one of NZ's top ten

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You may be sur­prised to know Whanganui was re­cently rated one of New Zealand’s Top 10 by Ex­pe­ri­ence Oz & NZ, a lead­ing on­line travel book­ing site high­light­ing the best of re­gions. For those of us that live and play here this is no real sur­prise at all. For decades Whanganui has been one of the North Island’s ad­ven­ture play­grounds for all sorts of ac­tiv­ity given the cli­mate, the beaches (yes, we have 3 and are a coastal city), the won­der­ful Whanganui River and the Whanganui Na­tional Park. Whanganui res­i­dents en­joy a tem­per­ate cli­mate with mean tem­per­a­tures of 9.4°C in win­ter and 18.2°C in sum­mer with an av­er­age 2100 hours of sun­shine per an­num – slightly above the na­tional av­er­age. Whanganui is also very cen­tral and eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble for most – within 3 hours drive for the lower North Island from most cities and an hour flight from Auck­land. It’s ac­tu­ally quicker to drive from Auck­land to Wellington via Ohakune and Whanganui than it is to travel down SH1. Nu­mer­ous sport­ing codes are sup­ported by the city with its abun­dance of out­door fa­cil­i­ties and nat­u­ral habi­tat and Whanganui is noted for be­ing a spec­tac­u­lar place to train. At last count Whanganui has pro­duced 18 All Blacks for the coun­try, a Grand Prix mo­tor­cy­cle road racer, a mo­tor rac­ing driver and win­ner of 24 Hours Le Mans, in­ter­na­tional Iron­man ath­letes and tri-ath­letes, 9 Olympians and 3 World Sprint Cham­pi­onship kayak­ers. With an ex­ten­sive rowing his­tory dat­ing back 1877 the Whanganui district has flour­ished with nu­mer­ous wa­ter sports – waka ama, kayak­ing, ca­noe­ing, wa­ter ski­ing (on Lake Wir­i­toa), yacht­ing, jet boat­ing and jet sprints. Fish­ing off the west coast there is an abun­dance of blue cod, ter­ak­ihi, gurnard and snap­per. The Wan­ganui Manawatu Sea Fish­ing Club have been host­ing a tour­na­ment an­nu­ally for 25 years at­tract­ing over 70 boats from around the North Island. Hunt­ing and fish­ing have long been a prac­tice in the district which is renowned for the pre-Euro­pean Māori river set­tle­ments and marae. The river is the home of the Whanganui iwi (tribes), also known as Te Āti Haunuia-Pāpārangi, a con­fed­er­a­tion of three an­ces­tral groups: Hi­nengākau of the up­per river, Tama Ūpoko of the mid­dle reaches and Tūpoho of the lower Whanganui. The river is of huge im­por­tance to the iwi: it is their an­ces­tral river, their ar­te­rial high­way, and a source of phys­i­cal and spir­i­tual sus­te­nance. The Whanganui River Hunt­ing and Wild Food Fes­ti­val takes place an­nu­ally and is hosted by a dif­fer­ent marae each year. This year 23 teams of hunters headed into the bush, with each team al­lo­cated a block of land, search­ing for pigs and deer. Weigh-in and the prize giv­ing takes place the fol­low­ing day amongst food stalls, games, mu­sic and du­elling pad­dlers in an on-river ca­noe con­test. While the fa­mous Whanganui River is known for ca­noe and kayak ex­cur­sions there are a num­ber of walk­ing tracks in the area and Na­tional Park for the hardy and pre­pared. Part of the Te Araroa Trail, from the Man­ga­pu­rua Land­ing to the city of Whanganui, there is a 4 to 6 day walk or cy­cle down the his­toric Whanganui River Road be­gin­ning at Pipiriki. The road is fully sealed and takes you to the set­tle­ments of Jerusalem (Hiruhārama), Rā­nana, Matahiwi, Koriniti, Ātene, Parikino and Ūpokon­garo. Along the Whanganui River Road is the Ātene Sky­line Track with spec­tac­u­lar views and a DOC camp­site for those want­ing to stay the night. It is de­scribed as an ad­vanced track loop­ing up to the ridge­line and the Tau­mata Trig at 572 me­tres. The fo­cus of the walk is Puke­tapu Hill. Many hun­dreds of years ago the hill stood at the end of a long nar­row-necked penin­sula where the Whanganui River flowed in an al­most com­plete cir­cle around the hill. Years of ero­sion caused the river to break through the neck, forc­ing a more di­rect route to the sea and cut­ting off the me­an­der. This is just one of the spec­tac­u­lar views which in­cludes Mount Ruapehu, Mount Taranaki and the Tas­man Sea. So, our Top 10 rat­ing is not sur­pris­ing to us at all. One of New Zealand’s ear­li­est towns to be es­tab­lished, the first set­tlers both Māori and Euro­pean recog­nised the bounty and ac­ces­si­bil­ity of the area for reg­u­lar trade and a life­style many had never en­vi­sioned be­fore. In con­duct­ing the con­sumer sur­vey, which ran for one month, “Ex­pe­ri­ence Oz” re­ceived close to 7000 votes from a mixed au­di­ence of New Zealand, Aus­tralian and in­ter­na­tional re­spon­dents. Poll par­tic­i­pants were asked to con­sider among other fac­tors, the typ­i­cal “New Zealand”-style na­ture of the des­ti­na­tion, its unique nat­u­ral high­lights, the area’s cul­tural, his­toric and ar­chi­tec­tural fea­tures, the va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties on of­fer, whether it was over­com­mer­cialised, and if it was sim­ply con­sid­ered ob­jec­tively “beau­ti­ful”. So, if you haven’t been to Whanganui for a while, don’t you think it’s time to plan a visit?

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