The national park is situated between the towns of Wanganui and Taumarunui in the central North Island of New Zealand. It is a two to three hour drive from Wellington and about five hours from Auckland. It is located between the Tongariro and Egmont national parks and its main feature is the Wanganui River.
The centrepiece of the park is the Wanganui River, one of the great waterways of New Zealand. This river starts in the Tongariro volcanic range and meanders all the way down to the Tasman Sea at Wanganui. The park also has an immense lowland forest and is home for many native plants and birds. Bird species resident in the park include tui, kereru, fantail and tomtit.
The Whanganui River provides a great opportunity for kayakers. It's over 200 kms in length and has huts and campsites along its route. It is considered to be a 'Great Journey' and consequently a River Pass is required if travelling along the river between October and April. The river is suitable for novice kayakers or canoeists. The park also provides good tramping opportunities which include the Matemateonga Track (3 to 4 days one way).
Both Taumarunui and Wanganui have a range of accommodation to suit all visitors.
Kayaking the Whanganui River is probably the best 'tramp' in the park. It's a classic Kiwi experience invoking memories of an earlier time. Please note that Tieke Hut is run as a Marae by local Maori and traditional customs are observed. As mentioned the Matemateonga Track is a popular three to four day tramp. A popular short walk is the 1.5 hour return trip from the Mangapurua Landing (Whanganui River) to the 'Bridge to Nowhere'. The bridge was built in the 1930s to provide access to a number of farms in the Mangapurua Valley. However by the time the bridge was completed the farms had been deserted.