Wanganui also spelt Whanganui, is a small riverside town located in the lower Western coast of New Zealand’s North Island. This is an ideal place to visit if you are after a quiet way to experience New Zealand. It is also a fantastic starting point for travelling to Whanganui National Park during the winter season to enjoy skiing, snowboarding and more! There are plenty of tourist activities to keep you busy, otherwise just enjoy the scenery!
Enjoy a full day at one of the black sand beaches
There are three main black sand beaches to visit around Wanganui. The first is South Beach and is located a ten-minute drive from town. It is right next to the airport and is also a location for motorsports and local army drill training.
You can see some historic army lookout structures built into the side of the hills. There is also Castlecliff beach, which is a popular spot for fishing as it is where the river meets the Pacific Ocean. The most popular of the three beaches is located in Kai Iwi Village and is also known as Mowhanau. There is an excellent children’s playground, BBQ areas and a toilet block, so it is quite easy to enjoy a full day here.
Relax by Virginia Lake
A popular attraction is Virginia Lake, where you can take a stroll around and feed ducks and other water birds. There is also a fountain in the centre, which can be activated by putting a 50 cent coin into a machine. At night, it is fully lit up and is an amazing display to watch either from your car or a park bench.
Also located in Virginia lake grounds are the Winter gardens, which are open year round for the public to view for free or by donation. Here, you can see beautiful flowers and displays created by the gardeners. There is also a bird aviary where you can see an assortment of birds including doves and parrots. A bright orange café is also located within the grounds and you can grab a delicious ice cream to enjoy while strolling around the park.
Make sure you look out for the bronzed sculptures around the park too! Some are based on fairy tales and others on Maori legends made by a local artist. During weekends and school holidays, there is a miniature tram running around the park and only costs around 1.50 USD.
Admire small town Wanganui from Durie Hill
Another attraction is the historic Durie Hill Elevator. You can walk over the main bridge from Victoria Avenue to the bottom of the hill and catch the elevator to the top. It is only open during certain hours at each time of the year and there is a small cost. Once at the top, you can head up the Durie Hill water tower, which is a spiralling ascent up flights of stairs to give you an all-encompassing view of Wanganui from the coastline to the west then to the Mountains in National park in the East.
Grabbing a bite to eat
Wanganui has plenty of delicious restaurants and popular cafes - ranging from local to international cuisines. Mud ducks is a great café located down on the river next to the information centre. They offer a delicious range of dishes and make excellent coffee. If you are after a local experience, then head to a pub and restaurant called, “The Rutland Arms”. They have a good menu selection from soups to roast meals.
Another New Zealand tradition is to grab some ‘fish and chips’ and head down to the beach and have a picnic. There are plenty of fish and chip shops located in the main town as well as the various suburbs around the city.
Get ready for action packed snow sports during winter
From Wanganui, it is only a short hour and a half drive to get to Wanganui National Park, the North Island’s only area for snow sports. Here you can hire snowboards, ski and see what New Zealand is famous for – its pristine natural environment.
There is a small town called Ohakune that supplies travellers with food, ski equipment and accommodation if need be. The Wanganui Information Centre can supply you with information and organise transport to and from the mountain. They also provide day passes, rental and lessons.
Enjoy the scenery and the quiet in Wanganui
Wanganui is a great place to visit when you are travelling to New Zealand. There is plenty that this small town has to offer at a low cost. Without the hustle and bustle of the big city, Wanganui has a nice relaxing feel about it and it makes for a good starting or ending point during your Kiwi trip.
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