Taumarunui is best known for its railway history, farming, weaving, golf and more recently, cycle trails. The town is complete with one or two colourful characters, a museum and a unique rail cart adventure. To check the range of accommodation, click here.
The Timber Trail from Piropiro flats to Ongarue is a fantastic mountain bike ride or walk, following much of the Ongarue bush tram system. Ongarue represents an important part of the timber industry and early pioneering history.
Taumarunui was originally a Maori settlement at the confluence of the Ongarue River with the Whanganui, with important canoe routes linking the interior of the island with the lower Whanganui River settlements. Some places, notably the valley of the Pungapunga Stream, which joins the upper Whanganui River near Manunui, were celebrated for the size and quality of totara trees, and large canoes were carved there. The area is a border between a number of iwi including Whanganui, Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Tūwharetoa, who lived together in relative harmony.
In 1874 Alexander Bell set up a training post, and became the first official European settler. During the New Zealand Land Wars a resident named William Moffatt manufactured and supplied Maori with a coarse kind of gunpowder to aid in their war efforts against the crown. He was eventually expelled from the district and despite warnings, he returned in 1880, ostensibly to prospect for gold, and was executed.
The Whanganui River long continued to be the principal route serving Taumarunui. Traffic was at first by Maori canoe, but by the late 1880s regular steamship routes were established. Taumarunui Landing was the last stop on Alexander Hatrick's steamboat service from Wanganui. The river vessels maintained the services between Wanganui and Taumarunui until the late 1920s.
Later Taumarunui gained importance with the completion of the North Island Main Trunk Line in 1908-09 (celebrated in a ballad by Peter Cape "Taumarunui On The Main Trunk Line"). The line south of Taumarunui caused considerable problems due to the terrain, and has several high viaducts and the famous Raurimu Spiral. In more recent times, the town's economy has been based on forestry and farming. It has gained in importance as a tourism centre, especially as an entry point for voyagers down the scenic Wanganui River and as the possessor of a high quality golf course.
West of Taumarunui, the former coal-mining town Ohura is a real step back in time. Complete with one or two colourful characters, a museum and a unique railcart adventure.
Heading South from Taumarunui towards the Tongariro National Park lies Owhango on the 39 South Circle of Latitude which spans across South America, Australia and through the middle of Owhango. Building its economy mainly on forestry and farming, the main trunk line runs alongside the Owhango township opening up a key trading route for the area. Cafe 39 South makes a great place to stop on your way through.