Top things to do in Whanganui


Whanganui is a great little town! There are so many activities and places to see we couldn’t just pick ten, so here is our top 13 things to see and do! Most are free or low cost.

Prices are guides only:

  • $0 = Free
  • $ = under $10pp
  • $$ = $10 – $20pp
  • $$$ = $20+pp

Kowhai Park $0

This hugely popular play park has something for all ages. Younger ones can climb on everything from a mountain to an octopus and run under sprinklers in the summer. For those a little older there is a pirate ship with a zip line and a skate bowl. In peak season a miniature train runs and there are BBQ areas for the family to enjoy. It is located along the east river bank and has free parking on site.

Stained Glass Windows $0

“The Whanganui Story'” project began in 2006 and tells the history of Whanganui. It is a series of stained glass windows which circle the council chamber and depicts important events and people in the district’s history. It includes Johnny Devlin, Kupe, Mother Mary Joseph Aubert, Kowhai Park, the Durie Hill Tower, Watt Fountain and the Whanganui River. Designed by painter Julie Greig and created by glass artist Greg Hall, these windows are stunning to look at and a complimentary brochure tells the history of each one. You are able to view these any time the council chamber is not in use, just call into the council offices and ask.

War Memorial Tower and Historic Elevator $0 tower/$ elevator
Located on Durie Hill, the War Memorial Tower stands adjacent to the smaller Durie Hill Elevator Tower, and for those willing to climb the spiral of another 176 steps, the 360 degree views from the top are spectacular. You can look out to sea, across the township and on a clear day, as far as Mt Ruapehu and Mt Taranaki. The tower can be accessed by car from Durie Hill or by parking at the bottom and walking through the 213mt long tunnel to the historic elevator up through the hillside. Built in 1919, it is New Zealand’s only public underground Elevator and is still used on a daily basis by locals and visitors.

The Waimarie Paddle Steamer (and Riverboat Centre) $$$

Take a leisurely cruise on this historic coal -fired paddle steamer. Built at the turn of the century this boat has been rescued and restored by local volunteers and now runs regular cruises. This is a great way to see the lower reaches of the river in a relaxed setting. The base at the Riverboat Centre provides additional history and artefacts for those interested. tel: 0800 783 2637

River Traders Market (and Mud Ducks Café) $0 market

The River Traders Market runs along side the river on a Saturday morning. There are a plethora of stalls selling local produce, books, crafts and coffee. The historic tram often runs and the boardwalk along the river is great for a stroll. Mud Ducks Café which is located alongside the market and local I-Site is a favourite with locals for brunch.


Whanganui Regional Museum $

Whanganui Museum is a great way to spend a couple of hours and has collections dating from 1890. A must see is the Taonga Māori Collection which is reputed to be one of the best collections of Maori artefacts in NZ!

Bason Botanic Gardens $0

Situated about 11kms north of Whanganui, Bason Botanic Gardens is well worth a visit. You can park and wander through areas of both native and exotic panting, following one of the network of paths. There are also glasshouses to enjoy with orchids and other tropical species. An ideal place for a picnic, there are BBQs for public use and plenty of space for children to run around. A favourite with locals and often used as a wedding venue, this is rated a ‘Garden of Significance’ by the New Zealand Gardens Trust.


Virginia Lake $0

Virginia Lake also known as Rotokawau is situated on Great North Rd and includes a level walking track around the lake (about 30 mins) where there is a variety of bird life and plants to admire. There is also a bird aviary, a children’s playground and the Winter Gardens, which are located in a large glasshouse and sheltered courtyard. This is an ideal family walk and great place for a picnic or feeding the ducks.


Putiki Church $

St Pauls Memorial Church in the suburb of Putiki (in Whanganui) is situated close to the river and is one of the most intricately and beautifully decorated Churches in NZ. It is filled with a fascinating collection of intricate Māori carvings and tukutuku (wall panels). Take a guided tour to learn the history of the people and the land in this area. Contact the I-Site to book.

Visit the local beaches $0

Our west coaches beaches are often characterised as wild, interesting and full of drift wood! If you’ve never seen a black sand beach, now is your chance.

With Kai Iwi, Castlecliff or South Beach to choose from there is something to suit everyone within a short drive of Whanganui township.

*Kai Iwi beach is popular with families and has a large adventure playground alongside the beach. The are usually lifeguards on duty in the summer months. A couple of rivers come out onto the beach here and one is often full of children enjoying the water. Toilets available and often food carts will be there in the summer.

*Castlecliff beach also has a large playground and skate park behind the sand dunes and lifeguards in the summer. This is great for long walks at low tide and the ‘North Mole’ is popular with local fishermen. Toilets and local shops available.

*South Beach is truly wild. Located behind the airport there are no services here but it is a great place to walk for miles and beach comb for interesting shaped drift wood and other objects. Again it is a popular location for surf casting.

The Splash Centre $

Our local indoor swimming pool complex has two pools, a learners pool, a lazy river, two hydro slides and a hot pool for the enjoyment of the whole family. There is also a steam room, sauna and hydrotherapy pool for those who like it hot!  The recent addition of an outdoor skate and bike part next door means you could easily spend all day here.

Arts $0 – $

Whanganui has a vibrant arts community and there are too many artist studios to list. Some of the highlights in the town are:

*The Serjeant Gallery, our major exhibition space with both permanent and visiting displays.

*The Glassworks, an interactive space where you can watch glass artists work or join in with a class to have a go yourself.

*The Whanganui Arts Centre, a smaller space used for visiting exhibitions, often by local artists or collectives.

*The Quartz Museum of Ceramics, an exhibition collection of studio ceramics.

E-Bikes $$$

Electric bikes take the strain out of peddling and they are a great way to see the city. EBikes Whanganui hire e-bikes from 1 hour up to a day at reasonable prices.

For more info or call 06 3488008

More info on current events in Whanganui