The outlying sections of the park to the south can be accessed along the Whanganui River Road, from either Raetihi, a small town on SH4 near Ohakune, or Wanganui. The River Road hugs the river’s left bank from the riverside hamlet of Pipiriki 79km downstream to Upokongaro, just outside Wanganui. It’s a winding road, prone to floods and landslips (though by early 2013 the final 13km of gravel should have been sealed). Still, even in the best conditions the route will take a minimum of two hours.
Opened in 1934, the road is wedged between river, farmland and heavily forested outlying patches of the Whanganui National Park, and forms the supply route for the four hundred people or so who live along it. Facilities along the way are almost non-existent: there are no shops, pubs or petrol stations, and only a handful of places to stay. If you don’t fancy the drive, consider joining one of the Wanganui-based bus tours (see Whanganui River Road Mail Run).
The road is detailed in the free Whanganui River Road leaflet (readily available from i-SITE and DOC offices and downloadable from
w wanganui.com), which highlights points of interest and lists their distance from Wanganui.