Self Drive Whanganui | Avis Car Rental

Whanganui Self Drive Holiday

Whanganui is a beautiful river city. The Whanganui River is the longest navigable waterway in the country and has history and Maori culture at every bend. The centre of lush agricultural land and close to forests, lakes and the sea, Whanganui is a great staging post for driving adventures and has attractions aplenty in the compact and comfortable city centre.





Whanganui Riverboat Centre

Head to the Riverboat Centre where you will see a museum relating to the Waimere, a coal-powered paddle steamer that has served the community since 1900. Although it has had a bit of time off - from the 1950s through to the early 1990s she was actually at the bottom of the river! - you can see the exhibition charting the mammoth job of salvage and restoration. Then you can take a ride upriver and step back to another time.

Riverboat Website


Sarjeant Art Gallery

The Sarjeant Art Gallery houses a significant collection of New Zealand art with a special focus on photography, and is housed in a grand yet understated building. Built from cream Oamaru stone in a Neo Classical style with a dome that fills the gallery with natural light, this building enhances the already very impressive collections. The architect was only 21 when he designed the building, in 1916. He died in the trenches of WW1 and never saw his work completed. Take a walk and wonder what else he may have done if life were different.

Sarjeant Gallery Website


Durie Hill Elevator

Opposite the Whanganui City Bridge you will find the entrance to a tunnel heading straight into a hill. Follow the path 205m to find one of the world's only earthbound elevators. Built in 1919 this attraction takes you up 66m. Once there you must climb a further 176 steps up the beautiful fossilized shell rock Memorial Tower. On a good day you'll see Mt Ruapehu, Mt Taranaki and the Tasman Sea. And any day you can marvel at the 2 million-year-old rock it is built from. The elevator is open during daytime hours.



Whanganui River Road

The river has long been a place for people to live away from the world. The famous poet James K Baxter had a settlement at Hiruharama/Jerusalem, as did Mother Auburt, a pioneering Catholic missionary. Until this winding adventure of a road was built in the 1930s the only way to get up river was by water, making it ideal as a retreat. Travel carefully as it is still a journey of discovery today and take your time to see the old European outposts and sites of great Maori battles and settlement. Be sure to pick up the River Road guide from the i-Site, as there are a great many places of interest that you might otherwise miss.

Whanganui DC Website 


The Bridge to Nowhere

Nothing captures the somewhat mystical feel of the Whanganui River better than the Bridge to Nowhere, a large concrete bridge that was intended to link up new farms in the Mangapurua valley to Whanganui. The farms were soon discovered to be too difficult to break in, but not before the bridge was built. The road was abandoned, meaning that you can only see the bridge by water or by foot. The easiest route is by jet boat from Pipiriki at the end of the Whanganui River Road. The most rewarding is the 90-minute return walk from Mangapurua Landing, a walk suitable for anyone of moderate fitness.

Dept. of Conservation Website


Whanganui Heritage Walk

Whanganui is a charming old city with a long history. Head to the i-Site and pick up a brochure for one of their excellent heritage walks. Recommended is the Brass Rubbing Trail Walk - a walk where you interact with history by taking brass rubbings from plaques along the way. There are other excellent walks including one to the ancient cemetery - one of the first European burial grounds in the country.




River Trader's Market

For a Saturday morning with a link to the past and a great selection of produce you can't go past the River Traders Markets. Located at a site that has been home to traders since early Maori times, you'll find all your produce staples as well as art and special performances. They have been known to have growers' competitions and even opera singing of a morning. Head along early to catch the mist rising off the river and banish it away with a lovely hot coffee.

River Trader's Website 


Puanga Wanganui Matariki Festival

The Maori New Year is heralded by the arrival in the night sky of Matariki - the cluster of stars known as Pleiades or The Seven Sisters. This happens between the end of May and beginning of June each year. On the west coast of New Zealand it can be harder to see Matariki, so instead Paunga - the star Rigel from the Orion cluster - is celebrated. This is a time for reflection for local Maori, for remembering loved ones that have passed and for settling down from the active warmer months to the winter ahead. It has traditionally been marked with kite flying, clothes making and certain plantings. If in town around June be sure to check out events that run all month that give an insight into life as it was not that long ago, before the Europeans arrived in the 1800s.

Puanga Website


Virginia Lake

Just one kilometre north of Whanganui City and with ample parking, this is a relaxing and pretty spot to visit. With an aviary, established trees and plentiful bird life this is a lovely space to walk and reflect. The Art Deco winter gardens transport you to exotic climates and plant life a world away. If you come by at dusk the fountain lights up as the perfect accompaniment to an evening stroll.




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