12 THINGS TO DO FOR FREE

Wow, Whanganui delivers a memorable holiday on a budget. The best things in Whanganui are free,  from entry to parks, galleries and outdoor entertainment.

  • Kowhai Park and arboretum nestled beside the Whanganui river is a magnet for kids and adults alike
  • Rotokawau / Virginia Lake walks listening to the sound of birds in the aviary and watching ducks on the lake
  • Bason Botanic Gardens is a gem with winter gardens showcasing bromeliads and shady walks for a summer day.
  • A gold coin gets up to the tops of Durie Hill Tower for sweeping town and country views.
  • Walk alongside the Whanganui river on the river walk pathway finding sculptures and public installations for a impromptu photo moment
  • Whanganui regional museum with its extensive collection of photographs, objects and history is a great place for a rainy day. And it’s free to enter
Regional museum at Whanganui, New Zealand
Regional museum at Whanganui
Castlecliff beach, Whanganui, New Zealand @_lucyannex
Castlecliff beach @_lucyannex
  • Glorious glass galleries, Sarjeant Gallery and NZ Glassworks workshop where the magic of liquid glass can be viewed from the public gallery
  • Go on a heritage excursion around the town armed with a brochure downloaded from the travel pack section
  • Take a road trip along the Whanganui River Road and find stories reaching back centuries from traditional Maori village pa to heritage churches at Jerusalem
  • Stroll around the Saturday Whanganui Riverside market picking goodies for your picnic hamper
  • Plan a visit around a festival month with street entertainers, vintage parades and pop up stalls
  • An oldie but a goodie with a beach exploration of Kai Iwi beach or Castlecliff beach with the option of a small Whanganui river beach intriguing named Mosquito Point

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT WHANGANUI?

The best time to visit Whanganui is between mid-October to mid-April (early summer to early autumn). The Whanganui River can be officially closed to navigation in the winter months after periods of heavy rainfall.

Memorial sculpture , Whanganui, New Zealand
Memorial sculpture, Whanganui
Westmere Lake Wildlife Reserve, Whanganui, Wellington, New Zealand @Neil Beissel
Westmere Lake Wildlife Reserve @Neil Beissel

WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE IN WHANGANUI?

Whanganui Weather Forecast and Observations – MetService New Zealand

The summers are short and usually do not have high temperatures with the average hovering around 25c in February. Summer months are characterized as January, February and March. It is partly cloudy all year with a breeze common throughout the year.

Winter is cold, with rain occurring 8 – 10 days of the month. Winter temperature average is 12c at night to 15c during the day.

TIP

Autumn (mid-March – April) is a slow season for visitors with travel deals more likely. The busiest month for visitors is December and early January which coincides with the annual summer school holidays.

 

Remember to check the MedService NZ online resource for tides when visiting the beaches.

HOW TO GET TO WHANGANUI?

Whanganui The city is located on the west coast of the North Island at the mouth of the Whanganui River, New Zealand’s longest navigable waterway. Wikipedia

DISTANCES FROM TO WHANGANUI

Auckland Whanganui 446 km
Hamilton Whanganui 322 km
Waitomo Caves Whanganui 265 km
Hobbiton Whanganui 352 km
Mt Ruapehu Whanganui 141 km
Taupo Whanganui 222 km
Rotorua Whanganui 311 km
Wellington Whanganui 191 km

IS WHANGANUI EASY TO WALK AROUND?

Whanganui is a very easy town to navigate with key attractions with wide flat pavements and well maintained signage to places of interest.  Whanganui City Walking Tours managed by passionate volunteers offer guided town tours. A small fee applies, forward bookings are essential.

Band rotunda in Victoria Lake Reserve in Whanganui, Manawatu-Whanganui Region on North Island of New Zealand
Band rotunda in Victoria Lake Reserve in Whanganui
TIP

Friendly volunteer guides with a sense of humour …

‘Surprises are more than a few,

Did you know that [Whanganui] we once had a zoo?

The Red Lion burnt down,

Mark Twain was in town,

He would really have liked our tours too’

Buildings in the New Zealand town of Wanganui, Whanganui, New Zealand
Buildings in the New Zealand town of Whanganui

DOES WHANGANUI HAVE AN AIRPORT?

Whanganui has a small regional (domestic) airport with regular flights serviced by Air Chathams. Air Chathams flies from Auckland to Whanganui 3 times a day Monday to Friday, once on a Saturday and twice on a Sunday.  It’s a quick and easy flight taking only an hour and Air Chathams provides the fastest direct route from Auckland to Whanganu. Check Air Chathams online resources for up to date flight information.

ARE THERE INTERCITY BUS CONNECTIONS TO WHANGANUI?

There are regular intercity public bus routes between Whanganui and Auckland and Wellington. InterCity Bus is the national network operating from the Whanganui Travel Centre

HOW TO GET AROUND WHANGANUI?

The best way to get around is a combination of walking, biking and public transport. For outlying attractions a vehicle is recommended.

Horizons bus service operates four looped local government council bus routes departing from the hub Trafalgar Square shopping centre on Taupo Quay.  The orange and purple bus routes past the Whanganui TopTen Holiday Park located in the suburb of Aramoho.

New Zealand, North Island, Wanganui, Putiki Church
Putiki Church
TIP

There are horizons public buses travelling to Kai Iwi and Castlecliff however the bus routes are infrequent and prior planning will be required.

@BridgetoNowhere.Lodge.and.Tours
@BridgetoNowhere.Lodge.and.Tours

CAN YOU HIRE A BIKE IN WHANGANUI?

You can hire a bike in Whanganui as the town is part of the MOUNTAINS TO SEA BIKE TRAIL. The Mountains to Sea Bike Trail is from Mt Ruapehu to Whanganui. The trail is part of the Nga Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trail.

The Bike Shed has a sterling reputation for servicing bikes as well as stocking an extensive range of accessories.

Velo Ronny’s Bicycle Store can rent / hire  quality MTB or Electric Bike so you can ride the river trails, explore the Upokongaro Cycle Bridge, climb a hill to take in the view or do a café crawl. As you are visiting a small regional centre it is advisable to arrange your bike rental before visiting as there are only limited stocks available especially in the peak summer months or festival season.

WHERE TO STAY IN WHANGANUI?

Whanganui offers visitors an extensive range of choice where to stay. There are three excellent holiday parks with powered, non-powered tent sites, plenty of room for motorhomes and ensuite cabins for a touch of luxury.

The town has a number of motels and hotels for visitors to pick and choose from budget to luxury. Check out Whanganui where to stay for more information.

A panorama looking over the city of Whanganui, New Zealand
Whanganui

FOR MORE ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN WHANGANUI CHECK OUT

WHERE TO EAT IN WHANGANUI?

@yellowhousecafe
@yellowhousecafe

YELLOW HOUSE CAFE

A yellow house, of course, has been converted into a funky cafe with a liquor licence. Anyone fancy a glass of wine with brunch. This is the place for slow lane eating. The cafe has an online menu for browsing

MISCHIEF ON GUYTON

With cheeky signage and a flip calendar of witty quotes not suitable to print, Mischief Cafe is true to its name. Step inside (or through to the courtyard) for a combined brunch and lunch menu featuring interesting dishes like a Funky Fungi and the Red Hot Chilli Pita: oven-baked eggs with chilli on pita bread with housemade hummus and fresh salsa. Fresh sandwiches made to order and a full cabinet with salads and other goodies. Serving superb coffee using Karamu fair trade organic coffee beans and Wellington’s famous T Leaf T.

CITADEL WHANGANUI

Travelling with pets then this is the place for you. Great coffee, delicious food and excellent vibe in the heart of Castlecliff beach community. And do youI need an excuse to visit a beach, then Citadel is an excellent place to go.

SEA DOGS GALLERY – WHANGANUI

An eatery that offers more than fish n chips with gourmet burgers, sushi and pork belly as part of the menu offerings.

MUD DUCKS WHANGANUI

The location is perfect, nestled in the visitor centre with the Sarjeant Gallery on Taupo store. Mud Duck’s honey coloured heritage flooring reflects the good quality offerings of a New Zealand cafe menu. There is excellent free Wifi, an outdoor deck with a range of counter eats for a takeout picnic.

@thecitadel.castlecliff
@thecitadel.castlecliff
@Articlewhanganui
@Articlewhanganui

ARTICLE CAFE, WHANGANUI

Article is situated in the heart of Old Whanganui, in the original Chronicle paper building. We endeavour to facilitate a sales spot for the multitudes … However, ARTICLE sells good coffee, cool stuff, including vintage clothes and unique old products. We do this in a relaxed environment where the art is and can be purchasable but can also act as an excellent aesthetic backdrop to just having a coffee and appreciating the building’s character, or the character sitting across from you. We also have a range of Ross Mitchell-Anyon pottery in the RMA store out back.

WHANGANUI NIGHTLIFE,  ENTERTAINMENT + FOOD

BIG ORANGE WHANGANUI

A classic coffee shop in the heart of Whanganui. The heritage building is a bonus. Late afternoon, early evening the place metamorphosed into the Ceramic Lounge with fusion contemporary menu choices. There are a selection of cocktails for those so inclined. How about Kiwifruit Vodka, Passionfruit & cream, with a soft meringue topped with classic fruit. Dessert with a bit of punch.

@BigOrangeCafe
@BigOrangeCafe
@WhanganuiMusos
@WhanganuiMusos

WhANGANUI MUSICIANS CLUB

The first Friday of every month is club night with a scheduled performance and perhaps an open mic beforehand. Check what’s happening on the Facebook page.

FRANK BAR + EATERY, WHANGANUI

Cuisine and Whanganui is a marriage created in Frank Bar + Eatery. premier dinner, drinks and cocktails served up until late. Though the Old Bank building served FRANK well, we have recently moved locations to The Old Post Office on Ridgway Street. We are still serving up delicious, seasonal fare and amazing cocktails – just from a brand new and gorgeously decorated address.

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