Over 100 years ago, the Whanganui River was a water highway for river steamers.
Alexander Hatrick established the local riverboat industry in 1891, when he received a contract to carry mail and goods from Whanganui to Pipiriki some 60 miles upriver. In 1903 the river service was extended right through to Taumarunui. Hatrick & Company realising the attraction the great beauty of the forests of the river held for tourists, marketed the river as the Rhine of Maori Land and tourists came from all over the world to travel down river from Taumarunui and do one of the worlds greatest river journeys.
Over the years, rail and road replaced the river as a travel and trade route. While our awa no longer sees the hustle and bustle of the early 20th Century, there are still opportunities to experience authentic river travel like it used to be.
Paddle Steamer Waimarie
Salvaged from the bottom of the Whanganui River where it sat for around 50 years, the Paddle Steamer Waimaire was restored to its former glory and re-launched in 2000 to make it New Zealand’s last steam-powered and coal-fired passenger paddle steamer operating from the golden riverboat era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Loved by adults and children alike, a scheduled or private charter cruise on the Paddle Steamer Waimarie is undoubtedly the most authentic way to experience Whanganui River’s scenery and history.
Regular cruises run during warmer months (October-April) and private charter cruises can be made by arrangement anytime. Experience live and recorded commentary, homing pigeons and an original steam engine aboard every ‘Cruising at 11’ and special entertainment aboard one of our themed cruises. Eat and drink from ‘The Galley’ – our licensed bar serving a range of refreshments.
Motor Vessel Wairua
Built at Poplar London UK by Yarrow & Company, the Motor Vessel Wairua (Spirit) joined the famous Hatrick & Co Whanganui River Steamer fleet in November 1904 and was a pioneer of river travel above Pipiriki. Due to her unique form of propulsion that is known as tunnel drive or raised propeller boat, the MV Wairua could work in very shallow water and navigate challenging sections of the river. The Motor Vessel Wairua was one of the vessels most used to carry settlers and supplies to the Mangapurua Landing, gateway to the famed Bridge to Nowhere settlement.
Now faithfully restored, the MV Wairua offers day trips to Hipango Park, cruises to Upokongaro and personalised cruises for all occasions.