Both Mori and European history are abundant in Whanganui National Park. The area, which is anchored by the powerful Whanganui River, offers a wide range of activities for all ages that are both family-friendly and action-packed. A canoe safari down the river on the NZ "Great Walk" on water on the Whanganui Journey, cycling back in time on the completely unique Mangapurua cycle track to the Bridge to Nowhere, or simply crossing something off your bucket list must-do list.
The Whanganui River originates as an alpine torrent high on Mount Tongariro in the Tongariro National Park. Before flowing southward across the Central Volcanic Plateau and towards Taumarunui, it collects water from both Mount Nguruhoe and Mount Ruapehu.
It gathers tributaries from the watershed's 7382 square kilometres before turning south to become the strong Whanganui River. The Tasman Sea is reached by this river, which is the longest navigable river in New Zealand, after winding through nearly 200 km of rural terrain and the Whanganui National Park, Jet boating, canoeing, kayaking, biking, and hiking are just a few of the fantastic year-round activities you may enjoy in Whanganui National Park.
The only river trek included in the network of New Zealand Great Walks is the one between Taumarunui and Pipiriki. The entire journey, known as the Whanganui Journey, lasts about five days. Tracks for the Mountains to Sea route, one of nineteen cycleways that make up New Zealand's national project, are being built along the Whanganui River.
The Whanganui River appears as beautifully shown on film in the Hollywood production The River Queen. Up until recently, the Whanganui River served as the main thoroughfare into the interior of New Zealand's North Island. It was first used as a trading route by the local Maori of Te Atihaunui a Paparangi, and afterwards by later European settlers.
The majority of New Zealand's longest navigable river is an unspoilt, natural beauty that is little populated and massively untamed. Watch out for chubby Kerer (wood pigeons), which swoop in and out of the undergrowth to gorge themselves on the profusion of wild berries.
At dusk, if you're lucky, you might observe Pekapeka (long-tailed bats) flying overhead. Along the banks of the Whanganui River, the uncommon whio (blue duck), the T, and New Zealand's iconic Kiwi make the most of the plethora of natural resources. Since Kia Wharite, a collaboration to safeguard some of the region's priceless taonga (treasure), started in the Whanganui National Park in 2008, there has been a discernible rise in birdsong.
The Whanganui River is a mysterious location with mist dividing the valley bottom as you gently travel through time. It is steeped in a rich cultural and spiritual history. You can go to Teke Kinga, a Maori community, and discover more about the close relationship that the Whanganui Iwi (the neighbourhood tribe) have with the awa (river).
At the Mangapurua dock, you can take a break from the sea and stroll to the renowned Bridge to Nowhere for something a bit different. This lone concrete bridge, which is lost deep within the forest and completely cut off from civilisation, was constructed to allow returning World War 1 soldiers to get to a now-forgotten village.
Bridge To Nowhere
The Bridge to Nowhere, constructed in the middle of the 1930s to provide road access to the lower and middle valley farms known as the Mangapurua Valley Soldiers Settlement, stands as a moving monument to the dreams and hopes that were abandoned by the returning World War I servicemen who braved this isolated region. These early settlers attempted to convert the virgin native forest into farmland, but finally gave up to the land's demands and abandoned their titles as a result of the region's limited access for trading and the start of the Great Depression.
When the bridge was finished, these parts of the Mangapurua Valley were uninhabited, the bridge was seldom ever used, and the road to the Whanganui River construction was given up. The former Mangapurua Valley Soldiers Settlement's largest and most preserved structure, the "Bridge to Nowhere," is listed in the Historic Places Trust.
The Bridge to Nowhere can now be reached by a variety of methods, making it accessible to people of all ages and physical levels. You can take a jetboat tour for the day to the Mangapurua Landing on the Whanganui River, then walk for 40 minutes through native forest on a wonderful, level trail to have lunch on the bridge. If you want to add to the experience, the majority of river operators also include a kayaking or canoeing component in the tour.
Mountain to Sea Cycle Trail
The Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail passes via the majestic Mount Ruapehu, the intriguing Bridge to Nowhere, the historic Ohakune Old Coach Road, and possibilities for transportation along the Whanganui River to Pipiriki via jet boat and kayak.
Before reaching the Tasman Sea in Whanganui, continue on the charming Whanganui River Road and enjoy the scenery and local history, Take four days and three nights and pedal the almost 200 km of cycle paths connected by a 32 km river segment in order to descend the 1600m of vertical gain.
Although the trail's official starting point is in the Ohakune township, riders can start at any location and follow trail markings and signage to meet at the Mangapurua Trig before descending the 26 km to the Bridge to Nowhere and Mangapurua. Once you've landed on the Whanganui River, take a jet boat to Pipiriki to start your last drive up the Whanganui River Road until you reach the shore in Whanganui.