Whanganui Activities You Can’t Miss!
The coastal city of Whanganui is not on many tourist’s travel itineraries but is certainly a city worth visiting for an amazing insight into the real New Zealand: its landscapes, culture and history. Based along the Whanganui River, New Zealand’s longest navigable river, Whanganui and its surrounding settlements have been a huge part of the Maori and European history. Museums and historical sights provide an excellent insight into this New Zealand history. There’s also a great mix of contemporary experiences, such as art galleries, mountain bike trails and more to suit any type of traveller! We go through all the highlights in this list of Whanganui must-dos!
In between checking out the best things to do in Whanganui, save some cents on your stay with these 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Whanganui.
1. Journey Up the Whanganui River Road
Get amazing views of the Whanganui River, surrounding countryside and of historical sights along the Whanganui River Road. Journey by car or by bike visiting the quaint historical settlements of Maori and European architecture, with a couple of walks and viewpoints along the way. For more information, see 9 Must-Do Stops on the Whanganui River Road.
Location: Between Punahou, just north of Whanganui city, and Pipiriki.
2. Durie Hill Elevator and Tower
A fun little city excursion is the Durie Hill Tower and the journey to get there. Either climb 193 steps from the base of Durie Hill to the top or go through a 213m tunnel to the Durie Hill Elevator, New Zealand’s only underground public elevator. At the top of Durie Hill, climb the spiral staircase in the Durie Hill Tower to get some of the best views in Whanganui!
Location: Either start from the Whanganui i-SITE across the City Bridge or start from Putiki Drive where you can park your vehicle.
3. Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail
To see the very best of the Whanganui region and city, take on the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail! This 3-5 day adventure starts from Mt Ruapehu and takes you on a journey alongside the Whanganui River. Because we know a 3-5 day trip isn’t for everyone, here’s 6 Must-Do Bike Trails in Whanganui which are great alternatives!
Location: Most start in Ohakune or National Park Village in Ruapehu and end the trail in Whanganui city.
4. Take a Walk on Kai Iwi Beach
This scenic beach backed with rugged coastal cliffs is a safe swimming beach and a great place to go for a stroll, especially at low tide where you can access other beaches along the coast. Find out more about Kai Iwi Beach and other walks you can do in the area in our 10 Must-Do Walks in Whanganui.
Location: 14km west of Whanganui via Rapanui Road.
5. Visit the Sarjeant Gallery
Check out more than 5,500 artworks from historical art from the 1840s all the way up to the present day. The Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua is free-entry and a must for any fans of cultural experiences!
Location: The Sarjeant on The Quay.
6. Check Out the Whanganui Regional Museum
Who doesn’t love a good free museum?! The Whanganui Regional Museum tells the stories of the Whanganui region’s history through captivating displays. In particular, there is a great deal of Maori artefacts that are sure to impress, such as several waka (canoes) and more!
Location: The Quay.
7. The River Traders and Whanganui Farmers Market
A great place to pick up some souvenirs and experience a traditional market that has been running for over a century, The River Traders & Whanganui Farmers Market has more than 100 stalls to check out. See and by local food, art, plants, clothing and crafts alongside the river every Saturday morning.
Location: Taupo Quay.
8. Jump on Board the PS Waimarie
If historic boat rides on beautiful rivers are your thing, then look no further than the PS Waimarie! Enjoy a cruise on the last coal-fired paddle steamer in New Zealand. If you don’t get the opportunity to cruise on the PS Waimarie, you can still marvel at it from the banks of the Whanganui River at The Riverboat Centre Museum.
Location: Taupo Quay.
9. Watch Glass-blowing at New Zealand Glassworks
Whanganui is a city filled with galleries and resident artists. An awesome place to watch the magic happen is at the Chronicle Glass Studio with a free public viewing area.
Location: 2 Rutland Street.
10. See the Stars at The Ward Observatory
See the stars and Saturn at one of the public viewings at The Ward Observatory – usually on a Friday evening after dark. This observatory houses a 24cm telescope and the largest unmodified refractor telescope still in use in New Zealand.
Location: Cooks Gardens, St Hill Street.