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- 12 May 2021, 3 nights
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Nestled against the coast of New Zealand's North Island, Whanganui is a peaceful city bursting with creativity and cradled by stunning landscapes. Founded in 1840, it's one of the country's oldest towns and it strikes a harmonious balance between Māori culture, the lively art community and the natural world. The Whanganui River runs through the city, which is surrounded by snow-capped peaks and the dense, verdant jungle of Whanganui National Park. Between the beaches, the forest and the heritage buildings, there's plenty to fall in love with here.
Stay right in the heart of the action at a Whanganui hostel in the city centre, or sleep in an Edwardian lodge with views of the dramatic mountains. You'll find free Wi-Fi at a homestead built in 1800 and accommodation with shared barbecue areas where you can cook a burger and stoke a new friendship. Look out for Whanganui backpackers hostels with complimentary linen and free breakfast to keep your packing and your budget light.
The Whanganui Central neighbourhood is the city's historic heart, with historic buildings and heritage walks right on your doorstep. It's also where you'll find the best nightlife in the city. The tiny village of Pipiriki marks the southern entrance to the Whanganui National Park, right by the river and surrounded by forest. If you're visiting this region for the great outdoors, this park is a destination worthy of your time.
The local art scene has plenty to keep you occupied in Whanganui. The area is famous for its glass art and you can try glass blowing at the New Zealand Glassworks. Wander the stalls and pick up a unique souvenir at River Traders, riverside markets held every Saturday. The Whanganui Journey is on New Zealand's Great Walks list, though it's mostly canoe-based. It winds along the Whanganui River and takes five days in all. If you'd prefer to keep your feet on land you can hike the Matemateaonga Track, an old Māori route through the wilderness. Check out the Bridge to Nowhere, an eerie concrete bridge in the dense jungle, while you hike.
To fly to Whanganui you'll need to catch a connection at Auckland to Whanganui Airport, which is a 10-minute taxi ride from the city. Wellington International Airport receives flights from abroad, and it's a 2.5 hour car drive or a bus journey that requires three buses and takes a minimum of 4.5 hours. Within the city, walking and cycling are easy, or you can catch a local bus.