The River City stands proudly at the mouth of one of New Zealand’s great historic waterways.
Wanganui is a delightful provincial centre 2.5 hours drive from Wellington and 6 hours from Auckland. Its 46,000 residents enjoy a laidback lifestyle and their civic pride is evident in the city’s restored colonial building and beautiful parks and gardens.
For the visitor it is well worth the effort of diverting from SH.1 and becoming immersed in the history, culture and ethos of this pleasant riverside city. It was one of the first towns to be established on the New Zealand coast and an important hub of early commerce. The 329km Whanganui River (note that the river and national park carry an aspirate ‘h’) was part of the main ‘highway’ from Wellington to Auckland in colonial times and missionaries and travellers often took two weeks to complete the arduous journey.
Wanganui is a rich amalgam of both Maori and European cultures. The museum and art galleries are amongst the best in New Zealand and the central city shopping areas have been revitalised in recent years in keeping with the colourful colonial past. Kerbside gardens, gaslights, wrought iron seats, palm and plane trees and hanging flower baskets, decorate the main thoroughfare, Victoria Avenue. The restorations are beautifully done and the whole floral effect in summer is blooming marvellous.
The heritage theme extends to cafes, specialty shops, an art deco cinema and English style pubs. Wanganui is so compact that you can easily walk to most attractions including Trafalgar Square Shopping Centre, Taupo Quay and the Queen’s Park and Cook’s Gardens. Art and craft outlets are prolific and fine dining and entertainment are readily available.
Altogether Wanganui is a fascinating amalgam of old river heritage and modern lifestyle without the pressures of big city bustle. As the city’s slogan says ‘Well worth the journey.’