Free Things To Do In Whanganui

Looking for something to do but don't want to spend a fortune on your holiday - there's so much to do around Whanganui that doesn't cost a thing. Here are our favourite free activities in Wanganui.

Museums and Galleries

Whanganui Regional Museum

Whanganui Regional Museum is notably one of the best museums outside of the main cities. Internationally recognised for its Taonga Maori collection and with an ever changing series of exhibitions you can delve into the lives, loves and struggles of the people of the Whanganui region past and present. There's a strong focus on the nature of the area too, with a moa exhibit, the bug room and the House of Bones.

Sarjeant Gallery / Sarjeant on The Quay

The iconic Sarjeant Gallery building at the top of Queens Park has been home to one of the most extensive collections of art for almost a century, placing Whanganui on the world art stage. The building is Category 1 listed and well worth a look in itself. It is currently undergoing an amazing redevelopment programme and is due to re-open in 2023. A fantastic temporary gallery, Sarjeant On The Quay is open on Taupo Quay close to the i-site.

New Zealand Glassworks

An open studio where you can watch the artists in action during every stage of the glass making process. Watch in awe from New Zealand Glassworks Studio for free, buy from the shop, or join in a workshop and learn for yourself. Whether you think you like glass art or not, this is well worth a look. Located on Rutland Street, just a short stroll from the i-site.

The Ward Observatory

Fancy an evening of star-gazing? Built in 1901 the Ward Observatory is located in Cooks Gardens and houses the largest unmodified retractor telescope in New Zealand. Public viewings are from 7:30pm on Friday evenings and a gold coin small donation is all that is required. 


Kai Iwi Beach

Located about 20 minutes drive from the holiday park, this beach is ideal for families. Rugged, black sand and driftwood, but with a gentle stream where the younger children can safely play. And there's a fantastic playground with a zip-wire for the adventurous ones. Plus wood fired BBQs and a shower block, it's ideal for a family day out.

Castlecliff Beach

Another rugged driftwood beach. Great for surfers, with a surf club and life-guards during the summer months. Large children's playground nearby. About 12kms from the holiday park. 

South Beach

Head out towards the airport and follow the signs for South Beach over the sand dunes and you'll find a rugged West Coast beach. This beach should only be accessed with 4-wheel drive. 

Something Different

Durie Hill Elevator and Memorial Tower

Cross over the river and the City Bridge and you'll find a tunnel that leads to our famous underground public elevator, built in 1919 and one of only 2 in the world. For just $2 you can ride it to the top of Durie Hill where you'll find the Memorial Tower. Climb to the top of the tower for free and take in the breath-taking views of the River City out to the Tasman Sea.

On a clear day you can also spy Mt Ruapehu and Mt Taranaki. If you don't fancy the elevator back down, you can walk the 191 steps back to the bottom.

River Traders Market

Held every Saturday from 9am - 1pm alongside the river on Moutua Quay, a historical Maori trading site and a market place of the early European settlers. You'll find everything from local arts and crafts to fresh local produce, second hand goods and some great eating opportunities. It's a local favourite and a great morning for visitors to experience the atmosphere and get a glimpse of why we love the river so much.

From October to April you'll also get to see the Paddle Steamer Waimarie launch from the Quay - a step back in time you'll really enjoy. And then take your ice-cream, floater or pasty for a relaxing  stroll along the board walk.

Heritage Trail

As one of New Zealand's oldest towns, Whanganui has a rich heritage of both Maori and European origin. The town has some amazing Victorian and Edwardian architecture and many places of historical significance. Pick up a Heritage Trail Guide and give yourself an hour or two to walk around the city's main heritage attractions, such as the Royal Whanganui Opera House, Cooks Gardens, the Tram Shed and more, then stop off at one of the numerous cafe's for a spot of lunch or dinner.  

Whanganui River Road

Visit the beautiful St Joseph's Church at Jerusalem, Kawana Flour MIll, Koriniti Marae and the many viewpoints where you can truly appreciate this majestic river. The more adventurous trampers among you can take a detour and walk the Atene Skyline Track. You will need a few hours for the round trip, more depending on how many viewpoints you stop at.

Mosquito Point

Just 5kms from the holiday park you'll find Mosquito Point (oddly named as you really won't get affected by mosquitos here). Take a swim and enjoy a picnic.