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Wanganui, New Zealand

The Whanganui River is the Wanganui's reason for being. Deep, beautiful and mysterious, it holds many secrets for you to discover.

The Wanganui region is known for maori culture, heritage, Whanganui National Park and river adventures.


The Wanganui region is on the lower west coast of the North Island, south of Taranaki and the Taupo/Ruapehu regions, based around the Whanganui River.

Wanganui region, New Zealand

General Facts

As of June 2005, Wanganui's estimated population was 43,300.

The Wanganui region takes its name from the city of Wanganui, which rests on the banks of the spectacular Whanganui River.

Except for the rolling coastal lowlands around Wanganui, the hinterland is very rugged and there are only two winding roads following river valleys up to the volcanic plateau.

A large part of the hill country is included in the Whanganui National Park, through which flows the historic Whanganui River, New Zealand's longest navigable waterway.

The river was an important means of access for pre-European Maori, European settlers, and for intrepid tourists heading for the central North Island.

In the early 1900's, visitors called the Whanganui River the 'Rhine of New Zealand'. It is the longest navigable river in New Zealand, with 239 rapids and stunning bush scenery.

Main Attractions and Activities

There are many ways to explore the Whanganui River: jet boat, kayak, canoe, raft, paddle steamer, or on the end of a fly-fishing rod.

Visitors can travel up the Whanganui River by jetboat or riverboat into the heart of the Whanganui National Park, or canoe downstream over gentle rapids.

Wanganui, New Zealand

You can also follow the trail to the mysterious 'Bridge to Nowhere', built across the Mangapurua Gorge to give access to an isolated settlement that was finally abandoned in 1942. Now only the 'Bridge to Nowhere' remains.

To the east of Wanganui lie the city of Palmerston North, the towns of Feilding, Ashhurst and many rural villages. You'll also find the southern hemisphere's largest wind farm.

As well as excellent brown trout fly-fishing in the Rangatikei River, there's the chance to see rare and migrating birds at the Manawatu river estuary.

Adrenaline enthusiasts can jet boat through the region's most identifiable natural icon, the formidable Manawatu Gorge. You can also throw yourself out of aeroplanes and off bridges, ascend walls and rocks, or descend into caves, saddle up for an overnight horse trek or tackle the terrain in a 4WD (four-wheel drive).

Or visit a historic tribal village, where Maori welcome visitors who want to experience their unique lifestyle and cultural traditions.

Wanganui's Old Town Heritage Walk showcases a typical colonial New Zealand town.

Don't Miss

  • Wanganui Museum and Art Gallery
  • Wanganui Heritage Walk
  • Whanganui River trip
  • Whanganui Riverboat Museum - restored old paddle steamer, Waimarie
  • Durie Hill - take the tunnel and elevator to the top for commanding views of Wanganui and surrounding countryside
  • Hiking trips in the Whanganui National Park, including a trip to "The Bridge to Nowhere"

Main Centre

  • Taihape - gumboot capital of New Zealand
  • Wanganui - main centre for the Wanganui district
  • Palmerston North - a university city
  • Levin - main centre for the Horowhenua District