This will be a much shorter post than the last as we only stopped in Wanganui for two nights. But it’s worth a mention.
The Wanganui region (population 45,300, with 41,000 located in Wanganui city) is dominated by the mighty Whanganui River, which is the only way to reach the isolated interior of the Whanganui National Park. Most people stop in Wanganui as a launching point for tramping and water activities into the National Park. (In 2002, Bruce & I did a three day canoe trip down the river which was spectacular – quiet, ancient, and gentle, except for the very last set of rapids! )
Some of you may be wondering whether I’ve got some typos as I’m spelling W’h’anganui two different ways. Here’s the skinny according to The Lonely Planet: “Both town and river were originally spelt Wanganui, because in the local dialect, whanga (harbour) is pronounced ‘wha-nga’ not (as in the rest of the country), ‘fa-nga’. However, to indicate that the ‘wh’ sound is aspirated, the ‘h’ was officially restored to the name of the river and national park, but not to the city or the region as a whole (the pronunciation of the two spellings is identical). The Pakeha-dominated town and region retain the old spelling, while the river area, very much Maori territory, takes the new spelling. The difference in spellings is in many ways a reflection of the split in attitudes over Maori issues, which came to a head at Moutoa Gardens in Wanganui.” Got it?
We stayed in the Top 10 Holiday Park and got ourselves a little cabin ($53/night) with shared facilities (bathrooms/showers/kitchen). Located about five kilometers from central downtown, the holiday park was situated right on the banks of the Whanganui River and we spent a pleasant afternoon down by the banks watching tons of crewing clubs row up and down the river.
Both of us thought the city had a really nice feel – lots of mature trees, victorian-styled homes, rolling hills, and quality museums & shopping district. We spent an afternoon meandering around downtown, spending a few hours in Queens Park, checking out the Regional Museum, the Sarjeant Art Gallery, visiting the War Memorial Tower (which is where most of these photos were taken from) and I ‘chilled out’ by doing a bit of shopping. There are lots of great parks in the area and the entrance to the national park was only 14 kilometers away off of Whanganui River Road. We weren’t quite up for any real adventures as this was just at the time that our San Francisco property was closing escrow and we found ourselves needing to be close to a computer. Plus, our bodies were screaming for down time, so we just stayed low-key and did the ‘relaxing’ tour of the area.