This is without doubt one of New Zealand’s most unique and fascinating adventures, where you cruise the deep jade waters of the Whanganui River, through the heart of the Whanganui National park and leave civilisation far behind. Along the way discover beautiful natural wonders and connect with the spirit of the Tangata Whenua.
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Accommodation: Designated Great Walk Huts and Permanent Campsites
Nearest Town: Ohakune
The beautiful jade green Whanganui River is one of the longest rivers in the country and this magnificent floating adventure take you on a voyage deep into the pristine forests of the surrounding national park.
It's a trip that takes you through steep-sided canyons far from towns and roads. Here you'll find tranquility as well as abundant birdlife in the native podocarp forests that cling to the the river’s edge. Along the way you can take a break from the water for short walks in the forest and immerse yourself in history with the numerous important Maori cultural sights along the way.
This is a generally straightforward paddle, with a few gentle rapids to negotiate, so can easily be done independently and it's definitely a great option for families. If you worry about your confidence or abilities on the water however, then a fully guided excursion would be our recommendation. We arrange accommodation on the river in cozy Department of Conservation Huts, campgrounds or a private lodge plus organise all your canoe hire and transportation.
The three day trip is the most popular way to do this trip and takes in the best scenery. If however you want to create you own personal itinerary along the Whanganui River then we can help: trips from 3 to 5 days are possible with various start and finish points, and of course we'll sort out all your gear, accommodation and transport too!
If you want the fully guided and catered experience then we can also arrange that for you - 3 and 4 day guided options are available.
Contact us today and we can help you with some great advice and organise all the details for you.
You can combine this canoe trip with any other activity on this website to create your own unique itinerary.
When you develop your own tailor-made itinerary with us, it's fully customised with your choice of activities, accommodation and transport around New Zealand - Click here for more information about Multi-Activity Trips or Enquire Now to get started.
Day One: Whakahoro to John Coull Hut (37.5km, 7-9 Hours). Meet in the early morning at the town of Ohakune where you can park your vehicle securely. Your preference of canoe is loaded aboard the shuttle-bus trailer and then you are off to the start of your river adventure at Whakahoro. After a full safety and equipment briefing you'll be on your way. This is the start of the scenic middle reaches of the river. You'll pass numerous waterfalls, the Tarepokiore (whirlpool) rapid and then the large overhang known as Tamatea’s Cave - a highly sacred place. Your first overnight stop is at John Coull Hut.
Day Two: John Coull Hut to Tieke Kainga (29km, 6-8 Hours). On this section, you’ll follow the river as it meanders through bush-covered hills, passing the mouths of the Tangarakau and Whangamomona rivers where they join the Whanganui. Perched high above the river, Mangawaiiti is an attractive spot to stop for lunch. Continue your trip downstream past the Mangapurua Landing, gateway to the Bridge to Nowhere, on your way to Tieke Kainga. Here you can examine the intricately-carved pou whenua (carved timber pole) and learn about the history of Tieke and the tikanga (protocol) of the marae (meeting house). Stay the night at the Tieke Kainga Hut (See accomodation section below for more details on staying at a functioning Marae)
Day Three: Tieke Kainga to Pipiriki (21.5km, 4-6 Hours). Today you'll wonder at the scenic gorge of the Manganui o te Ao River where it enters the Whanganui after its journey from the slopes of Mt Ruapehu. The Ngaporo and Autapu rapids then provides the day's excitement and perhaps a cool dip on a hot afternoon. You’ll pass through more dense native forest, before finally emerging into farmland and the end of your journey at Pipiriki village. You will be picked up from here and returned to Ohakune.
From NZD$295 per adult / NZD$185 per child (9 to 14). Includes canoe and safety equipment rental, all transportation and hut accommodation.
This trip is definitely best between October and April and not just because being on the river when its warm and sunny is more enjoyable: There's more daylight hours to complete reasonably long days on the water and there's less chance of heavy rain rising river levels and making it dangerous to paddle.
Canoe - Each canoe comes complete with paddles, buoyancy vests, and Waterproof storage barrels.
You will receive a full safety and equipment briefing before you head out on to the water. Please note that for safety reasons solo paddlers have to be placed together into small groups.
You will need to bring:
Lots of warm clothes
All your food, gas cooker, plates, bowls, utensils etc.
Accommodation for this trip is provided in two excellent Department of Conservation Huts: John Coull Hut and Tieke Kainga Hut (which is uniquely also a historic marae). They both feature toilets, fresh water, mattresses, tables, benches and heating.
For more information about backcountry huts in New Zealand please checkout our accommodation guide here.
Tīeke Marae/Kāinga is a functioning marae The marae as a whole sits at the core of a Māori person's cultural identity, many visitors find staying in this incredible environment a deeply spiritual experience. You need to follow some simple rules around behaviour in and around Tīeke Marae/Kāinga. These rules are within Māori culture but are also based on respect, hygiene, and your own personal safety.
Absolutely no alcohol or drugs allowed at Tīeke Marae/Kāinga and campsite. Medication is allowed.
We can organise your accommodation in the charming resort town of Ohakune for before and after your trip if you wish. Please let us know what sort of accommodation you are looking for when you make your booking for this activity, and we can discuss the options with you.
Pick up your kayak or canoe, and the rest of your gear, at the resort town of Ohakune. Transportation is provided from there to the start point at Whakahoro and return from Pipiriki. Secure vehicle storage also available in Ohakune.