Amazing Sights Along the Whanganui River Road
Extending between Punahou, just north of Whanganui city, and Pipiriki, the Whanganui River Road is a scenic and historic journey best seen by car or by bike! As well as outstanding views of the Whanganui River, its valley and surrounding hills, the Whanganui River Road is steeped in historical landmarks from the local iwi (Maori tribe) and early European settlers. We’ll go through some of the highlights in this list of must-see attractions along the Whanganui River Road!
This guide gives the sights you will in order if you are starting the road from Pipiriki, which is where most cyclists start the road when doing the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail. However, if you are starting from the Punahou/Whanganui end of the road, just read the list from the bottom to the top. Be aware that the Whanganui River Road is winding and sometimes narrow, so take care. The entire road takes about 1h30minutes to drive without stopping.
The northern end of the Whanganui River Road begins in Pipiriki. Pipiriki is where you will start your River Road journey if continuing on the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail. The small settlement also provides access to the upper Whanganui River and Whanganui National Park with a couple of jet boat and canoe tours operating from there.
Location: Northern end of the Whanganui River Road.
2. Hiruharama (Jerusalem)
Just before heading into Jerusalem from the Pipiriki side, don’t miss the viewpoint about 12.4km (7.7 miles) from Pipiriki. You’ll get a great photo opportunity of the village reflecting in the Whanganui River. Once in Jerusalem, check out the century-old church and convent built in the 1890s. Plus, there’s a stunningly-carved wharenui and marae (Maori meeting house and ground). Access is with permission only. Otherwise, the meeting house makes a pleasant photo opportunity from the outside.
Location: 11.7km (7.8 miles) from Pipiriki.
3. Ranana (London)
One of the larger settlements along the Whanganui River Road, Ranana has a few photogenic and historic buildings such as the century-old church and a beautiful marae.
Location: 17.3km (10.7 miles) from Pipiriki.
4. Kawana Flour Mill
Built in 1854 and beautifully restored, the Kawana Flour Mill features its original waterwheel and grinding stones. It was originally used by Governor Grey to grind wheat grown by local Maori farmers and was one of many built along the river. The Kawana Flour Mill is now a museum. Plus, don’t miss the restored colonial cottage right next door!
Location: 21.2km (13.2 miles) from Pipiriki.
5. Koriniti (Corinth)
The Koriniti Marae is one of the best examples of marae along the Whanganui River. It features two traditional wharenui (carved house), one of which was moved here from a site upriver, and a small museum.
Location: 30.4km (18.9 miles) from Pipiriki.
6. Atene Skyline Walk
There are two walks to excellent views of the Whanganui River Valley and beyond! The Atene Skyline Walk (6-8 hours return) takes you 523m (1716ft) above sea level with an amazing view of an unusual geographic feature called “The Meander” where the river formed an almost complete circle in the valley before it cut through to form its current course. Alternatively, the Atene Viewpoint Walk (1-2 hours return) also provides worthwhile views of the surrounding hills and valleys. Check out more walks in the area with our 10 Must-Do Walks in Whanganui.
Location: 40.3km (25 miles) from Pipiriki.
7. Atene (Athens)
This quaint little settlement was named by a missionary, Reverend Richard Taylor. A highlight of the town is the small meeting house built in 1886.
Location: 41.4km (25.7 miles) from Pipiriki.
8. Oyster Cliffs
The whole Whanganui Region used to be the seabed and this is especially evident by the variety of seashells found in the Oyster Cliffs!
Location: 48.4km (30 miles) from Pipiriki.
9. Aramoana Summit
This seating area just off the road provides excellent views of the Whanganui River Valley, Pungarehu and Mt Ruapehu on a clear day. It’s about 230m (755ft) above sea level.
Location: 58.2km (36.1 miles) from Pipiriki.