A majestic, beautiful and unique experience canoeing down the Whanganui (Wanganui?!) River, 145km in length. You can do this with a tour or you can plan your own journey; either way, it’s a fun experience that will have you seeing some of the best sights of New Zealand.
Earlier in the year, my friends and I decided to embark on one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” (although technically, it isn’t a walk, I know) and plan a three-day canoeing journey on the Whanganui River.
You can do a five-day trip or a three-day trip — the itinerary is up to you. We opted for a three-day trip, leaving from the canoe company we went with, which is based in Ohakune. And then our canoe trip started at Whakahoro, after we had loaded up our barrels with our gear…
There are camp sites along the way for you to rest for the night, so it is a great idea to bring a tent. Unless you are one of the lucky ones who manage to secure a spot at the huts, but there’s nothing quite like staying in a tent under the stars anyway. My group camped it out on our first night at Ohauora Campsite, which is about a 25km journey from our start point. It is a welcome stop after a day of getting used to canoeing, sore arms and navigating Grade 1 rapids!
Along the way, there are places of interest that you can stop at, including Tamatea Cove, The Bridge to Nowhere (literally a bridge to nowhere — unfortunately, I don’t have photos of this though) and waterfalls, muddy caves…
Our second and last campsite was at the Tieke Kianga campsite, after a long day of canoeing to get there. You’re able to use the marae as sleeping quarters if you purchase a hut pass and book ahead, and there is also a 20-bed bunk room available for booking through the Department of Conservation.
So overall, a fantastic journey and one that I thoroughly recommend if you are into getting in touch with the outdoors. It’s a peaceful journey and you may find that you’re not the only ones on the river – we did ours over a long weekend and so it was quite busy. Bear in mind that the campsites require a little bit of uphill walking on the banks though, so you will have to haul your barrels containing your things up these (makes you feel like a pirate, arrr!!!).
We encountered the most fun rapids on our last day, just before our pick up spot at Pipiriki. Beware of capsizing but it’s all part of the fun and hopefully, you’ll be skilled at navigating rapids by that point. There are several companies that you can go with, which you can find through internet searches.
It is well worth the journey, and you will find that there’s nothing quite like having an immense stretch of river ahead of you, native trees on either side, and knowing that in this moment, it is just you, your canoe, and the river.
Useful links and references:
This is a link to Wikipedia - Whanganui Journey.
And this one, for track information and a guideline on what to bring from the Department of Conservation.
Canoe companies that you decide to go with will also provide plenty of information, tips and tricks.