The Whanganui River is the longest navigable river in New Zealand and part of the Te Araroa trail, a walking trail which stretches the length of the North and South islands. Extending from Mount Tongariro towards Taumaranui and south through the Whanganui National Park it snakes for 290 kilometers and attracts cyclists, hikers, canoeists and day trippers to enjoy its sights.
The river region was inhabited by Māori for over 800 years who built villages (kāinga) and cultivated sheltered river terraces for agricultural purposes. Europeans came later for the farming opportunities presented by the rich riparian soil. Settlements sprouted up along the banks of the river, one of the region’s most famous being Jerusalem (Hiruhārama). Home to a catholic church and convent built in the 1890s, the settlement frequently hosts guests who come to admire its ornately carved altar and kowhaiwhai panels. These days you can stay in the convent which has been converted to accommodation. In the early days of Maraekowhai as a farm, the river was the only access to it - allowing stock to be transferred away to market and supplies to arrive to the farm.