Plan a Family Trip to Whanganui
On the banks of the historic Whanganui River, Whanganui city is a place for families to bond over breathtaking beaches, horse riding experiences, wildlife sanctuaries and one of New Zealand’s best playgrounds. Stay in one of the family-friendly motels or holiday parks, some that are an attraction in themself, and delve into some of the outdoor and educational activities that the North Island city has to offer. It might be a little off the beaten track, but you’ll probably agree that the authentic Kiwi and Maori vibe of the town is worth the detour.
Plan your activities, free things to do, family accommodation and more with this travel guide to Whanganui for families.
Things to Do in Whanganui with Kids
- Feed the ducks at Virginia Lake
- Let the kids loose at Kowhai Park
- See native birds at Bushy Park Wildlife Sanctuary
- Go through the tunnel, up the elevator then up the spiral staircase of the Durie Hill Tower
- Play, swim and build sandcastles at Kai Iwi Beach
- Take the kids horse trekking with Actifun Horse Riding
- Check out the Whanganui Regional Museum
- Watch glassblowing at New Zealand Glassworks
- Do go-karting or play mini golf at the Riverland Family Park
- Play outdoor laser tag at Lazer Overload.
For information and locations of each activity, check out the 10 Things to Do in Whanganui with Kids.
Family Adventure Activities
There are plenty of family adventures to be had – this is New Zealand, after all! From meeting New Zealand’s native wildlife to getting the farm experience on horseback, Whanganui offers many exciting adventures for families.
A must-do 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 walking 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 the list goes on! Also a highlight is Ratanui, believed to be the largest rata tree at 43m (141ft) high and 11m (36ft) round.
Another way to experience the world’s wonderful creatures, as well as the Whanganui landscape, is on a horse trek with Actifun Horse Riding. They offer beginner-friendly treks either through their country lane with wonderful rural views or on the beach at South Beach or Castlecliff with half and full-day options. They specialise in working with children, helping them build confidence for horse riding and in life.
For a cheap thing to do, check out an iconic landmark in Whanganui, the Durie Hill Tower & 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. Once you reach the memorial tower, climb 176 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.
For more outdoor adventures, like a paddleboat cruise and outside laser tag, check out the 10 Things to Do in Whanganui with Kids.
All-weather Family Activities
It’s true, sometimes the weather tries to put a damper on your holiday, but it will not win in Whanganui thanks to the indoor attractions! Of course, Whanganui boasts its own regional museum at the Whanganui Regional Museum which 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.
Another fantastic indoor attraction is New Zealand Glassworks, where visitors are encouraged to get involved in the glassmaking workshops. 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. Families with teens aged 15 and over can also get stuck into glassblowing themselves with their Make a Paperweight Workshop.
For more ideas, check out the 10 Things to Do in Whanganui on a Rainy Day.
Free Activities for Families
Ideal for families on a budget, Whanganui has many fun free attractions that the kids love, especially Kowhai Park. Located alongside the Whanganui River, Kowhai Park is often referred to as the best playground in New Zealand so is a must-do for the kids! The creative park 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, hit nest to Humpty Dumpty on his brick wall, run through the waterplay fountains and much more!
And what would a 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 barbecue, let the kids loose at the playground or simply enjoy building sandcastles.
For more fun free activities for kids, including Virginia Lake and the Bason Botanic Gardens, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whanganui.
More About Whanganui
- 10 Must-Do Walks in Whanganui
- 10 Unforgettable Things to Do in the Whanganui National Park
- 10 Whanganui Must-Dos
That’s it from the travel guide to Whanganui for families. Discover even more family trip tips in The Travel Guide to New Zealand for Families.