A Travel Guide to Whanganui City
Art, history and culture combine in the city of Whanganui. Located between rugged west coast beaches and where the Whanganui River ends its journey, Whanganui offers many natural playgrounds to enjoy. In fact, the river is so rich in historical and cultural significance that it has been established as a legal entity.
The small city was once one of New Zealand’s largest and still holds historical charm in its grandiose hotels, homesteads and buildings now containing renowned art galleries and museums.
So whether you’re after nature, taking the river highway into the Whanganui National Park, or want to delve into the arts, there’s something to suit all types of travellers in Whanganui. Plan your trip to the riverside city, whether you’re a couple or a family, on a budget or looking for luxury, with this complete travel guide to Whanganui city.
Fast Facts About Whanganui
Location: On the west coast of the North Island, between Palmerston North and New Plymouth, in the Manawatu-Whanganui region.
Climate: Daily average temperature – 13.7°C/56.7°F, yearly average rainfall – 861mm/33.9″
Find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
Time zone: NZST / GMT+12/+13
How to get to Whanganui: Whanganui is well connected to the rest of New Zealand by road, located where State Highway 3 and 4 connect. The closest international airport is Wellington Airport (3 hours drive) with plenty of car rental options available. Whanganui is also on the main national bus route, which you can find more information about in Bus Networks in New Zealand.
Whanganui for Budget Travellers
The gateway to the North Island less-visited west coast, Whanganui is definitely a destination for the curious and adventurous. The city itself is very affordable to visit thanks to top museums and art galleries being free, highlights being natural attractions like the Whanganui River and the glorious public parks. Staying here won’t set you back too far either, where you have a range of hostels, holiday parks, motels and even a budget hotel to choose from. Plan your affordable visit in The Guide to Whanganui on a Budget.
Budget Activities in Whanganui
- Check out the views from the Durie Hill Tower
- Wander around Virginia Lake
- Visit the Whanganui Regional Museum
- Hire a bike and cycle alongside the Whanganui River
- Do a road trip on the Whanganui River Road.
For more ideas and information on each one, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whanganui.
Budget Accommodation in Whanganui
Whanganui has an excellent selection of homely backpacker hostels, holiday parks, a budget hotel, motels and a freedom camping area. Check out some of our recommendations in the 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Whanganui.
Whanganui for Luxury Travellers
Let’s get one thing straight. Whanganui is not a destination where you’ll find five-star accommodation nor service. It is an authentic and laidback Kiwi town where travellers can find luxury in the arts, history and people of this city and its significant river. In fact, the premium activities here are getting out on the river, whether it’s on a historic riverboat or on a guided canoe journey which is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. In between your adventures, retreat to your endearing B&B accommodation or perhaps a historical homestead among a native bird sanctuary. Discover it all in The Luxury Guide to Whanganui.
Luxury Activities in Whanganui
- Enjoy a premium Maori canoe journey on the Whanganui River
- Browse historic and contemporary art at the Sarjeant Gallery
- Sail on a historic paddle steamer on the Whanganui River
- Do a guided sightseeing tour along the Whanganui River Road
- Make your own glass paperweight at New Zealand Glassworks.
For elaboration on each activity and then some, see the 8 Luxury Activities in Whanganui.
Luxury Accommodation in Whanganui
Whanganui might not have a huge selection of luxury accommodations – and by luxury in this sense, we mean four-star accommodation, but there’s certainly variety with a historical homestead in a wildlife sanctuary, a luxury B&B, an international hotel and a couple of others. Check them out in the 5 Best Luxury Accommodation in Whanganui.
Whanganui for Families
A good balance of fun and education can be experienced in Whanganui thanks to its array of museums, its wildlife sanctuary and its parks, playgrounds and beaches. Earn some brownie points by taking the little ones to the renowned Kowhai Park alongside the Whanganui River with its nursery rhyme-themed playground or try something new and build their confidence with a horse trek. The fun doesn’t have to end when you get back to your accommodation, as holiday parks and some motels offering recreational facilities like playgrounds, swimming pools and more. Plan your family getaway with The Guide to Whanganui for Families.
Family Activities in Whanganui
- Let the kids loose at Kowhai Park
- See native birds at Bushy Park Wildlife Sanctuary
- Play, swim and build sandcastles at Kai Iwi Beach
- Take the kids horse trekking with Actifun Horse Riding
- Do go-karting or play mini golf at the Riverland Family Park.
For information and locations of each activity and more, check out the 10 Things to Do in Whanganui with Kids.
Family Accommodation in Whanganui
With an array of self-contained motel units to suit a range of tastes and budget, families will find a convenient stay in Whanganui with access to self-catering facilities and enough space for the whole family. Whanganui’s holiday parks are popular too, one alongside the Whanganui River and one at Castlecliff Beach. Check them out in the 10 Best Family Accommodation in Whanganui.
Whanganui for Couples
Escape the main tourist trail and enjoy the tranquillity and authenticity of Whanganui. It’s a place where you can strengthen your bond by paddling together on the Whanganui River or see endearing sights like the Bason Botanic Gardens or the beautifully carved Pukiti Church. After it all, relax in your boutique B&B, lodge, hotel or motel accommodation and go out for dinner to discover Whanganui’s eclectic mix of local and international eateries. Start planning your romantic getaway or honeymoon in The Honeymoon Guide to Whanganui.
Romantic Activities in Whanganui
- Smell the flowers at Bason Botanic Gardens
- Do a romantic cruise down the Whanganui River
- Or tackle the Whanganui Journey together
- Admire the amazing carvings of Pukiti Church
- Watch the stars at the Ward Observatory.
For more information on each experience and others, check out the 10 Romantic Activities in Whanganui for Couples.
Romantic Accommodation in Whanganui
From boutique B&B to beautifully restored historic holiday homes to affordable rooms in hotels and motels, couples will find a huge range of options for accommodation to meet the requirements of their honeymoon or romantic getaway. Check them out in the 10 Best Romantic Accommodation in Whanganui.
Whanganui for Foodies
This is the part of our complete travel guide where we usually have a whole bunch of food tours and experiences to share with you. While there are some foodie activities in Whanganui, they are quite limited, making a good addition to tag onto your itinerary if you happen to be passing through.
An obvious foodie go-to is the River Traders and Whanganui Farmers Market, which happens every Saturday morning, rain or shine! Taking place on the grounds of a historic trading site for the local Maori, the market keeps up the tradition along the Whanganui River. There’s often up to 100 stalls selling not only crafts but local food items from fresh produce to artisan baked goods.
Another foodie experience to have in Whanganui is picking blueberries at Windermere Berry Farms. Pick your own berries, pick up local berry products from the store, and enjoy brunch or lunch in the cafe overlooking the strawberry patch.
When it comes to eateries, Whanganui’s creativity and talent shine through its cafes, while the international-cuisine restaurants are true hidden gems. Check out the cheap eats in The Guide to Whanganui on a Budget, more upscale dining in The Luxury Guide to Whanganui and some romantic options in The Honeymoon Guide to Whanganui.