You will enjoy a warm welcome on the historic paddle steamer Waimarie, which plied the Whanganui River for 50 years as one of an extensive riverboat fleet, carrying cargo, River dwellers and tourists, until she sank at her berth in 1952.
Waimarie, the only surviving paddle steamer from the golden riverboat era in New Zealand's history, has been faithfully restored after lying submerged in the River for 41 years
Since 1 January 2000 Waimarie has been giving visitors a real heritage experience in modern comfort and safety. The vessel is powered by steam from a coal fired boiler. Waimarie's engine room is open to view and volunteer stokers are welcome!
• Adult : $30
• Children (5-15) : $12
• Children under 5 : FREE
• Family Concession (2 adults + up to 4 children aged 5-15 years) : $84
Well, you can't get much more unique than a ride on New Zealand's last paddlesteamer, can you. As we boarded this historic beauty, I could feel the history in every plank of wood, panel of steel and hammered rivet. Admittedly, all I really knew about the boat prior to the visit was just that it has been steaming up and down the Whanganui River for a little while now, and was a historic piece of maritime engineering.
We pulled away from the dock with a flurry of white water and a wet roar, but it was so smooth that had I been inside, or (blasphemy!) listing to a walkman or something, I doubt I would have noticed until I spotted the riverbank sliding past. This in itself is an impressive feat to me, a dyed-in-the-wool landlubber of the first order. As it was, the boat travelled so smoothly that I didn't suffer my inevitable bout of queezies until we were almost back at the dock near the end of the 2 hour cruise. Most impressive!
But what can a self-confessed technogeek actually *DO* while trapped on a boat, in the middle of the river, for *2 HOURS*? Simple... explore. I wandered around the decks talking to the amazingly informative staff, many of whom played significant roles in the recovery and restoration of the boat's many parts, from slinging shovelfuls of mud to un-bury the hull, through to hand-shaping wood for the window frames and superstructure. There is a LOT of stories bound into the decks of this river queen, and the best way to hear them is ignore the pre-recorded voiceover and talk to the crew.
And while you are at it, why not have a yak to the lads sweating it out below decks, running the mammoth steaming heart of Waimarie. If you ask nicely, you can get a great photo op of you slinging a shovelful of coal into the furnace that powers this graceful ship. Or pop up top and chat to her ever-cheerful Captain, hard at work at the wheel keeping her on track as she slides over the water on her flat-bottom keel, sitting a mere 18" into the river. Designed to travel over rapids, she has the shallowest drafts of any boat around her size. She has a fairly good turn of speed too, beaten by the occasional jetski that whizzes past at breakneck speed, or the rowing club lads in the sculls who are often seen outpacing this member of river royalty. fast enough that you aren't difting along, slow enough that you won't miss the scenery and don't feel like you're in a hurry to be anywhere.
The two seating areas below decks are wonderful on a hot day, in shade and cooled by the passing river breeze, the front salon serves snack foods and cold beers on the day trips, but can be rerigged for a full buffet meal if required for private charter runs. Not only beautiful, but multifunctional... what a boat!
Overall, I was highly impressed with the level of professionalism the crew maintained, without losing an ounce of friendliness, and their willingness, and in fact happiness, to share their knowledge and ship tales. It was a wonderful trip, both relaxing and invigorating at the same time, and I found it a refreshing alternative way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The hour-and-a-bit drive over from Palmerston North was well worth it, as we then able to spend the rest of the day exploring this historical city.
Random listing from 'Tourist'...
Kelly Tarlton's is a wonderland of snow, ice and amazing underwater sights. Explore the wilds of Antarctica and the natural treasures of the ocean depths in our Underwater World - and beyond.
Ph: (09) 528-0603
Fx: (09) 528-5175
- Adult [15 years and over] : $28.00
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