Whanganui or Wanganui is a city on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It lies at the mouth of the Whanganui River, which flows from Mount Tongariro via the stunning Whanganui National Park. The district has a population of about 44,000.
The name Whanganui comes from the Maori words whanga, for a bay or harbour, and nui meaning big or large. However, when the early colonists heard the placename said in the local Maori accent with a softly spoken wh that sounded more like a wo sound, rather than the classical Maori fh sound, they spelled the placename as Wanganui rather than Whanganui. Now, either spelling is officially acceptable, and the trend is towards using Whanganui.
Founded in 1840 and named Petre until 1852, Whanganui is one of the oldest European settlements in New Zealand.
Tourist and visitor information is available from:
- 1 i-Site Visitor Information Centre, 31 Taupo Quay, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 8:30am-5pm, Sa-Su 9am-4pm. For accommodation, travel and transport information and bookings.
Whanganui is between Palmerston North and New Plymouth, at the junction of State Highway 4 (SH4) with State Highway 3 (SH3). It is a two and a half hour drive from Wellington, using State Highways 1 and 3 (SH1 and SH3) and a six hour drive from Auckland, via Hamilton, using State Highways 1 and 4 (SH1 and SH4).
- InterCity, Bus stop outside travel centre, 156 Ridgeway St.
Whanganui Airport has several Auckland flights in or out daily by Air Chathams using Saab 340A and Metroliner III. Air New Zealand flights have ceased.
The nearest railway station with a passenger service is at Marton (40 km away).
A mixture of walking and taking buses is generally the most cost-effective way to get around Whanganui. Buses generally depart every hour from Maria Place Extension. There is also a taxi company.
- River City Taxis, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 345 3333.
- Wanganui in Bloom. From December to March, hundreds of hanging flower baskets line the streets of central Whanganui.
- 1 Whanganui Regional Museum, 62 Ridgway St (temporary location). M–Sa 10:00am-4:30pm. An extensive collection of natural and human artifacts with a strong regional emphasis. The Museum on Queens Park is closed for seismic strengthening and improvements until 2018. Free.
- 2 Sarjeant Gallery, 38 Taupo Quay. Daily 10:00am-4:30pm. Well known for its large collection of British, European and NZ art. Free.
- 3 Bason Botanic Gardens, 552 Rapanui Rd. Daily 8.00am - dusk. Has both indoor and outdoor gardens with some bush walks.
- Waimarie Museum. check online due to flood damage in 2015. Contains fascinating displays of river-related artefacts and photographs of the riverboat era. Also offers river cruises in a paddle steamer on Friday evenings and weekends at 11am. free (charges for cruises).
- Various art exhibitions. Held around Whanganui's city centre at almost all times. Much of it is student work from UCOL, and the best exhibitions usually take place in the acclaimed Whanganui School of Design, which has a very nice tight-knit staff that can hold very interesting conversations. However, don't ask Tanya Roberson about dogs or memes, you'll be there for hours.
- Wanganui Collegiate School. A private school that was founded in 1854, which has a beautiful campus with some attractive old brick buildings. You cannot drive through the grounds during school hours as the school's main thoroughfare - the only one wide enough for cars - is used heavily throughout the day.
- The Whanganui River. Around 300 km long. It is the longest navigable river and the second longest river in the North Island. There are a number of operators who offer canoeing, rafting and jetboat trips. The Mangapurua stream (tributary to the Whanganui) is bridged by the famous Bridge to Nowhere. This was built to provide access to settlers establishing farms in the Mangapurua Valley. The settlements no longer exist but the bridge remains as an eloquent reminder. It can be reached from the Mangapurua Landing on the Whanganui which is a 1.5 hour walk round trip. The landing can be reached by drive to Pipiriki then a jet boat ride.
- Durie Hill Elevator. across from the City Bridge. Accessed by the Durie Hill pedestrian tunnel, it is the only underground elevator in New Zealand. It has two viewpoints.
- Waimarie. Take a two-hour cruise up the river on NZ's only coal-fired historic paddle steamer.
- Heritage Walks. Discover the history of one of NZ's oldest European settlements.
- Trafalgar Square. Shopping centre on Taupo Quay was opened in 1989 with New Zealand's largest K-Mart store. K-Mart has since been replaced by The Warehouse, which shares the complex with a range of other shops including Wendy's.
- Phaedra. A small but well-stocked gothic apparel store near the Red Eye Cafe. The staff are friendly and the store smells pleasingly of incense.
- Stardust Creations. A rather artsy-fartsy new age store with a confused demographic, but it sells some very beautiful unique hand-made necklaces between $5 and $50 that, while bereft of mineral value, are generally much prettier and more interesting than diamonds. Perfect for a bohemian friend.
- Red Eye Cafe, Guyton St. Right up there with the best cafes in Wellington and Auckland.
- Ceramic. A jazz bar/restaurant on the main street, has nice food and personable staff.
- Bollywood Star. The best Indian restaurant in the Manawatu-Whanganui region. Their butter chicken and chicken pakoras are not to be missed, nor is their delicious mango lassi. A plasma TV plays somewhat enjoyable Bollywood films non-stop and the waiting staff are very personable.
- Kebabholik. A rather good Turkish fast food joint next to the main street Subway.
- Jabee Kebabs. Just across the road from the subway and has really good kebabs as well.
- Thistles. A small but well-stocked sweet shop with extensive range, and features homemade sweets as well as bulk candy.
- Red Lion Cafe and Bar/Pub (along the waterfront.). A nice atmosphere with pool tables and big screen TV's to watch the rugby.
- Stellar (at the bottom of the town on the main street). Does good food early evening and then a spot for the young ones later on after 11PM Fri/Sat
- 151 on London (Motel 151 on London), 151 London St (At the north end of town on State Highway 3), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 26 Suites including Studios and 4 Family Apartments.
- Anndion Lodge, 143 ANZAC Parade, Whanganui East (on SH 4, 5 minutes drive from CBD), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. A bed and breakfast style travelers lodge on the banks of the Whanganui River. Also a function centre. Category Winner, 2008 Wanganui Business Awards. From $65.
- Arles, 50 Riverbank Rd, State Highway 4, Whanganui East, ☎ , , (mobile)fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Bed & breakfast & self-contained apartment.
- Astral Motel and Apartments, 45 Somme Parade, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 509 063 (Reservations NZ only), e-mail: email@example.com.
- B-K’s Magnolia Motor Lodge, 240 St Hill St, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 166 835 (Reservations NZ only), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Burwood Manor Motel, 63-65 Dublin St, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 20 20 63 (Reservations NZ only), fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Wanganui Seaside Holiday Park, 1A Rangiora Street, Castlecliff (8km from the city centre), ☎ . 3 acres of park like grounds Powered site $36, unpowered $30, cabins from $45.
- Coachmans Lodge Motel, 30 Liffiton St, toll-free: 0508 262 246, fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Cooks Gardens Motor Lodge, 170 Guyton St, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 800 843 (Reservations NZ only), e-mail: email@example.com. Qualmark rated 4+ star accommodation in the heart of Whanganui. 15 ground floor accessible units, wireless internet, spa bath units, kitchen facilities.
- Fiesta Court Motel, 56 Heads Rd, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 22 25 25 (Reservations NZ only), fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Four Seasons Motel (95 Putiki Drive), ☎ , toll-free: 0800 368 773 (Reservations NZ only), e-mail: email@example.com.
- Gateway Motor Lodge, Cnr Southern Motorway and Heads Road, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 37 23 24 (Reservations NZ only), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Grand Hotel, Cnr Guyton and St Hill Streets, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Kings Court Motel, 58-60 Plymouth Street, PO Box 4029 (within 200 metres of the city centre), ☎ , toll-free: 0800 221 222 (Reservations NZ only), fax: . Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 10AM. 12 ground floor accessible units (8 x studio, 4 x 1-bedroom) units), all with kitchen facilities, Wireless or Dial-up Internet. Qualmark rated 3 Star Plus. A member of Host Accommodation Group. Motel is pet free and units are smoke free.
- Kingsgate Hotel The Avenue (The Avenue Hotel), 379 Victoria Avenue, PO Box 7000, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ocean Heights Motel, 40 Rangiora Street, Castlecliff, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Quality Inn Collegiate Hotel, 122 Liverpool St, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 942 943 (Reservations NZ only), fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. $125-$150 (2 persons).
- Riverside Motel, 30 Somme Parade, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 853 3333 (Reservations NZ only), e-mail: email@example.com.
- Riverview Motel, 14 Somme Parade, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 102 001 (Reservations NZ only), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rutland Arms Inn, 48-52 Ridgway St, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 788 5263 0800 RUTLAND (Reservations NZ only), e-mail: email@example.com. Has restaurant.
- Siena Motor Lodge, 335 Victoria Avenue, PO Box 7126 Mid Avenue, Whanganui 4541, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 88 88 02 (Reservations NZ only), fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sports Lodge Motel, 3 Surrey Road, Springvale, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 666 008 (Reservations NZ only), e-mail: email@example.com.
- Tamara Lodge, 24 Somme Parade, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Backpackers lodge in an Edwardian villa on the banks of the Whanganui River. $45 single room; from $25 shared rooms.
- Wanganui Motor Lodge, 14 Alma Road, Gonville, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 800 544 (Reservations NZ only), fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Whanganui River Top 10 Holiday Park, 460 Somme Parade, Aramoho, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 272 664 (Reservations NZ only), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Bushy Park Homestead, 791 Rangitatau East Rd (turn inland at Kai Iwi on Rangitatau East Rd), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: noon, check-out: 10AM. Historic homestead set in a lowland rainforest offering both B&B and backpacker-style accommodation. Very quiet location. Fully licensed cafe and evening meals by prior arrangement. Double B&B $125-155.
- La Bella B&B (La Bella Bed and Breakfast), 7 Somme Parade (5 minutes walk along riverfront from iSite Info Centre), ☎ . Check-in: 2:30PM. Historic 19th century mansion overlooking the Whanganui river. River views from every window and three verandas. Lavishly furnished with antiques, paintings and artefacts from all over the world. $120-$140.