Wanganui  (also spelt Whanganui) is a city on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. It lies at the mouth of the Whanganui River, which flows from Mount Tongariro via the stunning Whanganui National Park. The district has a population of approx. 44,000.
The name Wanganui comes from the Maori words whanga, for a bay or harbour, and nui meaning big or large. However, when the early colonists heard the placename said in the local maori accent with a softly spoken wh that sounded more like a wo sound, rather than the classical maori fh sound, they mis-spelt the placename as Wanganui rather than Whanganui. Despite much heated debate over the years, spelling this place name with or without an h is unlikely to be resolved.
Founded in 1840 and originally named Petre, until 1852; Wanganui is one of the oldest European settlements in New Zealand.
Wanganui is between Palmerston North and New Plymouth, at the junction of State Highway 4 (SH4) with State Highway 3 (SH3). It is a two and a half hour drive from Wellington, using State Highways 1 amd 3 (SH1 and SH3) and a six hour drive from Auckland, via Hamilton, using State Highways 1 and 4 (SH1 and SH4).
There are daily coach services from Wellington, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Auckland.
- InterCity, Bus Stop outside travel centre, 156 Ridgeway Street..
Wanganui Airport handles domestic flights from Auckland and Wellington.
The nearest railway station with a passenger service is at Marton (40 km away).
A mixture of walking and taking buses is generally the most cost-effective way to get around Wanganui. Buses generally depart every hour from Maria Place Extension.
There are also 2 taxi companies.
- River City Taxis, ☎ +64 6 345 3333 (toll free: 0800 345 3333).
- Wanganui Taxis, ☎ +64 6 343 5555 (toll free: 0800 343 5555).
- Wanganui in Bloom. from December to March there are hundreds of hanging flower baskets lining the streets of central Wanganui.
- Whanganui Regional Museum. , an extensive collection of natural and human artifacts with a strong regional emphasis.
- Sarjeant Gallery, . well known for its large collection of British, European and NZ art.
- Bason Botanic Gardens, . has both indoor and outdoor gardens with some bush walks.
- Whanganui Riverboat Centre Museum, . Contains fascinating displays of river-related artefacts and photographs of the riverboat era.
- Various art exhibitions. are held around Wanganui's city centre at almost all times. Much of it is student work from UCOL, and the best exhibitions usually take place in the acclaimed Wanganui School of Design, which has a very nice tight-knit staff that can hold very interesting conversations. However, don't ask Tanya Roberson about dogs or memes, you'll be there for hours.
- Wanganui Collegiate School. is a private school that was founded in 1854, which has a beautiful campus with some attractive old brick buildings. You cannot drive through the grounds during school hours as the school's main thoroughfare - the only one wide enough for cars - is used heavily throughout the day.
- The Whanganui River. is around 300 km long. It is the longest navigable river and the second longest river in the North Island. There are a number of operators who offer canoeing, rafting and jetboat trips. The Mangapurua stream (tributary to the Whanganui) is bridged by the famous Bridge to Nowhere. This was built to provide access to settlers establishing farms in the Mangapurua Valley. The settlements no longer exist but the bridge remains as an eloquent reminder. It can be reached from the Mangapurua Landing on the Whanganui which is a 1.5 hour walk round trip. The landing can be reached by drive to Pipiriki then a jet boat ride.
- Durie Hill Elevator. across from the City Bridge. Accessed by the Durie Hill pedestrian tunnel, it is the only underground elevator in New Zealand and one of only two in the world. It has two viewpoints.
- Waimarie, . take a two-hour cruise up the river on NZ's only coal-fired historic paddle steamer.
- Heritage Walks. discover the history of one of NZ's oldest European settlements.
- Trafalgar Square. shopping centre on Taupo Quay was opened in 1989 with New Zealand's largest K-Mart store. K-Mart has since been replaced by The Warehouse, which shares the complex with a range of other shops including Wendy's. The shake 'n dogs are not what they used to be.
- Phaedra. is a small but well-stocked gothic apparel store near the Red Eye Cafe. The staff are friendly and the store smells pleasingly of incense.
- Stardust Creations. is a rather artsy-fartsy new age store with a confused demographic, but it sells some very beautiful unique hand-made necklaces between $5 and $50 that, while bereft of mineral value, are generally much prettier and more interesting than diamonds. Perfect for a bohemian friend.
- Red Eye Cafe, Guyton Street. is right up there with the best cafes in Wellington and Auckland.
- Ceramic. a jazz bar/restaurant on the main street, has nice food and personable staff.
- Bollywood Star. is the best Indian restaurant in the Manawatu-Whanganui region. Their butter chicken and chicken pakoras are not to be missed, nor is their delicious mango lassi. A plasma TV plays somewhat enjoyable Bollywood films non-stop and the waiting staff are very personable.
- Kebabholik. is a rather good Turkish fast food joint next to the main street Subway.
- Jabee Kebabs. is just across the road from the subway and has really good kebabs as well.
- Thistles. is a small but well-stocked sweet shop with extensive range, and features homemade sweets as well as bulk candy.
- Red Lion Cafe and Bar/Pub, (along the waterfront.). A nice atmosphere with pool tables and big screen TV's to watch the rugby.
- Stella, (is at the bottom of the town on the main street). does good food early evening and then a spot for the young ones later on after 11pm Fri/Sat
- 151 on London (Motel 151 on London), 151 London Street, Wanganui (At the north end of town on State Highway 3), ☎ 64 6 345 8668 ([email protected]), . 26 Suites including Studios and 4 Family Apartments.
- Anndion Lodge (Anndion Lodge, Apartments and Conference Centre), 143 ANZAC Parade, Wanganui East (On SH 4, 5 minutes drive from CBD.), ☎ +64 6 343 3593 ([email protected]), . A Bed and Breakfast style Travelers Lodge on the banks of the Whanaganui River. Category Winner, 2008 Wanganui Business Awards. From $65.
- Aotea Motor Lodge, ☎ +64 6 345 0303, . $140-$160.
- B-K’s Magnolia Motor Lodge, ☎ +64 6 348 0020, .
- Burwood Manor Motel, ☎ +64 6 345 2180, .
- Kings Court Motel, 60 Plymouth Street, PO Box 4029, Wanganui (within 200 metres of the city centre), ☎ +64 6 345 8586 (toll free: Reservations 0800 221-222, fax: +64 6 345 0222), . checkin: 1 PM; checkout: 10 AM. 12 ground floor accessible units (8 x studio, 4 x 1-bedroom) units), all with kitchen facilities, Wireless or Dial-up Internet. Qualmark rated 3 Star Plus. A member of Host Accommodation Group. Motel is pet free and units are smoke free.
- Kingsgate Hotel The Avenue (The Avenue Hotel), 379 Victoria Avenue, PO Box 7000, Wanganui, ☎ +64-6-349 0044 ([email protected], fax: +64-6-345 3250), .
- Quality Inn Collegiate Hotel, ☎ +64 6 345 6204, .
- Riverwoods luxury bed and breakfast (Riverwoods luxury bed and breakfast), 234-237 Kaiwhaiki Rd Wanganui (Head north out of Wanganui along State Highway Four, towards Upokongaro Village. Kaiwhaiki Road is the first left after Upokongaro Village, approx 10 minutes (11km), from the city limits. Riverwoods is approx 2.3km from the turn-off. The Whanganui River will be on your left-hand side), ☎ 06 342 5501, . checkin: from 9AM; checkout: midday. Riverwoods is a luxurious self contained villa located a short drive from historic Wanganui. Nestled on the banks of the Whanganui River, Riverwoods has seclusion and peace, or excitement and action. 1 guest $140pn to five guests $370pn.
- Siena Motor Lodge, ☎ +64 6 345 9009, .
- Tamara Lodge (Tamara Backpackers Lodge), 24 Somme Parade, Wanganui, ☎ +64 6 347 6300 ([email protected]), . An Edwardian villa on the banks of the Whanaganui River. $45 Single Room. From $25 shared rooms.
- Whanganui River Top 10 Holiday Park, ☎ +64 6 343 8402, .
I-Site Wanganui Visitor Centre