one of NZ's top ten
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?