The city of Whanganui (sometimes spelled Wanganui) at the mouth of Whanganui River is one of New Zealand's earliest settler towns and was once one of the country's largest cities. It remains an important centre for art, culture and heritage. A large collection of the city's buildings have been protected and preserved as evidence of the region’s important Māori and European cultural history.
The mighty Whanganui River served as a busy pioneer route through remote, impenetrable country and played an important part in shaping the development of early Maori and European settlement. Today, its lower reaches can be enjoyed from the decks of a coal-fired paddle steamer or vintage motor boat, or by canoe or kayak. The river's unique history is also shared on guided tours of the River Road.
Whanganui’s relatively untouched natural environment is one of the main attractions for visitors. The region’s extensive rainforests provide a safe haven for some of New Zealand’s most endangered native birds, including the kiwi and whio (blue duck).