Hugging the West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island and home to approximately 43,000 people, Whanganui (sometimes spelt Wanganui) sits at the junction of State Highways 3 and 4. A 2 ½ hour drive north from New Zealand’s capital city Wellington, an hour and a half from Mount Ruapehu and Mount Tongariro. Most of the city lies on the north western bank of the historical and significant Te Awa o Whanganui – the Whanganui River. Once known as the Rhine of New Zealand (but not at all like The Rhine) except, the Whanganui River has shaped the history of the city and its people.
Since the mid-1800s there have been two different spellings in use for the name of the area. The different spellings arose from the way in which local Māori (iwi) pronounce the word ‘Whanganui’ (the ‘wh’ creating a barely aspirated sound), and the way in which European settlers wrote down the word as they heard it – ‘Wanganui’. This has been a rather controversial topic for many in recent years. The name of our district was deemed by the Government to be ‘Whanganui’. That’s why you will see the name of the city spelt with or without the “H”, either way it is still the same city.
You may wish to explore the mighty Whanganui River, immerse yourself in the offerings of the many contemporary and historical museums and art galleries. The art galleries are outstanding, with many local artisans exhibiting in and around the city. So go check out Wanganui and Whanganui at the same time.