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We now have the final programme for our tour to Whanganui in place. Highlights will include exclusive tours of some of the town’s beautifully restored heritage buildings, including private homes and the recently restored St Paul’s Memorial Church at Putiki, near Whanganui, and behind-the-scenes tours of selected art galleries and museums with specialist local guides and experts.
The tour will leave Wellington by coach on Thursday morning, 28 February. En route we will enjoy an exclusive visit to Ratana Pa to view the beautiful church, Temepara Tapu, officially opened in 1928 and set in carefully tended gardens. After checking in at the Collegiate Motor Inn in Whanganui, we will hear about the historical beginnings of Whanganui and the restoration of its heritage buildings from architect Bruce Dickson. Bruce will accompany us next door to Wanganui Collegiate School for a guided tour of the school’s memorial chapel and its highly acclaimed extension which he designed. We will then enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel.
On Friday morning we will visit the Whanganui Regional Museum, currently under redevelopment but due to re-open in mid-January. Our visit will include the new Lindauer Gallery, an iwi-led exhibition ‘Te Ati Haunui-a-Pāpārangi’, and the circular gallery upstairs where natural history exhibits (moa, whales and more) flow into cultural history displays centred on aspects of life on the Whanganui River, the so-called ‘Rhine of the Antipodes’.
From the Museum, we will visit the nearby Whanganui Memorial Centre. This striking building, opened in 1960, is regarded as one of the top 50 ‘modernist’ buildings in the Southern Hemisphere. Newly redeveloped and refurbished, the centre is a living memorial to the 375 men and women from Whanganui who lost their lives in WWII.
A walk down through Majestic Square will lead us to Victoria Avenue, the town’s picturesque main street. After lunch at one of Whanganui’s many lively cafés, we will walk to the NZ Glassworks Te Whare Tūhua o Te Ao, the new national centre for glass art, where we will enjoy a demonstration of hot glass-making and view its gallery of beautiful glass works.
Around the corner at Sarjeant on the Quay we will be welcomed by Director Greg Anderson and Trust Chair Nicola Williams in the art gallery’s stunning temporary location while its historic building on the hill is under redevelopment. We will tour the collection store back-of-house, have guided viewings of a special exhibition of Australian and New Zealand glass art and Conor Clarke’s photographic exhibition ‘The End of Wordsworth Street’, and view a selection of the gallery’s Edith Collier works which will be brought out especially for us.
From the Sarjeant, we will travel by coach to Nicola Williams’ historic cottage in Cameron Terrace, where we will be able to enjoy some of Nicola’s diverse art collection, whilst sipping a late afternoon glass of wine. After returning to our hotel we will have a group dinner at nearby Parnells.
Saturday continues our heritage theme. Heading back into the centre of town, we will visit the AE Kitchen building on Whanganui’s main street. Owner Kerry Girdwood will tell us about the many challenges of the building’s recent restoration and strengthening. There will be free time for a self-guided heritage walk to view some of the many historic buildings in the vicinity or explore the colourful Saturday market on Taupo Quay.
After lunch we will travel across the river by coach to Putiki to visit the stunning St Paul’s Memorial Church. We will view the intricate Māori carvings and tukutuku panels in the interior, hear about the history and restoration of this unique building, and be hosted to afternoon tea. Returning over the river, we will go up Durie Hill to enjoy the extensive views out to the Tasman Sea, Mount Ruapehu and Mount Taranaki.
Saturday will finish with a tour of the beautifully restored Royal Wanganui Opera House, built in 1899 and the last surviving Victorian theatre in New Zealand. We will then enjoy a glass of wine or beer and canapés, before returning to the hotel. The evening will be at our leisure.
Sunday 3 March is the final day of our tour. We will take the coach to Taupo Quay where we will wander through Moutoa Gardens, the site of a 79-day occupation by Te Rūnanga Pākaitore in 1995 and visit the Waimarie Museum. Located in an historic building that was originally the Wanganui Rowing Club, the museum contains intricate displays of river-related photography and artefacts that reveal the colourful history of the riverboat era.
The programme will conclude with a two-hour lunch cruise up the Whanganui River on the beautifully restored paddle-steamer, Waimarie. Following a relaxing cruise, we will return to Wellington by coach, arriving home late afternoon.
A summary of this itinerary, with details of what is included in the tour costs, plus the important Terms and Conditions and Cancellation Policy is available here.