Top experiences in Whanganui

Whanganui offers something for everyone, from stunning beaches to creative art design and heritage buildings. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and natural beauty, it's the ideal destination for a weekend getaway.

1. Paddle Steamer Waimarie

Experience the magic of the Whanganui River aboard the legendary Paddle Steamer Waimarie. This restored coal-fired paddle steamer, salvaged from the river's depths, offers a unique journey through breathtaking scenery and historical charm. Step back in time and envision the bustling settlers who once relied on this vessel as their river highway. Whether opting for a scheduled trip or private charter, the Waimarie guarantees an unforgettable adventure for the whole family. Immerse yourself in Whanganui's rich history and create cherished memories on this stately and unforgettable river cruise.

2. Take in the view from up high

Want to see all of Whanganui? Durie Hill War Memorial Tower is the city’s most iconic tower and is 191 steps high, and 113 metres above sea level - giving you panoramic views of the city, Whanganui River, and the harbour. On a nice day, you may be able to spot Taranaki Maunga, Mt Ruapehu and the northernmost tip of New Zealand.

3. Visit a sanctuary

Just a five-minute drive west of Whanganui is one of the region’s hidden treasures - Bushy Park Wildlife Sanctuary. This now healthy and regenerated forest allows visitors to wander among giant trees and see rare birds that the rest of the country have never seen nor, heard of before. While you’re there, make sure you visit the historic homestead of Bushy Park. Explore the grand 22-room 1906 Edwardian-era homestead and stay at one of the finest bed and breakfasts.

4. Get crafty with glasswork

For something more creative, head to New Zealand Glassworks-Te Whare Tūhua o Te Ao, which is the national centre for art glass located in the heart of old Whanganui. With a rich history in art glass, the centre offers interactive experiences, exhibitions, and educational programs. Don't miss the chance to witness hot glass demonstrations and participate in workshops, but remember to sign up quickly as they are in high demand. 

5. Explore the Whanganui River

Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of New Zealand's longest navigable waterway, the Whanganui River. Embark on an exploration of its depths through thrilling jet boat rides, serene canoe trips, or aboard vintage river boats from the early 1900s. Discover an intriguing fact: the Whanganui River holds a remarkable distinction as the world's first legally recognized river personhood, an intriguing concept explained in detail here(opens in new window).

6. Picnic in the park

Whanganui is dotted with charming parks. Gather your loved ones, prepare a delightful picnic, and immerse yourselves in a day of exploration. Experience the serene beauty of Virginia Lake with a leisurely lakeside stroll, or have a fun-packed afternoon in the water maze at Kowhai Park. There is something for all to enjoy.  

7. Spend the day at a Whanganui beach

Whether you’re looking for an excellent fishing and surfing spot on South Beach, or a spot perfect for the whole family at Kai Iwi Beach, or Castlecliff - Whanganui has some stunning beaches to explore.

8. Whanganui River Markets

Get your dose of art, plants, food, crafts and threads every Saturday at the Whanganui River Markets(opens in new window). In previous years the same location was used by Māori to trade their produce, and today it is a community environment that encourages local culture, produce, and history. Admire the many stalls and pick up some handmade goods.

9. Immerse yourself in history and art

The Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua(opens in new window) is an iconic heritage building that has enchanted generations of visitors with its extraordinary art collection. Founded by the philanthropy of Henry Sarjeant, the gallery showcases over 8500 artworks from New Zealand and around the world, spanning a period of four centuries. Housed within a historic structure, this exceptional collection provides a captivating journey through the evolution of art in New Zealand and beyond. After renovations, the gallery is set to reopen its doors to the public in 2024.

10. Cycle the Mountains to Sea Trails

Discover the incredible Mountains to Sea Cycle Trails, a stunning 239 km cycling route that takes you from Mt. Ruapehu to the Tasman Sea. Ride through beautiful landscapes including forests, farmland, and alongside the Whanganui River. It's a fantastic way to explore the area's natural beauty and learn about Whanganui's rich culture and history. Make sure to visit the famous Bridge to Nowhere along the trail for an extra special experience.

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