outdoors in whanganui
Whanganui has abundant outdoors areas and facilities for all kinds of activities! We have three beaches, two of them only minutes from the city center. From natural colours to black iron sand, our west coast beaches have plenty of room to play on land and in the sea, and are favourite places for families, fishing, beachcombers and wide open walks. There are also six premier parks, two Gardens of Significance, monuments, art works and reserves to explore and enjoy. See our list of Beaches, Gardens and Parks in Whanganui below!
beaches in whanganui
Kai Iwi Beach
A popular safe beach for the whole family and all ocean activities, Kai Iwi Beach is reached via Rapanui Road 14kms west of Whanganui. Patrolled during the summer you can swim, fish, laze in the sun, go for long walks and pick through the driftwood. A well-established motor camp is located in the Mowhānau village, with a children’s playground, toilet block and wood-burning BBQ’s available as well. Book early for your summer holiday, spend a weekend or a day!
A short drive from the city, Whanganui’s beach suburb has always been popular with residents and visitors. A day at the beach could be had by catching the tramway system from the city center in Whanganui’s early years. Patrolled swimming, a well-established motor camp, playgrounds and a skate park nearby provide an easy and convenient access to the beach. A wonderful walk can be had at low tide to the far cliffs. A popular family beach on our list of Beaches, Gardens and Parks in Whanganui.
South Beach is renowned for its excellent fishing and surfing. A wild and untamed beach, there is a car parking area and a short walk to the beach, but for full beach access a 4X4 is advised. For the adventurers, there are offroad trails up and down the coast to explore. Take care at all times and watch the tides as South Beach is great fun, but an unpatrolled area. One of the more remote areas coastal areas to explore on our list of Beaches, Gardens and Parks in Whanganui!
For the surfers
Our west coast beaches can provide great rides for surf enthusiasts of all abilities. A southerly swell provides great conditions at the Whanganui River mouth or across the river at the wilder South Beach. Castlecliff Beach, just north of the river mouth offers three main beach breaks that perform well at high tide and is Whanganui’s prime surfing beach.
Parks, Gardens and Reserves in whanganui
Virginia Lake is a premier outdoor garden park and is a beautiful destination for visitors and locals! Take a 25 minute woodland walk around the lake, spy Peter Pan’s statue and enjoy the birdlife, both on and around the water. The Winter Gardens is an all‑year‑round attraction with an adjoining Art Garden combining sculpture and garden art. Visit in the evening and see the historic Higginbottom Fountain lit up at night. Add in a children’s playground and a free bird avairy and this makes Virginia Lake one of Wanganui’s best attractions! Contact the Whanganui i-SITE Visitor Information Centre for more details.
whanganui winter gardens
The Winter Gardens at Virginia Lake in Whanganui is an all‑year‑round attraction with colourful displays whatever the season or weather. Adjoining is the Art Garden combining sculpture and garden art. Visit in the evening and see the Higginbottom Fountain lit up at night!
Virginia Lake bird aviary
This free aviary has around 400 birds of 32 species, one of the biggest walk-through aviaries in New Zealand. The birds are from a variety of countries all around the world and include pheasants, guineafowl, yellow and red crowned kakariki, as well as a lot of parrots from various countries.
On the banks of the mighty Whanganui River, Kōwhai Family Park is for small and big kids alike! Kowhai Family Park in Whanganui has been delighting children for decades. Parents that played there while young bring their children back to experience the same fun! Ride a brontosaurus, check out the pirate ship, swing on an octopus, see-saw with a snake and on a hot day play in the water maze. Weekends and holidays children can ride on the Tot-TownRailway. A must visit for families and a favourite for all! A top place for outdoor activities among Beaches, Gardens and Parks in Whanganui!
Queens Park / Pukenamu Whanganui
Once a fortified Māori pā and then the site of the British Forces Rutland Stockade this hilltop park provides panoramic views of the city, river and mountains. Known as the cultural centre of Whanganui, it is the location for the Whanganui Regional Museum, War Memorial Centre, Alexander and Davis Libraries and the Veterans Steps leading to the original Sarjeant Gallery building. Explore the history and heritage of this culturally rich park! This is the most historically rich attraction on our list of Beaches, Gardens and Parks in Whanganui.
Bason Botanic Gardens
Set rurally 11kms from the centre of Whanganui, Bason Botanic Gardens covers 25 hectares and is rated a ‘Garden of Significance’ by the New Zealand Gardens Trust. It includes one of the most extensive public garden orchid collections in New Zealand and unique conservatory archictecture. Its history is that of a magnanimous gift from Stanley and Blanche Bason to the Wanganui City in 1966. The Millennium Hill is planted with a Mediterranean theme and enhanced with sculpture. Open daily from 8:00am until dusk, there are extensive plantings of native and exotic trees and is popular for wedding ceremonies. Free BBQ’s and picnic areas and a number of walking trails make this is a great family place. www.basonbotanicgardens.org.nz
Bushy Park Wildlife Sanctuary
Bushy Park Reserve is a 100 hectare native forest sanctuary kept predator‑free for native birds and is ranked one of Australasia’s ‘Top 25’ Restoration Projects. There are 3.4km of easy all‑weather walking tracks throughout the forest and a huge variety of bird life and species of trees. Don’t miss ‘Ratanui’, believed to be the biggest northern rata, 43 metres high with a girth of more than 11 metres with an age of between 500 and 1000 years.
While you’re there, visit the 22 room 1906 Edwardian‑era homestead and enjoy a picnic. You can also book accommodation here and enjoy a peaceful stay in the magnificent heritage homestead. Campervans are welcome to stay, too! Contact the Whanganui i-SITE Visitor Information Centre for more details.
Whanganui’s ‘Garden of National Significance’, Paloma is a spectacular privately owned garden at Fordell. A collection of exotic plants from around the world form a Bamboo Forest, Garden of Death and a Desert House. Lovely picnic areas and dotted with sculptures, Paloma Gardens also offers some charming and unique accommodation options. Entry fee applies. www.paloma.co.nz
A wildlife refuge providing the natural environment for wildfowl and native birds, making an enjoyable half hour walk around the lake.
Moutoa Gardens / Pakaitore
The site of a Māori fishing pā which later became a trading market is named after the Battle of Moutoa Island when Whanganui River Māori defended the city against invading warriors. Historical monuments and memorials are setamongst the mature trees.