Whanganui Regional Museum
This museum, in Queens Park near the Sarjeant gallery is an outstanding museum, with much on the history of the area, both of the local Maori, and also the settlers that came to the region.
Of particular interest are the paintings by Gottfried Lindauer, as well as some taxidermy, and plenty of Maori artifacts as well. It's a wonderful collection.
Boxing Day Motorbike Street Racing
Every Boxing Day, the streets of Wanganui are awash with motorbike fans from across NZ and abroad. This is when the roads are shut off for the day, on Taupo Quay and other neighbouring roads, and you can hear the screaming of engines as far as the outer reaches of the city.
The event is around $20 (from memory), which isnt bad for a full days racing action, and there are many many places to stand around the course. The racing is well-served with drink and fastfood stands, making this a great days entertainment, and well-worth the slightly over-crowded nature of this event.
There were various classes of race from KTMs to 500cc superbikes, but the sidecars appealed to me the most, largely due to the sheer unbelievable speed they could carry around the corners. There were a couple of nasty crashes though, and one rider had to be taken to hospital ("Ouch!!" were the cries from the crowd as the guy hit the barrier).
...Anyway, i'll probably put some more pics in a travelogue later.
Cooks Gardens is the base for Wanganui Rugby Club, and also has the velodrome next door which plays host to many world cycling track events. Unfortunately however, Wanganui do not give you the free-flowing, free-scoring rugby that you may have been expecting having seen the NZ national team in action. Ohhh no - Wanganui are bottom of the second division - and sadly they are there by right. Luckily, the match we went to see, they surprisingly won against 3rd placed Nelson Bays 27-15, and it was a good win! But it was the last game of the season, and Wanganui were already out of the play-offs and any chance of a good league placing.
Anyway enough of the rugby. The track racing is often on during the summer, and provides some great entertainment. The racing is very tight, and you are free to stand anywhere around the course. From previous events, normally the racing can last a full evening, and over an entire week.
The Opera House stands as a bit of a relic in Wanganui, but from the outside you wouldnt believe just how old it is! (Early 20th Century so im told). Its been kept in very good nick, and regularly stages large events and packed crowds in its fragile main hall.
Ive already been to see two large events there, firstly the annual Fashion Show, held to mark the finale of the Fashion course at UCOL - which is always sold out, and more recently Dave Dobbyn, who i hadnt heard of prior to the gig, but i certainly wont forget him now! What an amazing voice that man has!!! He was accompanied by Little Bushman who are also a good level kiwi band going places at the moment.
Events at the Opera House are usually well advertised throughout the town, but if you want to pick up a timetable, just pop along to the Opera House itself, and go into the ticket office for a full run down of whats on.
Speedway is a big event in Wanganui, and in November 2005 we attended the opening event and ceremony, marking the beginning of the new racing season. The event was very well attended despite the chilly winds whipping across the open grassy banks where we were sitting. We quickly realised we had not come well prepared when the sun began to set behind the grandstand, and everyone pulled out their extra clothing and blankets, and all we had between us was one suitably thin jacket!!
So apart from freezing our butts of for the rest of the event, we thoroughly enjoyed the racing action, as no less than 22 races (each wih atleast 8laps) took us well into the night.
The racing action was quickly followed by a spectacular fireworks display that lit up the entire course, as they briefly turned off all of the floodlights to exenuate the effect of the fireworks.
The Speedway season lasts best part of 6 or 7 months and visits Wanganui roughly 5 or 6times (i think), but the Speedway is also used for other events as well.
Kai Iwi Beach
This beach is not the easiest to find, but ask any local person and they will be able to give you directions, as this beautiful beach is adored by people in Wanganui. Its also quite simple to find when you trust in where youre actually going.
This sandy beach is vast and open, and stretches far in both directions along the coast. I recommend this place if you want a complete escape from all civilisation - because even if they are others there, the beach is simply too large for you to run into anyone else!!!
There are also steep crumbling cliffs along the beach offering the chance to bask in the panorama from the top. Being here really is an invigorating and refreshing experience, with nothing to stop the chilly breeze as it whisps in off the Tasman Sea.... I want to be there now just thinking of it!!
Just one note on geting there: The road does turn to a track at one point but dont stop - you are on the right route!!
Viginia Lake is definitely worth a visit, and make sure you get there - especially if you have limited time!! The Reserve is always open, and the fountain continues to shine away in different colours well after dusk.
There are many small gardens and many residents for that matter as well! Namely, the large black swans which shocked me the first time i saw them! Being from blightey, we are used to our swans being a bright white colour - NOT the halloween black colour that New Zealand seems to have a surplus of. And the red beaks to boot - what on earth is that all about?!?
Anyway, getting back on track, there is also an aviary, some statues, and some very pretty themed gardens next door worth taking a peek at. Lake Virginia is always open, but the actual gardens and aviary close at 5pm.
War Memorial Tower on Durie Hill
As i mentioned in my intro, this viewpoint is the best place to gaze across the beauty of this small part of the world. You can see the majesty of the Whanganui River as it meets the Tasman Sea, and the landscape as it stretches far onto the horizon. You can also see Mounts Taranaki and Ruapehu in the distance (not in the pics ive shown), and according to some people, on a particularly clear day you can even see the south island (although ive yet to see it) - perhaps im looking the wrong direction!!
Anyway, there is the tower itself where you can stumble your way up the many many winding steps to the summit, or the much more accessible lower platform which sits just in front of it, but also offers spectacular views.Both options are free, and open from sunrise til sunset (the tower), and i would fully recommend a climb up there on a nice evening!
There is an elevator up to the top apparently (although ive never seen or been on it), but i prefer the climb up the steps. Its good exercise, and the view from the top is the reward!! (Although be warned it is pretty steep!)
A visit to a typical Maori marae (meeting place) is a must for any person visiting New Zealand.
The Marae is female.......the door to the front at which you enter is the females birthcanal and the centre beam of the roof is her spinal cord. Usually coming off these are the wooden beams which are her ribs which depict her generations and spread out to the outer walls. If this paragraph has got you thinking, think of it as "a place where life begins".
The local Marae is the Putiki, which is located on the south side of the river as you enter Wanganui City. There are also many others in a 100 mile radius of Wanganui.
Maraes as I said are a meeting place and accomodate such events as reunions, weddings, meetings and funerals.
Depending on the event, your stay on a marae can be overnight, where you all sleep in the actual marae on mattresses on the floor.
Meals provided at the marae can add a couple of pounds onto your weight and usually traditional meals are served, like hangis (food cooked in the ground.....its okay you dont eat dirt, the food is all covered when its there) boil-ups (meat and vegies thrown, I mean put into huge pots and cooked together) seafood aplenty and steamed pudding covered in custard and cream.
In Maraes, you will notice carvings on the walls, these usually reflect the tipuna (deceased ancestors) and the marae history and is regarded as being "tapu" (sacred).
- Historical Travel
Te Waimarie paddle steamer
The Te Waimarie paddle steamer is a must for any visitors to Wanganui and is one of the main attractions.
It is available for short river excursions and also if you are planning a get together and want something different to entertain your guests.
It is advisable that when you take this trip that you take a warm jersey and camera....there is magnificent scenery, "full steam ahead".
- Historical Travel
- National/State Park
- Sailing and Boating
Up the creek without a paddle
The only way to travel the Wanganui River is to actually be on it....and dont worry you will be supplied paddles.
The Wanganui River is one of the most scenic tourist sights in New Zealand and is well worth a visit. If you dont feel like the extreme exercise of paddling yourself, then there are jet boat rides and a paddle steamer, called the "Te Waimarie" which will do the work for you.
- Historical Travel
- National/State Park
Mt Ruapehu (rua-two, pehu-twin peaks)
Mt Ruapheu is one of the most popular tourist havens for having a fun day in the snow. It is centrally located and but a 2 hour drive to the ski-fields from Wanganui. The scenic route via the Parapara Road can lead you to this mystical winter wonderland.
The pic shows Mt Ruapehu in the background....to the forefront is the Art Gallery in Wanganui.
- Adventure Travel
- Family Travel
The riverboat cruise is apparently well worth doing, but it pays to book, as we found out when the cruise was booked out, with no room for us. There's always next time, I suppose.
The tower on Durie Hill gives excellent scenic views of the Wanganui area. You can get the elevator up the hill, but you'll need to climb the 100 feet or so of the tower.
This Gallery in Queens Park in Wanganui is one of the better regional art museums you will see, with some excellent exhibitions. A must see if you are in Wanganui.