Your Next Big Adventure: Wanganui?
When most Kiwis think of planning their next holiday, Wanganui is not usually the first place that springs to mind. But the town, fondly referred to as the River City by the locals, offers some surprising hidden gems that might just inspire you to pay it a visit.
Here are five of many attractions you might consider if you plan to visit this part of the country:
1. The Royal Wanganui Opera House
The Royal Wanganui Opera House opened in 1899 and is the last Victorian theatre in New Zealand. It’s also the only opera house in the country to have a Royal Charter. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of opera, the architecture and interior design is a sight to behold. And for those who do love a good tragedy or comedy told through the medium of song, the theatre’s acoustics ensure that each performance is a delight.
2. Bridge to Nowhere
The Wanganui National Park offers visitors all kinds of activities, from hikes to kayak safaris down New Zealand’s longest navigable waterway. However, one of its main attractions must be the Bridge to Nowhere. Not only is the trek to the bridge a beautiful outing by foot, bike, or riverboat through the fauna and flora of the Park, but the bridge itself is spectacular – and a little strange. Opened in 1936 as a replacement to the swing bridge that was originally put in place as a way for soldiers in World War 1 to cross into the remote Mangapurua Valley Soldiers Settlement, this concrete bridge sits almost 40 metres above the Mangapurua Stream, which runs into the Wanganui River. While its original purpose was to link the outlying community to the ‘outside world’, those living on the settlement struggled in vain to establish effective agriculture and sustainable human habitation, which led to the community being deserted in 1942. Since then, all traces of habitation have been erased, with the forest firmly re-establishing itself. The only reminder that people once lived in the area is the bridge, which now, literally, leads to nowhere.
3. Bason Botanic Gardens
The Bason Botanic Gardens is a big hit with locals as it offers beautiful walking routes and picnic and barbeque spots that are easily accessible even for those with limited mobility. The gardens themselves, which were gifted to the city in 1966, offer a wide range of indigenous and exotic plant and bird life that can be enjoyed by all visitors. There are also often art exhibitions and markets, as well as other activities that take place throughout the year, making the Gardens a great place for a day of relaxation with family and friends. The Gardens’ operating hours are usually from 09:00 to 20:00, depending on the day and season, with its conservatories open from 09:00 to 16:30.
4. Ward Observatory
The Ward Observatory was opened in 1903 and is home to New Zealand’s largest unmodified refractor telescope. If you’re an avid astronomer, or just looking for a good place to go stargazing, the Ward Observatory is the best place to view Saturn and the stars. Be aware, however, that the observatory is only open for public viewing on Friday nights from 20:00 to 22:00.
5. Durie Hill Underground Elevator and War Memorial Tower
If you’re looking for wonderful panoramic views of the city, the Durie Hill Elevator is your best bet. First, though, you’ll have to walk through a 66 metre underground pedestrian tunnel to get to the elevator, making the Durie Hill elevator the only public underground elevator in New Zealand. From there, you can take the elevator up to the top of Durie Hill and then climb the 33.5 metre War Memorial Tower for a view you won’t soon forget, and which includes sights like the Tasman Sea and Mount Ruapehu.
There’s also a great variety of accommodation to suit any budget, as well as conference and wedding venues, available across the city that’s offered by local businesses like Anndion Motel Wanganui.
With all this and more, why not make Wanganui your next adventure stop?