Whanganui National Park

Whanganui National Park History

The Whanganui National Park established in 1986 as New Zealand’s 11th National Park. This national park possesses a diverse landscape of rivers, waterfalls and gorges abundant in native flora and fauna. The park protects one of the largest lowland forests remaining in the North Island. Unique features of the park include the eroded papa (mudstone) that has created the deep gorges and V shaped valleys.

The Whanganui River has been immensely important over the years as it provided an access point to the central North Island for transportation, trade and communication. The river is the longest navigable in New Zealand. The river is rich in Whanganui Maori history. In 1891 a riverboat service was introduced transporting European settlers, mail and freight between Taumarunui and Whanganui. This service was disestablished in the late 1920s due to the introduction of better roads and the main truck line.

The Bridge to Nowhere | Valley of Abandoned Dreams

Also known as ‘the bridge that came to late’, The Bridge to Nowhere is a concrete road bridge constructed in the early 1930s spanning the Mangapurua Gorge isolated deep within the park. Land gifted to soldiers returning from World War I was cleared as a pioneering farmland venture. Although the venture was originally successful, the area proved too isolated and particularly difficult for trading. Families of the Mangapurua Valley began abandoning the land that was deemed unsuitable for farming.


The Whanganui National Park is the home to the largest population of North Island Brown Kiwi with several thousand birds existing. The largest known colony of the protected rare Whio (New Zealand Blue Duck) in the area resides at the Ruatiti Domain, a popular swimming, fishing and picnic area a 20 minute drive from Ohakune.

Film Locations

Hollywood films, The River Queen {2003} staring Kiefer Sutherland and Samantha Morton and Without a Paddle {2004} staring Burt Reynolds and Seth Green were filmed on location on the Whanganui River.


Jet Boating – The Bridge to Nowhere Tour
Cycling – Mountain to Seas Cycle Trail & The Bridge to Nowhere Trail.
Hiking – The Bridge to Nowhere Track & The Mangapurua/Kaiwhakauka Track
Canoeing – Whanganui 3-5 day trips. A pass is required for all canoe and kayak users between October to April.
Swimming and Picnicing – Ruatiti Domain, local swimming spot.
Trout Fishing – Ruatiti Domain. A fishing licence is required. This is available from The Department of Conservation.
Hunting – The hunting of pigs, goats and fallow deer is encouraged on Department of Conservation land. All hunters are required to obtain a permit from The Department of Conservation.