city in New Zealand's North Island

Whanganui or Wanganui 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 about 44,000.


The name Whanganui 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 spelled the placename as Wanganui rather than Whanganui. Now, either spelling is officially acceptable, and the trend is towards using Whanganui.

Additionally, the Whanganui River is also legally a person, which interests tourists when visiting.


Founded in 1840 and named Petre until 1852, Whanganui is one of the oldest European settlements in New Zealand.


Tourist and visitor information is available from:

Get inEdit

By carEdit

Whanganui 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 and 3 (SH1 and SH3) and a six hour drive from Auckland, via Hamilton, using State Highways 1 and 4 (SH1 and SH4).

By busEdit

There are daily coach services from Wellington, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Auckland.

  • InterCity, Bus stop outside travel centre, 156 Ridgeway St.

By planeEdit

Whanganui Airport has several Auckland flights in or out daily by Air Chathams using Saab 340A and Metroliner III. Air New Zealand flights have ceased.

By trainEdit

The nearest railway station with a passenger service is at Marton (40 km away).

Get aroundEdit

A mixture of walking and taking buses is generally the most cost-effective way to get around Whanganui. Buses generally depart every hour from Maria Place Extension. There is also a taxi company.


  • Wanganui in Bloom. From December to March, hundreds of hanging flower baskets line the streets of central Whanganui.
  • 1 Whanganui Regional Museum, 62 Ridgway St (temporary location). M–Sa 10:00am-4:30pm. An extensive collection of natural and human artifacts with a strong regional emphasis. The Museum on Queens Park is closed for seismic strengthening and improvements until 2018. Free.
  • 2 Sarjeant Gallery, 38 Taupo Quay. Daily 10:00am-4:30pm. Well known for its large collection of British, European and NZ art. Free.
  • 3 Bason Botanic Gardens, 552 Rapanui Rd. Daily 8.00am - dusk. Has both indoor and outdoor gardens with some bush walks.
  • Waimarie Museum. check online due to flood damage in 2015. Contains fascinating displays of river-related artefacts and photographs of the riverboat era. Also offers river cruises in a paddle steamer on Friday evenings and weekends at 11am. free (charges for cruises).
  • Various art exhibitions. Held around Whanganui'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 Whanganui 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. 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. 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. Additionally, the river is also legally a person.


  • Durie Hill Elevator. across from the City Bridge. Accessed by the Durie Hill pedestrian tunnel, it is the only underground elevator in New Zealand. 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.
  • Phaedra. 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. 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 Lion Cafe and Bar/Pub (along the waterfront.). A nice atmosphere with pool tables and big screen TV's to watch the rugby.
  • Stellar (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


Go nextEdit

This city travel guide to Whanganui is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.