How to Visit Whanganui on a Budget
A classic Kiwi town that too few tourists get to see, Whanganui offers a pleasant short stay on the west coast of the North Island. Based along the famous and historic Whanganui River, New Zealand’s longest navigatable river, Whanganui is rich in culture and history, best learned about in the free regional museum or in the villages along the Whanganui River Road. The city is also pleasant to explore on foot or by bike, especially with highlights like Virginia Lake and capturing the views from the Durie Hill Tower. What’s more, your stay will hardly cost you a thing, with hostels, motels and holiday parks to stay in.
Plan your activities, where to eat and where to stay in this travel guide to Whanganui on a budget.
Budget Tips for Whanganui
- Whanganui enjoys consistent accommodation and activity prices all year round so don’t worry about coming at the “right season”
- While there are lots to see in the city centre, it’s generally easier to have a car to get to some of the outer city attractions. Bike hire is also an affordable option if you’re feeling active. Some accommodations, like Astral Motel and Tamara Riverside Lodge hire them to guests for free
- The cheapest accommodations are hostels and holiday parks – give them a try, they’re actually pretty good!
- If you’re travelling in a self-contained campervan, there’s a freedom camping area along Anzac Parade
- Fill up your itinerary with the free and cheap things to do in Whanganui.
For more general money-saving advice, see the 11 Ways to Save Money When Backpacking in New Zealand.
Free Activities in Whanganui
Some of Whanganui’s main attractions are, indeed, free to visit. First up, put Virginia Lake on the itinerary! Also known as Rotokawau, Virginia Lake is Whanganui’s premier park with a gorgeous lake and walkway going around it. See a wealth of birds, from the blue pukeko to white swans, and check out the birds in the aviary and relax at the on-site cafe.
For a little education in your visit to Whanganui, don’t miss the Whanganui Regional Museum. The free-entry museum in the town centre features amazing Maori taonga (treasure) from historic tribes living along the Whanganui River. You can also check out the bones of the giant extinct bird called a moa and see a mock-up of an early settlers’ town.
When you’re done exploring the town centre, venture to one of Whanganui’s picturesque beaches. A popular choice is Kai Iwi Beach with its stretch of black sand and rugged coastal cliffs. At low tide, you can even walk all the way to the neighbouring Castlecliff Beach.
For more free activities, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whanganui.
Cheap Activities in Whanganui
The remainder of Whanganui’s top attractions will hardly dent your budget, especially the Durie Hill Tower and Elevator which costs a measly NZ$2! That’s just to ride the historic elevator up to Durie Hill once you’ve walked through the 213m (700ft) bright white tunnel. Otherwise, walking up a strenuous serious of steps, then another 175 steps on a spiral staircase up the Durie Hill Tower itself, is free! At the top of the tower, you’ll get views of the Whanganui River, Tasman Sea, Whanganui city and all the way to the snowcapped peak of Mt Ruapehu.
Another way to experience the town on the cheap is by making use of the cycleways. Bike hire is typically NZ$10 an hour from places like the Riverland Family Park and Velo Ronny’s Bicycle Store. Once geared up, cycle along what’s called Round the Bridges which are a series of easy-going boardwalks alongside the river, crossing Whanganui’s many city bridges. Check out this trail and more in the 6 Must-Do Bike Trails in Whanganui.
Finally, while free to do, you’re going to need to pay a little for fuel to enjoy a road trip on the Whanganui River Road. Follow the road alongside the Whanganui River upstream where you’ll come across historic villages with maraes (Maori meeting houses), stunning lookouts, short walks, fossils and much more. Check out the 9 Must-Do Stops on the Whanganui River Road to plan your trip.
And don’t forget, for more ideas, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Whanganui.
Cheap Eats in Whanganui
While the best way to save money on food is to cook for yourself, those wanting to experience the local cuisine can do with these Whanganui cheap eats.
For a caffeine buzz and to experience New Zealand’s coffee culture, check out Jolt (19 Victoria Avenue) and 141 Bakery & Coffee Shop (141 Victoria Avenue). The latter also does roast dinners from NZ$10.
New Zealand’s classic Kiwi fish and chips can be experienced at the likes of Georges Fisheries (40 Victoria Avenue) and Victoria Fish Shop (264C Victoria Avenue).
And for affordable and international flavours, you’ll find tasty Thai food at Thai House Express 2 (149 Victoria Avenue), fresh Mexican dishes at Gracias (49 Taupo Quay), and hearty Turkish kebabs at Kebabholik (155 Victoria Avenue).
More About Whanganui
- 6 Must-Do Bike Trails in Whanganui
- 10 Unforgettable Things to Do in the Whanganui National Park
- 10 Must-Do Walks in Whanganui
That’s it from the travel guide to Whanganui on a budget. Check out even more money-saving tips in The Travel Guide to New Zealand on a Budget.