Tēnā koutou katoa. Welcome to Whanganui.
Whatever your ideas for experiencing our beautiful place we can find something magic for you. If your aim to is explore the mighty Whanganui River, immerse yourself in the offerings of our contemporary and historical museums and art galleries, leisurely cycle or walk in our natural parks and reserves, or just sit back and relax and soak it all up – we’ve got it.
Astounding Arts & Heritage
Whanganui abounds with creativity and culture! Inspired by the heritage, Whanganui River, cultural diversity and beauty of the natural environment, Whanganui is home to over 400 artists and one of New Zealand’s centres of art and celebrated in many events and festivals throughout the year.
Music and musicians are everywhere with regular choral and vocal performances both formal and informal. We celebrate the New Zealand Opera School with two weeks of events in January and are home to numerous bands.
Glass art is a speciality and you’ll be amazed at the skill and beauty combined in the evocative pieces produced locally. With over 40 artists, educators and students, Whanganui has the largest population of glass artists in New Zealand.
Combining both art and heritage, Whanganui is fortunate to be home to one of New Zealand’s finest and most historically important galleries, Te Whare o Rehua – the Sarjeant Gallery. Complemented by the Whanganui Regional Museum, where exhibitions provide an authentic and unique experience of Maori art and culture and natural and European history.
Visitors can share in the spiritual and cultural connections with the Whanganui River. Tikanga (customs and protocol) and values include manaakitanga (hospitality) and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) emphasising ancestral landscapes and culture.
We are truly blessed with taonga (treasures).
Te Awa O Whanganui – The Whanganui River
The Whanganui River begins high up in the volcanic plateau of Mount Tongariro, and travels north towards Taumarunui before heading south towards Whanganui, a journey of nearly 300 kilometres through the native tree and fern clad hills of the Whanganui National Park. The dramatic landscape opens out in the lower reaches of the river to follow farmland and open valleys to the coast at the Tasman Sea.
Along its length the people of Te Atihaunui-a-Paparangi (Whanganui Iwi) have descended for over 40 generations. Throughout time, custodianship of the river has been bestowed upon the Māori descendants of three sibling ancestors, the female, Hinengakau of the top reaches near Taumarunui, the eldest sibling, male Tama Upoko, assigned to the middle reaches and Tupoho, the younger sibling, the lower reaches.
Celebrate Pūanga with us – the Whanganui Matariki Celebrations. Pūanga is the star seen just before Matariki and is the significant star for the Whanganui and Taranaki tribes to celebrate the traditional Māori New Year. With a range of events from a dawn blessing, creation of art works, exhibitions, fashion and a kai evening, this is a significant way to experience Maori life.
Learn more about Pūanga
European settlers arrived in search of a new life and opportunities and in the late 1800s and early 1900s the river became a major visitor attraction, with people enjoying leisurely river boat cruises. The Whanganui River became internationally known as the ‘Rhine of New Zealand.’
Today, the area is still a major attraction for visitors and offers unrivalled opportunities for walking, cycling, hunting and tramping in a pristine wilderness as well as a full range of activities on the water, including jet boat trips and single and multi-day canoeing and kayaking adventures. The upper reaches also contain remnants of the early inhabitants’ Bridge to Nowhere.