The Whanganui district has a rich cultural heritage, a diverse natural environment and a vibrant arts scene.

Whanganui River, Whanganui

Take a guided canoe journey of Whanganui River.

Explore the Whanganui River

The Whanganui River, Te Awa o Whanganui, is the longest navigable river in New Zealand and an integral part of the district’s history, shaping the experiences of both early Māori and European settlers.

  • Enjoy the cultural perspective local Maori people bring to their unique guided river tours. Listen to their korero (stories) and learn about their local taonga (treasures). You can also stay overnight at a riverside marae (traditional Maori village).
  • Visit the Whanganui Riverboat Centre which offers unique maritime heritage experiences through scheduled cruises and an informative museum.
  • Drive the Whanganui River Road for an insight into early Maori life, the influence of Christian missionaries and the fascinating history of the romantically-named settlements.
  • Canoe the river on a self-guided or guided tours, ranging from one to six days. The five-day Whanganui River Journey, beginning in Taumarunui, is considered one of New Zealand's nine 'Great Walks' (even though it involves more paddling than walking!).
  • Ride a high-speed jet boat. It's an exhilarating way to visit the many natural wonders and historic sites, such as the Bridge to Nowhere, along the Whanganui River.
plane Find & book flights
The Paddle steamer Waimarie making her way up river, Whanganui

The Paddle steamer Waimarie making her way up river

Travel back in time

Whanganui has a deep and rich history: the mouth of the Whanganui River was a significant settlement site of pre-European Māori and the town was officially established by settlers in 1840.  

  • Ride Whanganui's historic Durie Hill elevator. Built in 1919, it is one of only two earth-bound elevators in the world.
  • Climb the Memorial Tower on Durie Hill. Built from fossilised shell rock, it offers sweeping views of the city, inland volcanic mountains and the Tasman Sea.
  • Pick up a Heritage map from the i-SITE Visitor Information Centre(opens in new window) to self-guide a tour around Whanganui's oldest buildings.
  • Explore the Whanganui Regional Museum, recognised for its outstanding collection of Maori taonga (treasures) and Lindauer portraits of Maori people in the late 1800s.
  • Cruise on the Paddle Steamer Waimarie, New Zealand's only coal fired paddle steamer which was salvaged from the bottom of the Whanganui River where she sat for around 50 years, the Paddle Steamer Waimarie was restored to her former glory and relaunched in 2000 to make her New Zealand’s only authentic coal fired paddle steamer in operation. And check out the Riverboat Museum. 
  • Visit St Paul’s Memorial Church in Putiki, one of the most beautiful and unique churches in New Zealand. The Maori tukutuku (wall panels) and lattice designs that decorate the church tell the story of the area.
  • Visit historic Ratana, a mainly Maori town where the tiny population swells during the annual pilgrimage of followers of the Ratana faith.
  • Or the Motor Vessel Wairua, a restored riverboat built in 1904.
  • Look at the stars at the Ward Observatory in Whanganui. Built in 1901, it houses the largest unmodified refractor telescope still in use in New Zealand.
Whanganui boasts the country's only Glass School., New Zealand

Whanganui boasts the country's only Glass School.

Get creative

Whanganui is home to hundreds of professional artists and this impact of creative talent can be seen around town.

  • Grab a gallery guide from the i-SITE Visitor Information Centre(opens in new window) and discover Whanganui's vibrant arts scene, which includes fine arts, graphic design, photography, glass blowing and fashion.
  • Visit the Sarjeant Art Gallery in Whanganui, celebrated for its neo-classical architecture and magnificent exhibitions.
  • Watch the hot kiln action from the viewing platform at the New Zealand Glassworks, then get down there yourself for a hands-on workshop.
  • Browse the extensive collection of New Zealand ceramic art at Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics.
  • Pick up some souvenirs at the River Traders Market, where local artisans set up stalls on Saturday mornings.
Kai Iwi Beach, Whanganui

Kai Iwi Beach

Play outside

While the Whanganui River is a highlight for many visitors, the region has a diverse and beautiful natural environment and there are plenty of other reasons to get outside.

  • Pedal along the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail. Stretching from the central volcanic plateau to the mouth of the Whanganui River, the three to five-day journey is one of the most diverse cycle tracks in New Zealand.
  • Swim, fish, surf and build driftwood castles on picturesque black sand beaches.
  • Play on the fairy tale playground at Kowhai Park, look out or rare birds at predator-free Bushy Park and explore the vast collections of exotic and native plants at Paloma Gardens.
  • Hike the Waitahinga Trails for amazing views of Taranaki Maunga and Mt Ruapehu.

Where to next?