Rotokawau Virginia Lake
One of Whanganui’s premier parks, Virginia Lake Whanganui (Rotokawau) offers a range of activities including a 25 minute woodland walk around the lake. The birdlife, both on and around the water, is a major attraction and this is complemented by an aviary.
One of the beautiful attractions at Virginia Lake Whanganui is the Higginbottom Fountain, which is lit at night and gently changes between colours. The Winter Gardens is an all-year-round attraction with colourful displays whatever the season or weather
The riverside Kowhai Park has entertained and delighted children over the decades and is one of the top attractions in Whanganui. A must for families with young children and a favourite for all. Parents who played there while young bring their children back to experience the same fun they had at Kowhai Park!
A hollow octopus head allows children to climb over the eyes, stand inside and peer out while swings are suspended from the giant tentacles spreading in all directions. The slides are fantastically unconventional as a studded dinosaur back, to the tail of a whale, spiralling inside a clock tower and of course the “Old Woman’s Shoe” inspired by the old nursery rhyme of the same name.
Explore the exotic Paloma Gardens, landscaped with plants from all over the world, from the jungles of Asia to the deserts of Africa and the Americas. Paloma Gardens has been awarded “Garden of National Significance” by the New Zealand Gardens Trust.
The garden is best presented as several distinct zones, including the Palm Garden, the Desert House, the Garden of Death, the Bamboo Forests, the Jardin Exotique, the Wedding Lawn and the two Arboreta. A large pond in the centre of the garden is crossed by an arched bridge and doubles as the family swimming pool.
Tarapuruhi Forest Bushy Park
The Bushy Park Homestead and Wildlife Sanctuary is a 100 hectare native forest sanctuary kept predator-free for native birds and is ranked as one of Australasia’s “Top 25” Restoration Projects. There are 3.4km of easy all-weather walking tracks throughout the forest and wetlands area and a huge variety of bird life and species of trees. Bellbirds (kōmako), NZ bush pigeon (kereru), saddlebacks (tīeke), stitchbirds (hihi), morepork or owl (ruru), purple swamp hen (pūkeko), kingfishers (kotare)and white-faced heron (matuku moana) are just some you may see.
Don’t miss “Ratanui”, believed to be the biggest northern rata tree, 43 metres high with a girth of more than 11 metres with an age of between 500 and 1000 years. It is reputed to be the largest Rata tree in the world. The walking tracks take you through virgin lowland forest of tree species including mahoe, mamaku, pukatea, rata and rimu along with colonies of fern and mosses.
Bason Botanic Gardens
Set rurally 11kms from the centre of Whanganui, Bason Botanic Gardens covers 25 hectares and is rated a “Garden of Significance” by the New Zealand Gardens Trust. The gardens have developed since 1971 and various forms of unique architecture and art have become a feature.
The Bason Botanic Gardens was a generous gift from Stanley and Blanche Bason to Whanganui in 1966. Initially living off the land, this couple had a good vegetable garden, orchard, plenty of ducks, pheasants and pukeko and watercress from the creek. As their farm become more profitable following World War II, they were able to develop the Homestead and English Garden into almost an acre of camellia, roses, delphiniums, a scented garden and more.