Downtown Wanganui


Wanganui is an attractive river city with an urban population of almost 40,000. It's 200km north of Wellington. It's been the centre of a long-running debate over the spelling of its name. It was originally called Whanganui (whanga nui means big harbour in Maori) but mis-spelling of the name over many years led to common usage without the h.

Reasons to visit include:

River activities

The city is located on the banks of the Whanganui River and visitors can enjoy exploring the Whanganui National Park or trips on the river aboard vessels such as the P/S Waimarie, which is more than 100 years old, and is New Zealand's last coal-fired paddle steamer. Sometimes the restored MV Wairua (built in 1904) is available for trips and the Maritime Heritage Museum on the banks of the river celebrates the riverboat era and is home to the paddle steamer Ongarue, which is under restoration.

Opera House

The Royal Wanganui Opera House was built in 1899 in recognition of Queen Victoria and is an architectural gem and the last surviving building of its type in the Southern Hemisphere. The building still operates as a live theatre and is well-known for its excellent acoustics.

Durie Hill Elevator & Tower

Looking over the city is the 33.5-metre high Durie Tower, built in 1919. To visit the tower, you can either climb 191 steps or use New Zealand's only public underground elevator, reached by a pedestrian tunnel. The view from the tower is stunning with views of the Tasman Sea, Mount Ruapehu and Mount Taranaki/Egmont.

Cook's Gardens

These grounds are a major sporting venue and the site where New Zealand Olympic champion Peter Snell set a world record for running the mile in January 1962. These days, the gardens are the venue of many sports including cricket, cycling, athletics and greyhound racing.


The Sarjeant Gallery is home to 6,000 works of New Zealand and international art, with a contemporary focus on New Zealand photography. It is housed in a magnificent neo-classical building on the hill in Queens Park

Food & Drink

The central city is packed full with cafes, bars and restaurants - a pleasant place to wile away the hours.