This summer the Chronicle is bringing you another look at some of the best content of 2019. This story originally ran on August 16, 2019
Whanganui has been named as a finalist along with Hutt City in the most beautiful city category for the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards.
The River City is up against Hutt City and the winner will be decided on October 24 at the Beautiful Awards Gala Dinner in Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin.
Here are ten reasons why Whanganui is the most beautiful city in New Zealand.
Pukenamu Queen's Park
Pukenamu Queen's Park could be called the cultural centre of Whanganui. Home to the Sarjeant Gallery, the Whanganui Regional Museum, the Alexander Heritage & Research Library, the Whanganui War Memorial Centre and the Whanganui District Library, Pukenamu Queen's Park has a little bit of something for everyone. Even if viewing interesting artwork, observing historic artefacts and reading a plethora of books is not your cup of tea, Pukenamu Queen's Park has plenty of green space where you can enjoy some food while looking at sculptures including handspan and the lion memorial.
The Whanganui River
At 290 kilometres long, the Whanganui River is the third-longest river in New Zealand. The river can play a part in a range of activities for either individuals or groups including fishing, rowing, swimming and touring. A voyage aboard the historic riverboats Waimarie or Wairua will introduce passengers to stunning views of the Whanganui countryside and provide them with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
On a fine day in Whanganui, few places are as pleasant to spend time at as Virginia Lake on Great North Rd. The feature of the lake is a 25 minute walk around its circumference, full of all sorts of trees and plants to view. Another feature of Virginia Lake is its birdlife, playing home to winged creatures such as ducks, swans, pigeons and tui. A nearby aviary also houses birds with a little more colour and the Funky Dunk Cafe on-site provides meals and drinks for a picnic in the sun.
For a place with a population of just over 40,000 people, Whanganui has a lot of art studios and with that comes a lot of artists. Galleries include the aforementioned Sarjeant Gallery, as well as the Whanganui Community Arts Centre, Space Studio & Gallery, WHMilbank Gallery and a River City specialty, New Zealand Glassworks. For art enthusiasts there is always something going on in Whanganui's scene, such as Artists Open Studios and the newly introduced Whanganui Walls street art festival that featured several amazing murals being painted on buildings around the city.
Whanganui has unparalleled views such as the view of the city from the Durie Hill War Memorial Tower, unveiled in 1925. The view from the top is worth every one of 176 steps required to get there. Whanganui is also unique in that a look in two different directions on a clear day provides views of both Mt Taranaki (Egmont) and Mt Ruapehu. For those that enjoy the vibrant colours and different shapes of flowers, options include Winter Gardens, Glenlogie Rose Gardens, Bason Botanic Gardens and Paloma Gardens.
Kowhai Park is one of the most adventurous parks in New Zealand. Not only is the equipment fun for children to play on, but they can relate to a lot of it that is based on nursery rhymes such as Humpty Dumpty. There is also a barbecue facility on-site so the family can enjoy a meal and on the right day the children can also enjoy the added bonus of a train ride. Parents have been taking their children to Kowhai Park for over 50 years and with an average score of 4.5/5 on TripAdvisor, the majority clearly enjoy their time there.
While Whanganui might not be considered a powerhouse compared to some of New Zealand's bigger sporting cities, what the River City does have in terms of stadiums are world class. Cooks Gardens plays host to a number of sporting events including athletics and is the home of Whanganui's Heartland Championship rugby team. In 1962 thousands of spectators watched as Peter Snell broke the world record for running the mile at Cooks Gardens which now has a capacity of over 20,000. Whanganui is also the home of Springvale Stadium which opened in 1966 and in recent years has hosted Manawatū Jets basketball games.
Whanganui River Markets
The Whanganui River Markets on every Saturday morning down Taupo Quay are a perfect example of the Whanganui community coming together. People from all walks of life head down to the river where stalls are set up by people selling cooked food, homemade crafts and produce. A variety of singers and songwriters usually visit, providing some relaxing tunes on what has to be one of the best market days in New Zealand.
Whanganui is a city drenched in history and its people are passionate about preserving it. This can be seen in efforts to maintain heritage buildings such as the BNZ building, Melbourne House Drapery, the Rutland Hotel and Berkeley Buildings. Other notable buildings to check out for those interested in architecture are The Royal Wanganui Opera House, Post and Telegraph building and Cameron Blockhouse.
With a multitude of driftwood and black sand for miles, Castlecliff Beach is well worth a visit. Popular with swimmers, fishermen and women and surfers, Castlecliff Beach is a summer favourite. The Castlecliff suburb has a classic seaside holiday park nearby as well as a playground and popular cafe The Citadel on Rangiora St. Rangiora St itself is worth visiting as it looks pristine following efforts from the Castlecliff Rejuvenation Project over the past few years. It may even be a future contender for best New Zealand street, but as things stand, Whanganui's Ridgway St will contest that title with Main St in Greytown and Seymour Ave in Nelson.