Discover Waimarie Paddle Steamer, Whanganui, New Zealand

Waimarie Paddle Steamer

By Deb Alexander

No visit to Whanganui would ever be complete without a trip on our Waimarie Paddle Steamer. The Waimarie Paddle Steamer is most definitely a Whanganui icon.  

Recently, my family and I were invited aboard the Waimarie for a unique experience on the Whanganui River. I will share some highlights about our trip but first let’s talk about the history of this remarkable vessel.

The Waimarie Paddle Steamer is the only authentic coal fired paddle steamer in operation in New Zealand and best of all it can be experienced right here in Whanganui!

The Waimarie was built in 1899 in London and was transported to Whanganui in kitset form. The ‘Queen of the River’ spent a number of busy years on the Whanganui River, people from all over the world came to see her.

Waimarie Paddle Steamer, Whanganui, New Zealand
The Waimarie Paddle Stemaerwas built in 1899 in London and was transported to Whanganui in kitset form.
Waimarie Paddle Steamer, Whanganui, New Zealand

Sadly, an accident in 1952 left this beautiful vessel at the bottom of the river. The Waimarie lay there for decades. In the 1990’s, she was extracted and restored to her former glory. And on New Year’s Eve in 1999, the Waimarie was relaunched with a moonlit millennium voyage. What a remarkable way to celebrate her 100th birthday! Since then, the Waimarie has continued to transport passengers up and down the Whanganui River, showcasing the breathtaking scenery.

I must confess, I didn’t know a lot about the Waimarie even after living in Whanganui for many years. I always noticed it when passing by – how could one not! And I always thought to myself ‘I must go for a cruise one day…’ but of course I never got around to it. So I was thrilled when the opportunity arose for me to experience this and I jumped at the chance!

Our Waimarie Experience began at the Waimarie Museum where we received our boarding passes. The museum showcases the history of the Waimarie and is well worth a visit before or after the cruise. Memorabilia can also be purchased here.

Initially, I was a little worried to begin with as I am prone to motion sickness. But to my delight, my worrying was all in vein. I barely felt any movement for the entire cruise – my tummy was incredibly thankful! In fact, the whole experience felt very peaceful and calming!

The Waimarie experience takes two hours departing at 11am, travelling up the Whanganui River to Upokongaro and returning to Whanganui at 1pm. Being the photographer that I am, the Waimarie experience presented many photo opportunities. I took dozens of photos and was delighted that there were so many different vantage points to enjoy the amazing scenery. This cruise offers a completely different perspective of our mighty river so it really must be experienced!

Waimarie Paddle Steamer, Whanganui, New Zealand
Waimarie Paddle Steamer, Whanganui, New Zealand

There were so many highlights. A personal favourite of mine was chatting to the utterly delightful gentleman in the galley. The galley offered light refreshments – the homemade club sandwiches and fresh scones with jam and cream were a nice touch.

There were also savouries, ice creams and of course that all important coffee. We took our boys to the steam room to see the heart of the Waimarie, they were blown away at how hot that fire was! Again, the two gentlemen here were delightful and knowledgeable.

Friendly staff makes any experience so much better – a big tick in my book!

Passengers who visit the steam room have the opportunity to stoke the coal and earn an honorary ‘Stoker’s Certificate’ how cool!

Waimarie Paddle Steamer, Whanganui, New Zealand
Passengers who visit the steam room have the opportunity to stoke the coal and earn an honorary ‘Stoker’s Certificate’.
Waimarie Paddle Steamer, Whanganui, New Zealand

Another unique highlight aboard the Waimarie is the homing pigeons. They travelled up the river with us and at the turning point were ready to fly passengers’ personal messages back to base. Something the kids really loved!

Throughout the whole cruise, interesting on-board commentary can be heard about the history of the Waimarie Paddle Steamer, the Whanganui River and our town.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our experience on the Waimarie Paddle Steamer. I was thrilled to see people of all ages and nationalities enjoying this cruise. The Waimarie continues to attract people from all over the world just like she did when she was first built.

Waimarie Paddle Steamer, Whanganui, New Zealand

The Waimarie Paddle Steamer is only one of many heritage attractions Whanganui offers so be sure to come and visit us soon!

Tickets for this unique experience can be purchased from the Whanganui I-Site Visitor Information Centre so make this your first stop when you arrive in Whanganui.

From our destination to yours…
Deb

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