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Day Trips

Whanganui River Road In a Day

North Island

In this Article

LANDSCAPE AND THE RIVER

The River is a person : “I am the river, and the river is me” The Whanganui River has gained its own legal identity with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person. Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) established the river as an indivisible and living whole from the mountains to the sea.

The road is approximately 79 km in length and is carved from the cliffs surrounding the river. It is the only scenic driving route alongside a river in New Zealand. Sections of the road are gravel. Wanganui River road is a trip from mountains to the sea, it is a trip into the history of settlement of New Zealand reaching back 900 years. A special journey for New Zealanders. Visitors are invited to explore Aotearoa NZ, its timeless landscapes and human connections reaching back into time.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Jerusalem
  • Pipiriki Marae guardians
  • Tourist entrepreneurs and their family
  • The River and the inhabitants
  • Scenery

 

WEATHER

Official weather forecast service for area

 

WHEN TO GO

Summer between November to April. In winter there is an increased likelihood of rock slips.

Bridge to Nowhere, In the middle of the jungle of Wanganui on the northern Island of New Zealand
Bridge to Nowhere, In the middle of the jungle of Wanganui

GETTING THERE

Your starting point is Pipiriki (travelling South) OR Whanganui (travelling North).

 

Travelling North from Whanganui, forgot joining up with State Highway one. You are invited to loop around the Whanganui River. You will not be using Whanganui to Central North Island, State Highway four, your adventure is on the alternative route, Whanganui River Rd.

 

If you plan to include a trip to the Bridge to Nowhere it is recommended that you start your journey from Pipiriki.

LET’S GET GOING

 

Your journey will dip, hug and swoop up and around the slow moving Wanganui River. The road is narrow with sharp corners, steep inclines, cliffs that look unstable with rock falls littering the verge. 

 

Bridges are usually single lanes with limited visibility to view oncoming traffic. The road is a reflection of walking tracks carved by footsteps 700 years ago.

The road - Pipiriki entrance, New Zealand
The road, Pipiriki entrance

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Canoe safaris, Whanganui river trips, New Zealand
Canoe safaris, Whanganui river trips, New Zealand
Canoe safaris, Whanganui river trips, New Zealand

EXPLORE PIPIRIKI

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

Pipiriki is a small settlement where visitors connect with day trips kayaking the River. Spend a few moments savouring the area. I got to talk to the locals … and heard the story about a World War One veteran who wanted to attend church on Sunday however injury and age was making it difficult to make the trip in one day.

 

His marae built him a Sunday home. Pipiriki provides access to Jet boat tours and is a launching place for exploring the Bridge to Nowhere.

 

Canoe journeys are an alternative to the jet boat tours. There is an abandoned hotel, now overgrown as a testament to the ideal of visitor traffic supporting tourism ventures.

 Oyster cliffs, fossil followers have a spot to ponder on.

“This is a thick sequence of densely packed fossil oysters that were living about 2.5 million years ago. There are also other fossils to be found, but the oysters predominate and must have been part of an enormous oyster bed”.

Thank you Geotrips for this information and the fact there are over 330 billion shells.

 

 

Hiruharama (Jerusalem)

Hiruharama, Jerusalem is part of the religious Catholic pilgrimage circuit. A place holding the memories of the historic Whanganui settlement, Sisters of Compassion and James K Baxter.

 

The walk from the convent to the church via compassion lane is contemplative with a winding path encouraging the walker to slow their pace and let the energy of Jerusalem seep into the pores.

 

The views of the surrounding country provide a backdrop to the church that is a perfect picture postcard of your journey. The settlement offers accommodation if you want to stay longer.

Jerusalem Sisters of Compassion Church exterior, New Zealand
Jerusalem Sisters of Compassion Church exterior

EXPLORE KAWANA FLOUR MILL AND HOMESTEAD

 

Kawana miller's house, New Zealand
Kawana Miller's House

The Whanganui River community trusts visitors will respect an unsupervised historic site. There is a steep set of steps down to the Mill site.

 

Photographs of river transport and the stories of individuals provides context for the millers cottage and its inhabitants.

 

You can view a late 19th century cottage complete with furnishing alongside the historic mill. A fascinating stop well worth the steep descent to the mill.

 

There is a compostable toilet on site.

LUNCH STOP – MATAHIWI CAFE

A former school is now Matahiwi Cafe & Gallery. Outside the cafe is the wooden boat used in the movie River Queen which was filmed on the Whanganui River.

 

A quirky place full of memorabilia, photographs of the district and delicious biscuits. The cafe is mainly open during the summer months. Classic fare such as scones, lamingtons and sausage rolls were available.

 

The cafe has a modern coffee machine for coffee drinkers along with tea and water. Souvenirs such as postcards, T shirts printed with slogans and images of the area were on sale.

 

Telephone ahead outside the peak season.

@Matahiwigallery
@Matahiwigallery

 

INTERACT – MEET THE LOCALS – ROADSIDE STALLS

Tourism budding entrepreneur, New Zealand
Tourism budding entrepreneur

The young man, in the accompanying image, wanted to buy a new mobile. His food stall is enterprise at its best. What do you do during the long summer break, to provide tourists with an improvised snack stop.

Parents are recruited to assist with a gong to summon support.

And, according to his parents, he managed to acquire his mobile.

OBSERVE AND LEARN – MARAE VISITS

Thank you for welcoming visitors into your private spaces. Stepping in the cultural space of locals is a highlight. Ranana (London) and Koriniti both have Marae’s which welcome visitors.

 

Signboards explain guidelines. If you are lucky a local inhabitant could even explain the significance of places, objects and meaning of the landscape.

Koriniti Marae meeting grounds, Whanganui, New Zealand
Koriniti Marae meeting grounds, Whanganui

EXPLORE HAND CUT CULVERT

Hand cut culvert, New Zealand
Hand cut culvert

Just past the free campsite OTUMAIRE is a road sign Hand Cut Culvert. Check for passing cars and pull into the narrow parking space. A short boardwalk leads into a little valley stream and native vegetation.

 

Diffused, dappled light and a hand cut culvert is a photo moment. The culvert was cut during the road construction to minimise water flooding. New Zealand scenery in a postcard snapshot.

 

It is a ten minute very easy walk from the River Road signpost.

EXPLORE – WALKS, HIKES AND VIEWS

Look out for Atene skyline walk, Downes Hut on the opposite river bank and the Omorehu waterfall hike. It’s a great idea for adventure tourism, to get to your accommodation you have to use a skyline first.

EXPLORE – BRIDGE TO NOWHERE (PIPIRIKI JUMP OFF POINT) AND ABANDONED DREAMS

Wanganui catchment is a story of abandoned settlements. Fence post sculpture, repurposed diesel pump, abandoned farms and closed industry (wheat mill).

 

The surge and power of jet boats encourages visitors to take a jet boat ride to the Bridge to Nowhere.

 

Online booking is recommended. Departing from Pipirki would be recommended for visitors travelling south.

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

OBSERVE – WANGANUI RIVER LANDSCAPE, STEEP SIDED HILLS WITH DEEP VALLEYS

Horses provide a means of transport that is often not seen in New Zealand now. It makes sense if the nearest petrol station is a day’s journey away.

Wanganui River Rd is a New Zealand story written in a river.

DESTINATION WANGANUI

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

Cycle The Whanganui River

 

Riders can get to the trail starting points by car, bus and train and of course your bike. Ruapehu and Whanganui activity operators can then take care of your logistics and information needs.

 

Several operators provide a shuttle pick up and drop off service for all sections of the trail and other day rides not part of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail.

 

If you are following the mountains to sea cycle trail it is likely your journey will commence from Pipiriki.

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