In the late 1800s the Whanganui River was an international tourists' mecca, boasting a
12-strong fleet of riverboats run by Alexander Hatrick & Co to provide access from the coast to Taumarunui. PS Waimarie was built in 1899 by Yarrow & Co Shipbuilders at Poplar, London, and transported in kitset form to Wanganui. Originally named Aotea, she was operated by the Wanganui Settlers River Steamship Co until 1902, when she was sold to Alexander Hatrick and renamed Waimarie (good fortune/peaceful waters).
For almost 50 years PS Waimarie, Queen of the River, plied the River between Wanganui and Pipiriki, navigating the rapids and carring cargo, mail, River dwellers and tourists along this major highway inland.
After the Whanganui River road opened in 1935, the River traffic dwindled and finally, Waimarie, in need of a new boiler, was taken out of service in 1949. In 1952 she sank at her berth in Wanganui. She remained buried in the silt and mud of the River until 1993, when she was salvaged by enthusiastic volunteers and moved into the Whanganui Riverboat Centre for restoration.
Restoration of Waimarie's hull was begun by volunteers, and then major grants from the Trust Bank Wanganui Community Trust, Power Co. Wanganui Trust and the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, enabled the Riverboat Trust to employ tradesmen on the project.
The original design and manufacturing methods were followed as closely as possible, though the restored vessel complies with all modern safety standards. (All the hull plates were cold riveted - with approximately 40,000 rivets!)
Intensive restoration work began in 1997 and on 1 January 2000 restored Waimarie was recommissioned for her new life on the Whanganui River, as New Zealand's only authentic paddle steamer. In her first year of operation,
PS Waimarie carried over 25,000 passengers.
Waimarie runs regular cruises 13 kilometres up the Whanganui River to a small settlement, Upokongaro.