It had been almost a year since we went anywhere and while I missed going during the Christmas break, I decided to book something after the school holidays instead. We had been through Whanganui on the way to New Plymouth and stopped to take those cool white tunnel pictures. I skipped that this time around and opted for time with nature.
But first things first. I was reminded that Krispy Kreme donuts were being sold in some gas stations, so I looked up where before we left. Sure enough, we were going to be passing by THREE of them! Come to find out, one is only 30 minutes away for when I need my next fix.
Yes, the photo is blurry. Yes, I was very excited, which is probably why. I grabbed three glazed and then saw a raspberry filled as I was about to walk away. Yep, shoved that in the bag, too. $13.70 later I was bouncing out the door and scarfed one down before taking off again. Yum. Haven’t had one of these since I got back from Australia before Covid took hold.
We were getting the remnants of a cyclone and Whanganui was going to get hit pretty hard on the days I had booked the three night stay. Naturally. I made the executive decision to move it a few days later as it seemed the weather would be good. Amazingly, that worked out! We only hit one spot of rain while at Paloma Gardens but that didn’t keep us from seeing it.
About 20k outside of Whanganui, Paloma Gardens is a labor of love by a couple who have opened up their beautiful garden to anyone who’d like to see it. At $10 a head, it’s a small price to pay for the enjoyment and amazement. With plants and trees from all over the world, it’s easy to get lost in all of the beauty and wildlife.
As we wound our way through, we ran across the owner and he invited us to take a walk through the gate. What I wasn’t expecting to see were a bunch of sheep, yet there they were! They looked at us as if they had never seen humans before and scurried off in a hurry. With the exception of this one:
Apparently those flowers were just too yummy to leave behind. She assessed the situation, didn’t feel threatened by us and continued to munch on.
The bamboo “forest” was probably my favorite. The tall stalks swayed gently in the breeze, clacking together like Pinocchio’s teeth. A lovely place to forget about things going on in the world. And for a while, I really did.
Across from the bamboo was a wide, flat lawn and cactus garden. Two small houses were nestled in the back on hills, overlooking the pond and massive stalks of yuccas flowering. The large lawn was picture perfect, with huge palm trees lining the path. A lovely place for a wedding and honeymoon, even.
The cactus here are huge, most likely older than me, and all doing perfectly fine. Amazing to think they can withstand winter here. The photo above is stitched from 4 separate photos as I couldn’t fit it all into 1 shot.
I had to explore, feeling like I was back in Texas amongst my old, dear cacti friends. A gigantic one stood above me, flowers poking out of its side, begging for bats to come pollinate them.
Among the cacti was this huge, honeycomb looking stalk coming out of a very pointy succulent. I can imagine it would be buzzing with customers, trying to get the sweet nectar out of the tiny flowers.
While I would have loved to stay longer, the rain continued and we wanted some lunch. I recommend this place to anyone in the area. Really amazing.
The following day, we had a lot to knock out so it was on to Bushy Park Sanctuary. The website promised a predator-free fence around some trails in the forest and lots of birds.
We checked out the pond where many Saddleback birds pecked around the bushes for food, feeding their hungry youngsters. I’ve only ever seen these on Kapiti Island before.
The birds here reminded me of Galapagos animals who aren’t afraid of humans at all. We were able to get very close to them and they weren’t bothered by our presence.
Once we went through the gate into the predator-free area (there are still traps around, but the goal is to keep all unsavory characters out), the forest reminded me of Land of the Lost. A lot less cheesy, obviously. I can recall as a child watching that show that I was filled with wonder…how people lived among dinosaurs! The way I remember it and the way it actually IS are two completely different things, as I know now.
Here, the tree ferns stood tall and giant bromeliads grew in large clusters in the trees. It felt nothing like the Hawke’s Bay bush walks. This felt more primitive and pristine, as if things hadn’t been changed for aeons.
Feeding stations had been set up in spots and we caught the glimpse of a different looking bird I wasn’t familiar with.
I knew it had to be special with three bands on its legs. I looked it up and it’s a Hihi or Stitchbird. Very rare in New Zealand and only found in a handful of places. There were at least 4 or 5 at this particular station. It was extremely dark (which you can’t tell by the photo as the camera compensated for it) so almost every photo came out blurry. I’m glad I took a lot!
As we walked, I noticed a tiny bird was near my feet. It wasn’t the usual Fantail, but something else I wasn’t used to seeing – the New Zealand Robin. Much smaller than the Robins back in the States and cute as a button! It seemed like a baby because it was fluttering its wings, like I was its mama wanting me to feed it. Ok…I’ll play along with that!
This little fluffy golf ball pecked around under the leaf litter and kept closeby. I crouched down and picked up a stick to clear away a spot of ground right in front of me. It watched as I did this and as I put the stick down, we looked at each other and then it came over to see what it could find. It was such a lovely encounter. This happened a few times during our visit. It had to have been different birds, unless this particular one was stalking us! I was really enamoured by this and could have stayed all day there with them.
We don’t get to see Nikau palms much, but this place had plenty of them. I caught sight of this one in bloom. These amazing looking palms take 200 years to grow 10m (30 feet) tall. I actually have a couple of small ones in a pot I obtained a few years back. They’ve barely grown.
This was another place I really wanted to stay longer at, too, but there are things on my list. And the weatherman was saying it may rain soon. I’ve kept the indoor stuff on the list for later. We must keep moving!
We passed a sign for a beach I had wanted to visit, so we headed down the windy road and finally came across a big cliffside. A stream of freshwater spilled out into the ocean and to the right was this spectacular view above.
The black sand beach was steaming and so were we. The temperature was in the low 90’s with humidity off the charts. There was no shade to be had so we walked around for a bit and moved on.
The boyfriend was just thrilled to find out we were hitting yet another botanical garden! This is what our life has come to. Well, I love it! So on to Bason Gardens which looked HUGE. I’m positive we didn’t see it all. There were a few different conservatories which housed orchids, succulents and flowering plants. The good thing was that after coming out of the orchid house, it felt much cooler outside!
As we strolled through the flower garden, we could hear some off tune, maniacal clown music coming from across the road, apparently down by the water. He wanted to see if it was ice cream. I had a feeling it was one of those strange carts with a monkey they’d have at carnivals.
We looked down to see about a million steps. Speaking of that, we had already walked a few miles the day before and was on par to do the same today. I was NOT into doing stairs, yet we did. And what did we find? Not ice cream! It WAS a travelling organ and it even had a monkey. Dang, I’m good.
We walked along the water where a bunch of lily pads and flowers floated happily, attracting damselflies.
Oh, and those stairs? Yep. Here they are. Brutal.
It was only lunch time by now. We headed back to town and had a feed at a restaurant along the river. It was incredibly hot and humid with barely a breeze to cool us down as we sat outside, reintroducing all of the calories we just burned off. We didn’t walk far because we just couldn’t, but far enough to see what I dub the Phantasm ball.
This ginormous sculpture is way cool. I have no idea what it represents but I love it!
In front of it was the Waimarie steamboat. While I would have liked to take a ride on it, at $50 per person, that was a no-go.
The following day, I was determined to start off early. It was our last full day and we hadn’t hit any of the indoor things in town on my list.
The first stop was Lake Virginia, where I was thrilled to see all matter of water fowl. There were tons of Pukekos with chicks, Coots with their funny white forehead, an Elvis duck (complete with porkchop sideburns), deranged geese and majestic black swans.
The most memorable part of this long walk was being accosted by a gaggle of geese. As we peered through the reeds at a Pukeko family feeding its tiny chick, all of a sudden we saw geese running full on toward us. Everyone followed the leader of the pack, wings spread out, screaming at the top of their lungs. All we could do was look at them with wide eyes, wondering what was coming next. I managed to lift up my camera to get this shot. We must be on the bad side of town or something.
It appeared to be a planned attack, possibly to scare any food we may have had out of our grasp for them to devour. However, food we did not have. Once we stood our ground, they relaxed within inches of us and then something else happened.
A nice little Coot and her chick innocently walked past us and then we heard the scream of a Pukeko who seemed to have some sort of problem with the two. The Pukeko chased both into the water, splashing and yelling as the geese and us looked on. I yelled at the Pukeko to chill out and that worked for a second, before going back for more. I don’t think there were any injuries but man, it was weird!
I read about a glass blowing place where you can take lessons and purchase some awesome looking creations. I thought for sure I’d be coming home with a souvenir.
We thought the heat and humidity was oppressive OUTSIDE. I did not want to get anywhere near the downstairs of this place. That white hot inferno had her sweating but she was rolling and sculpting like a pro! Thankfully there was actually a nice breeze coming in if you stood in the right place.
There was nothing affordable here. Gorgeous, yes. Affordable, no.
Moving right along, the Regional Museum was completely devoid of people, save for the lady behind the counter. I was happy to see a lot of fossils, rocks and taxidermy. Ok, maybe not so much on the taxidermy. However, they had a Tasmanian Tiger! I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one in person (a dead one, I mean). They became extinct around 1936, sadly.
All of this in 3 days, my friends. I do tend to make the most of a trip. Whanganui isn’t known to be on the tourist map, but I found all of the wildlife and parks quite enjoyable. I wish we had even one of those places in my town. Will wrap this up with a photo near sunset at North Mole (Castlecliff beach) by the jetty.
8 thoughts on “Wandering Around Whanganui”
Great post Steph. Whanganui sounds like a pleasant secret spot for tourists to really relax in, and get in touch with old (and new) New Zealand treasures.
Thanks Debbie! You know what I failed to take photos of? The TOWN! Some of the tops of the buildings were really cool. Baahhhh. Next time we pass through, I will.
What a place to wander through! Photos and descriptions make me want to jump on a plane.
Wow and that’s a nod to Whanganui for sure! You’d love NZ, Jim. It really has its moments. Like stepping back in time.
This is a fabulous post! The birds, plants, very cool. Come visit PLEASE soon maybe?
Thanks, TWOOD!!! Yes, they’re finally letting us leave here so I’ll be looking at flights soon, let ya know girlfriend!!
How fun! From the Krispy Kremes to stalking robins and deranged geese. How did you know that bats pollinate cactus? I can feel the heat and hear the clacking bamboo Pinocchio teeth. Thanks for bringing us with you!
Thanks for taking the virtual trip with us! Bats? I know a lot about bats! Plus, I lived in Texas as you know. I even had a cactus like that in my yard, although I was never awake to see any bats feeding from them.