Family Activities in Whanganui
Experience an ideal balance of active adventures, opportunities to bond as a family and education in Whanganui. On the banks of the North Island’s historic Whanganui River, the city of Whanganui offers various ways to learn about the river through its museum, while its nature and wildlife can be seen at the nearby Bushy Park Wildlife Sanctuary. There are tons of ways to enjoy good old-fashioned family fun with magnificent children’s playgrounds, diverse parks and breathtaking beaches. We’ll guide you through it all with this list of the best things to do in Whanganui with kids.
For more advice on planning your trip, check out The Guide to Whanganui for Families, as well as the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Whanganui.
1. Feed the Ducks at Virginia Lake
Just to show you how affordable a family trip to Whanganui is, the first item on our list is the city’s premier park, Virginia Lake, which is absolutely free. The park with winter gardens, a short walk and a wealth of birdlife is the perfect place in Whanganui for families to experience the great outdoors together. Walk the stroller-friendly 25-minute woodland walk looking out for the blue pukeko birds. The lake has all sorts of birds to meet, from ducks to swans, while the Winter Gardens contains all sorts of exotic plants to admire year-round. Relax at the Funky Duck Cafe after you’ve explored the park and let the kids loose at the children’s playground.
Location: 110 Great N Road, St Johns Hill, approximately 3km (2 miles) from Whanganui city centre.
2. Let the Kids Loose at Kowhai Park
Speaking of parks, Whanganui’s Kowhai Park is often referred to as the best playground in New Zealand! The creative park situated alongside the Whanganui River has a giant octopus where kids can climb through the eyes and play on the swing dangling from its giant tentacles. They can also slide down a dinosaur’s back, sit next to Humpty Dumpty on his brick wall, meet other nursery rhyme characters and run through the waterplay fountains and much more! See more free activities in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whanganui.
Location: 96 Anzac Parade, Whanganui East, approximately 2km (1.2 miles) from Whanganui city centre.
3. See Native Birds at Bushy Park Wildlife Sanctuary
A must for families is a visit to Bushy Park Wildlife Sanctuary, a 100ha (247-acre) native forest sanctuary kept predator-free for native birds to thrive. Enjoy a multitude of short walks across 3.4km (2.1 miles) of easy trails while looking out for unique wildlife like bellbirds (kōmako), wood pigeon (kereru), saddlebacks (tīeke), stitchbirds (hihi), morepork owls (ruru), blue swamp hens (pūkeko), kingfishers (kotare) and much more! Another highlight is Ratanui, believed to be the largest rata tree at 43m (141ft) high and 11m (36ft) round. Pack a picnic and enjoy relaxing in the historic homestead grounds when you’re done.
Location: 791 Rangitatau E Road, Kai Iwi, approximately 24km (15 miles) from Whanganui city centre.
4. Go Through the Tunnel, Up the Elevator Then Up the Spiral Staircase of the Durie Hill Tower
For a cheap thing to do with the kids, check out Whanganui’s iconic landmark, the Durie Hill Tower and Elevator. Kids love running through the 213m (700ft) long tunnel where you can ride the historic elevator to the base of the Durie Tower for NZ$2 each. Alternatively, brave the steps up the hill! Once you reach the memorial tower, climb 176 more steps to the top where you and your family can admire views of Whanganui city, the Whanganui River, Tasman Sea and all the way to Mt Ruapehu on a clear day. It’s also one of the must-dos in Whanganui!
Location: Tunnel entrance at 42 Anzac Parade, Durie Hill, approximately 700m (8 yards) from Whanganui city centre.
5. Play, Swim and Build Sandcastles at Kai Iwi Beach
And what would a New Zealand family getaway be without some beach time? Kai Iwi Beach is the safest and most suitable beach for families. The beach is patrolled for safe swimming in summer, while you can also enjoy long walks, have a feast on the wood-fired barbecues, let the kids loose at the playground or simply enjoy building sandcastles.
Location: Moana Parade, Kai Iwi, approximately 16km (10 miles) from Whanganui city centre.
6. Take the Kids Horse Trekking with Actifun Horse Riding
An exciting way for families to experience the Whanganui landscape is on a horse trek with Actifun Horse Riding. They offer beginner-friendly one-hour treks either through their country lane with wonderful rural views. Alternatively, horse trek on the beach at South Beach or Castlecliff for either a half or full-day ride. They specialise in working with children, helping them build confidence for horse riding and in life.
Location: 7 Holmwood Road, Kaitoke, approximately 5km (3 miles) from Whanganui city centre.
7. Check Out the Whanganui Regional Museum
New Zealand cities always provide when it comes to family-friendly indoor activities like a local museum and Whanganui is no different! The Whanganui Regional Museum houses all kinds of amazing Maori artefacts from tribes who have lived along the Whanganui River. See ancient skeletons from New Zealand’s extinct giant bird, the moa, and browse the shop with all sorts of New Zealand and Maori-made items. What’s more, the attraction is free! Check out more activities like this in the 10 Things to Do in Whanganui on a Rainy Day.
Location: Queens Park Memorial Watt Street, Whanganui city centre.
8. Watch Glassblowing at New Zealand Glassworks
In the same vein as the point above, New Zealand Glassworks is another indoor attraction in Whanganui to do if the weather isn’t playing ball. While you can browse creative and colourful glass creations from local artists, parents and kids can watch the artists at work conducting incredible glass-blowing techniques. Teens aged 15 and over can also get stuck into glassblowing themselves with their Make a Paperweight Workshop lasting about 30 minutes per person.
Location: 2 Rutland St, Whanganui city centre.
9. Do Go-karting or Play Mini Golf at the Riverland Family Park
Located on the banks of the Whanganui and next to Kowhai Park (see point #2), Riverland Family Park is a place for families to bond over exciting activities like go-karting, mini golf, and cycling the easy boardwalks alongside the Whanganui River with the bike hire. There are go-kart rides for all ages between the Club Karter for 7-12-year-olds, Daytona Karts for 13 years and over, and Double Go-Karts for adults driving with younger children. Kids can also get some height on the bungy trampolines!
Location: Anzac Parade, Whanganui East, approximately 2km (1.2 miles) from Whanganui city centre.
10. Play Outdoor Laser Tag
Not just your average laser tag venue, Lazer Overload is a fully outdoor laser tag course giving you more of a paintball experience without the bullets or bruising. Challenge the kids to a round in the battlefield scenarios set up in the forest in this activity suitable for all ages as long as they’re mobile.
Location: 1069 Brunswick Road, Brunswick, approximately 15km (9 miles) from Whanganui city centre.