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There are a few theories as to how Taumarunui was named. One is that when a Māori chief Pehi Turoa lay dying, a big screen (‘taumaru nui’) was built over him to shelter him from the sun. Another suggests that in the 1700s a war party, led by chief Ki Maru, defeated the local tribe. Ki Maru’s people were proud of this victory and honoured him with the name ‘Tau-Maru-Nui’ or ‘Maru the Great’.
After the Māori land wars in 1864, the Māori King Tawhiao retreated to this remote area of the Central North Island, which became known by European colonists as the King Country. Within this district, Tawhiao ruled as an independent monarch and any Europeans who entered into the area did so at their own risk. Taumarunui is central to the rohe potae, the area under the King’s reign.
In 1883 after negotiations with the colonial government, the area was opened to Europeans and the township grew from a small trading post to a rapidly growing rural centre. The North Island Main Trunk railway line and river transport were extended to Taumarunui and the town and surrounding areas experienced rapid growth with coal mines, forestry and farming all flourishing.
Things to do in Taumarunui
- Today Taumarunui hosts a range of adventure activities that visitors can enjoy and is the gateway to the Whanganui National Park. For those looking to get active and explore the town’s surroundings there are a range of options available:
- Cycle The Timber Trail from Pureora to Ongarue – one of New Zealand’s best cycle trails.
- Discover the Forgotten World Highway by bike, car or rail cart. Officially known as State Highway 43, this road is 148km long and runs from the town of Stratford in the Taranaki region to Taumarunui. Its origins are in colonial bridle paths and it travels through remote areas, past ghost towns, over mountain saddles and through a river gorge. There’s even a spooky single-lane tunnel, known as the Hobbit’s Hole.
- Kayak down the Ongarue, Whanganui or Whakapapa rivers.
- For a more relaxed experience, spend the day fishing in world class fishing spots along the peaceful rivers.
- The nearby Raurimu Spiral is a must-see for those interested in history, engineering or trains – a stunning feat amazing railway engineering, where the main trunk line descends through steep terrain, valleys and gorges through a series of loops and curves, conforming to the land’s own curves.
InterCity has daily buses to Taumarunui from Auckland, Palmerston North, Hamilton and other North Island destinations, with fares from just $1 plus booking fee. And yes, you can bring your bike!
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