Architecture from many eras is a major feature of Whanganui. Victorian and Edwardian treasures co-exist with ﬁne examples of mid-twentieth century modern architecture. Marae, homesteads, memorials and civic buildings provide a strong sense of place and identity and the concentration of signiﬁcant heritage buildings found here is rare in New Zealand. Come and see and learn more of Whanganui’s history and Whanganui Heritage!
As one of New Zealand’s oldest towns you cannot explain Whanganui without understanding a little of its history and this is evident in the numerous heritage buildings and attractions to be found. There are many historical sites to be visited, and below we have featured a few, most within an easy walk around the city centre. The Whanganui i-SITE Visitor Information Centre has Heritage guides which include an approximately one hour self-walking tour that passes many of our beautiful heritage buildings!
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 set amongst the mature trees.
The Watt Fountain
This fountain in the middle of an intersection was built as a memorial to William Hogg Watt, the first Mayor of Whanganui. The fountain was first unveiled on this site on 7 September 1881. It was then removed in 1906 to make way for Trams, first to Cook’s Gardens and then to Queen’s Park in 1933. In 1993 the fountain was returned to its original location.
Located on this site since1849, the Rutland was one of the nation’s best known hotels last century. Named after the English county of Rutland, it was popular with British Regiments stationed here until 1870. Still popular today, the Rutland Arms Inn offers accommodation and dining in a classic ‘English Pub’ style.
Kitchen’s Building Whanganui
The Kitchen’s building has links Whanganui’s first pharmacy, established in 1858. This building, erected in 1909, occupied the full street depth, with stables, lawns, gardens and a laundry were at the rear, with a copper for the family washing. A popular photo subject with Edwardian facade and palm trees!
Post And Telegraph Building
Erected in 1902 this building was once the premises for a General Post Office and the Post and Telegraph Service. Whanganui was then the terminus of the cable across Cook Strait and messages from all over the world were received here, and relayed to cities in the North Island. Home today to the popular Big Orange Cafe.
The Royal Wanganui Opera House
Built in 1899 this Opera House is the last surviving Victorian theatre in New Zealand and the only theatre in the country to have a Royal Charter awarded for the centenary celebration in 1999. Internationally recognised for its beautiful architecture and great acoustics, it is still used today. Take time to treat yourself to some entertainment in a very special building.
This timber blockhouse built in 1868 is a rare surviving example of a privately constructed redoubt from that era. Designed to withstand about 24 hours siege, the blockhouse was sited to enable visual communication with two other blockhouses between this site and the York Stockade in Whanganui. Fortunately it was never attacked.
Some Popular Heritage Attractions
Durie Hill War Memorial Tower & Elevator
Sixty-six metres high, the Durie Hill Elevator was built in 1919 and is NZ’s only public underground elevator and one of only two in the world. A pedestrian tunnel leads to the elevator and at the top the panoramic views of the Tasman Sea, Mount Ruapehu and Mount Taranaki are amazing. Right next to the elevator tower is the fanatastic War Memorial Tower, which, when climbed, will offer an even more amazing vista of the city! These are the places for your selfie 🙂
The Waimarie is a unique turn-of-the-century paddle steamer and the only operating coal-fired paddle steamer in NZ. She arrived in Whanganui in 1899 and has been fully restored to her original condition. Moored on the banks of the river near the Waimarie Centre, we celebrate the riverboat era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Enjoy stepping back in time and take a leisurely cruise on the mighty Whanganui River!
St Pauls Memorial Church, Putiki
St Pauls Anglican Memorial Church in Putiki, Whanganui, is one of the most intricately and beautifully decorated Churches in Aotearoa, New Zealand. This unique building is adorned with fascinating Maori tukutuku (weavings) and lattice designs which speak of the history of the church and the area. The Church site itself dates back to 1842, and several actual buildings have been constructed on this site over the years. The current church dates back to 1936 and is a thing of wonder to behold. Book a guided tour, see the building, and hear the story from local guides steeped in the knowledge of this historic treasure!
Whanganui Regional Museum
The Whanganui Regional Museum is a must see with collections dated from 1890 and is famed for its Taonga Māori Collection, second to none in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is home to the largest permanent collection of Moa bones in the world (over 1000 bones), as well as housing one of the most extensive collections of Lindaur paintings in the country. The Museum Shop and Gallery stocks works by local artists and specialises in books on local history, Maori culture and the natural world.