At the start of WW1 Whanganui was the fifth largest city in New Zealand. It is now the 19th largest, with a population of ~50,000 people, but is one of the more interesting to visit, with plenty to fill a varied couple of days.
To begin with one of my favourite places, the fabulous Paloma Gardens, wonderfully exotic gardens 15 mins outside town. They’re a bit overgrown, but that is part of the charm, and even on a wet day were a riot of colour and interest.
Virginia Lake was a contrast, and I can imagine would be beautiful on a sunny day, but was still worth visiting in the rain.
Across the road from the lake a private house had the most incredible front garden.
It had attractive Winter Gardens, which had been recently renovated.
Behind which was a fernery.
The nearby aviary was filled with colourful birds.
Whanganui Regional Museum was one of the better regional museums I’ve been to, with a particularly impressive Maori collection (not photographable), lots of bones, and some terrifying taxidermy.
Another favourite was the brilliant Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics, a passion for potter Rick Rudd, containing over 3,500 works from his and Simon Manchester’s collections. It’s the only dedicated museum for studio ceramics in New Zealand, and is filled with beautiful and varied pieces.
New Zealand Glassworks is the national centre for art glass, with a small amount on display and the attraction of watching live glassing blowing below.
The Sarjeant Gallery is one of the most significant in the country, with more than 8,300 artworks. Unfortunately it’s original building was rated at only 5% of the earthquake standards so is undergoing a significant redevelopment. Some of the collection can be seen though in a couple of temporary exhibition spaces, in Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui and upstairs in the iSite.
Also in the iSite is a wonderful model of the Whanganui River, New Zealand’s longest navigable waterway, which starts on the slopes of Mount Tongariro and takes a winding route down to the sea at Whanganui.
As with so many cities these days there is an impressive amount of street art, most large building sized murals.
On Saturday morning there are markets downtown, whatever the weather!
Moutoa Gardens are filled with memorials and huge trees.
A memorial to the South Africa War stands above the York Stockade athletes track.
The Durie Hill Elevator was built 1919 to open up Durie Hill suburb, paid for by the property developer. It is one of only a handful in the world, a public transport elevator, reached by a 205m entrance tunnel, before taking about a minute to ascend the 66m elevator shaft.
On top of the elevator shaft building is a lookout with great views over the city and river.
Just up from the elevator is the Durie Hill War Memorial Tower, opened in 1925 to commemorate 513 people from the city and district who died in WW1. It is built of local shellrock and offer better views than top of the elevator shaft building, but has a cage over the top and high sides, not very friendly to photographers or shorter people.
The Whanganui Riverboat Centre Museum is the hub for travelling on the Waimarie Riverboat, a coal–fired paddle steamer originally built in 1899. It sank in 1952 and spent 40 years in the mud before being raised and restored. I had tickets for a two hour cruise but unfortunately heavy rainfall meant the river was flowing too fast, and filled with large debris, so it was cancelled.
To the west of the city are the rather nice Bason Botanic Gardens, though they’re so spread out that you need to drive around them unless you have lots of time.
To finish with a selection of the many lovely heritage buildings downtown, including the Royal Wanganui Opera House.