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Why Canoeing is Great for Family Getaways | Canoe Safaris

Posted by Phillip Collins on June 09, 2022


Why a Guided Canoe Holiday is Perfect for the Whole Family


There’s no better way to get out on the water and away from it all than a Guided Canoe holiday. Canoeing is an excellent outdoor adventure for the whole family. Leaving the everyday hustle and bustle behind, canoeing is a great way to disconnect from daily life and reconnect with your loved ones. Here we discuss why you should be packing paddles for your next family trip.

Beginner Friendly

For those of you that feel like a fish out of water when on the water, a canoe is a great beginner-level activity and gateway into other water sports. The large design of canoes makes it more difficult than Kayaks to tip over, and with our expert tuition and guidance on our multiday tours, we ensure even the least experienced paddler can pick up the skills, and enjoyment of a Wilderness Canoeing Experience.

Never paddled a day in your life? No problem!  With our guidance and instruction, it only takes about 30 minutes to learn the basics of how to paddle a canoe. We like to break the roles into two, as the rear paddler will dictate the direction; the front paddler will be responsible for most of the power and momentum. With a little bit of practice and a lot of teamwork, any family is more than capable of learning how to paddle canoes along our Whanganui River.

It Won’t Break the Bank

When compared to other once in a lifetime adventure holidays, Canoeing the Whanganui River is a relatively inexpensive summer activity making it ideal for families that want a one-of-a-kind experience without breaking the bank. Unless you plan on making canoeing a staple in your summer holidays, there is no need to purchase your own equipment, instead rental shops are never far from any large body of water or river. Guided canoe tours offer hiring options for your second holiday with us at affordable prices, like our Whanganui canoe hires.

Discover new Worlds

Experience New Zealand’s waterways like you never have before. Reaching into nooks and crannies larger boats cannot reach, traveling by canoe will show you spaces and places you may have seen before but never from this angle. After living in London for two years, I will never forget my first Canoe trip through the city on a Canoe, the perspective was a revelation as I saw more things with a differing view and after over 200 trips on the Whanganui River, I still see something new every time.  If your family loves nature or you’re trying to instill an appreciation for the natural world, there is no better way to do so than with one of our Guided Canoeing trips as you can connect the path of water from the Mountains to the Sea, the relationship between river, bank, rainforest and all the wildlife that calls this fascinating and unique ecosystem home! 

Reconnect with the Family

Getting out onto the water is an excellent way for the family to unplug. Tell the teens and tweens to put their phones on flight mode and tuck them into the dry bag, as they are now just expensive cameras. This is usually a hard sell, but the risk of getting them wet makes it an easy decision. Disconnecting from our devices, even for a short time, makes it easier to focus on each other and enjoy time together. The rhythmic motion of the paddling and the teamwork required makes for a potent cocktail of relaxation and bonding for the whole family.  We have seen great outcomes for families working, laughing and paddling together out here. 

Explore New Zealand like Never Before

If you’re looking for a fun family trip, the search is over! Canoe holidays are a fantastic way to reconnect with each other and the world around you. Whether you’re a group of beginners, a company of budding adventurers, or experienced paddlers, Canoe Safaris New Zealand have something for you. Get in touch with our team today and book your next adventure.

Canoeing VS Kayaking: What’s the Difference? | Canoe Safaris

Posted by Phillip Collins on May 20, 2022


Canoeing VS Kayaking: What’s the Difference?


Despite the fact that many use the two words interchangeably, there are actually clear differences between a kayak and a canoe. The boats are different. The gear is different. The way they are used is different. But few know what those differences actually are. Our aim is to explore these differences in detail and explain why a canoe is a perfect vessel for exploring New Zealand’s waterways.



Difference in Design


Canoes tend to be much heavier than kayaks, with a wide frame and an open-top design akin to a rowboat. The spacious design allows for multiple passengers to sit on bench seats and can hold a lot of additional gear. They are considered Expedition craft, more suited to longer journeys. 


Kayaks are smaller, nimble boats designed for speed and maneuverability. Typically, but not always, they have a closed-top design, meaning the paddler sits inside the boat with the kayak covering their legs.



Row Row Row Your Boat


Since canoes tend to be a lot heavier than kayaks; paddling them requires a good deal more effort. In fact, paddling a canoe will more often than not require two people since the boat is larger and the paddles are shorter and have only a single blade.  More effort does not mean more hard work though, as using good Canoe paddle techniques, and teamwork makes them a really enjoyable -and responsive – watercraft. 


Paddling a kayak, on the other hand, is far more straightforward. The paddles have two blades, one on each end, and since kayaks aren’t typically as wide or as heavy – meaning less cargo - a single person can easily operate a kayak, and this makes it instinctively easier for a novice, or solo paddler. 



Don’t Rock the Boat


A canoe’s wider hull allows for greater stability on the water, ensuring that even the most inexperienced paddlers can stay dry. This security does come at the cost of some short-term maneuverability and acceleration, so don’t expect to be setting record times through the rapids anytime soon in a canoe however, over longer distances they become invaluable.


Kayaks are far smaller and lighter, making them easier to maneuver and quicker over short distances. This greater maneuverability comes at the cost of less stability and higher chances of taking an unwanted dip in the river. The initial learning curve for using a kayak is much simpler than a canoe, and you can get away with less technique.



Canoes and Kayaks – What are they Good for?


Both kayaks and canoes can be used for a wide range of activities — but each does carry certain benefits. It can be helpful to think of a kayak as a sports car and a canoe as the minivan of the paddling world. Kayaks are better suited to big rapids or ocean and estuary trips, Whereas canoes are better suited for those looking for longer expedition style trips over multiple days, down a winding river with the family.


Experience New Zealand Like Never Before


Now that you know how to tell the difference between a kayak and a canoe, you will also be able to choose the best boat for your next adventure. Why not make that next adventure a trip down the Whanganui River? At Canoe Safaris, we do offer Whanganui canoe hire to some groups who present as suitable and capable, however we focus on our all-inclusive guided tours on either the Whanganui River or the Rangitikei River– just bring your sleeping bag and personal items, we do the rest.  Come and experience New Zealand like never before with Canoe Safaris New Zealand!

Discover the Whanganui River History | Canoe Safaris

Posted by Phillip Collins on May 05, 2022


Long and Winding History of the Whanganui River


Time stands still on the Whanganui River. On the river, you are slicing through a storied past that reaches back hundreds of years, from Taumarunui through the deep gorges of Whanganui National Park, until bush-covered hills fall into the sea at the town of Whanganui.


In this blog post, we float through the Whanganui River’s history, spanning back to the first people discovering it, through colonial times right up into modern history, painting a vivid picture of one of New Zealand’s most unique rivers.



Tamatea, Captain of the Takitimu


The Whanganui River was initially discovered around 1350 when Tamatea, captain of the T?kitimu canoe, brought some of the first Polynesian migrants to the island. Ever since, the Whanganui Iwi have lived by, travelled on, and drawn sustenance from the river.


Tamatea named many famous locations still seen along the river today, such as Te Punga where he cast anchor, Tangahoe where he cut paddles, and Tamatea’s Cave, where he sought shelter.



Early Maori Settlements


The river once sheltered a large population of M?ori settlements. The river's low gradient and straightforward navigability, along with suitable defensive locations for fortified 'pa,' led to the formation of many villages along its lengths. Remnants of early M?ori influence can still be seen as you traverse the ancient waters of the Whanganui.



The Plaited Rope of Hinengakau


In time, the river became linked by a series of p?, called ‘the plaited rope of Hinengakau’. This name symbolises the unity of the Whanganui River people and refers to the children of Tamakehu and the three major settlements. Hineng?kau of the upper river, Tama ?poko of the middle, and T?poho of the lower Whanganui. Throughout time, custodianship of the river has been passed down to the descendants of these three siblings.



European Influence


The arrival of European missionaries in the 1840s had an immense impact on the river. Steamboats started taking over the river as settlers used it for transport. Many locals began to convert to Christianity, and chapels began to dot the banks of the Whanganui River, many of which still stand today.



Becoming a Person


In more modern history, Whanganui made waves across the globe in 2017 by becoming the first river to be recognised as a person. As a result, the river can now be represented in court situations, treaty negotiations, and other disputes. Decisions that affect the Whanganui River must now recognise its health and well-being under its new legal status as a person.  Whanganui’s legal personhood is a landmark ruling, a hopeful step in the right direction concerning the way we view our natural world.



Experience the History of Whanganui First-hand


Every twist, turn, and rapid along the Whanganui River tells a story, peaking back into the past while offering a hopeful visage for the future of our natural world. If you want to learn first-hand what this river has to offer, a Whanganui River journey guided tour is the ideal way to do it. Book your trip back to the past with Canoe Safaris.

The Essentials you need for your canoe trip

Posted by Phillip Collins on February 25, 2022

The Essentials You Need for Your Canoe Trip 

Looking to go on an exciting river trip but don’t know how to get started and what you will need? Canoe Safaris provides guided tours that take a lot of the stress out of planning a canoe trip. There are however some essentials that you should bring along with you even on our guided tours! We go over some essentials that you should pack for your canoe trip.


A Variety of Clothes 

A good range of clothing is essential for safety and comfort during your stay on your Whanganui River Trip. Weather in New Zealand can be temperamental and being around water poses the threat of getting a bit damp, so it’s wise to pack waterproof clothing and clothing backups.


Swimwear, shorts, poly props, light long pants, hat, waterproof jacket, woolen socks, gloves, campsite casual clothes, and comfortable shoes are all things you should look to bring on your trip. For a comprehensive list of clothing, check out our What to Bring guide.



On your Canoe Safaris guided Whanganui River trips, we take care of keeping you fed throughout the exciting journey. We cater three meals a day, including three course dinners and provide plenty of snacks to graze on during the day in between meals.  This takes the stress off you lugging around cooking equipment all trip long, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the natural experience.


However if you have some particular “favourites” it can be a good idea to pack some for a quick pick-me-up when needed on the trip.



The New Zealand sunshine is significantly different to sunshine in other parts of the globe. New Zealand’s sunburn time can sometimes be as low as 7 minutes! Don’t get caught unaware and ruin the trip with a nasty sunburn. Bring a bottle of high SPF (marine friendly) sunscreen to apply in the mornings and several times throughout the day.


Make sure to check the brands and reviews of your sunblock as well, as some sunscreen manufacturers have been found to provide insufficient protection against New Zealand’s harsh rays.


Bug Spray 

Being out in nature is a beautiful and soul-filling experience but it also comes with a few easily solvable downsides. Bugs, sandflies, and mosquitoes can be a nuisance at times for the unprepared. Pack some spray-on or roll-on insect repellent that can be applied when you go through or stay in a spot with more bugs than usual.


Sleeping Kit 

We provide you with high quality tents and superior inflating sleeping mats on our guided trips already, so all you need to bring is a high-quality sleeping bag. A sleeping bag that packs down small but is also thick enough to keep you warm will be best, as you want to travel light and sleep comfortably. For night-time, you should also bring a headlamp or a torch for finding things in the dark. A good book can also enhance the experience, giving your mind some stimulation before heading to bed.


Physical preparation 

Whatever your fitness levels, there are a number of ways to prepare specifically for a canoe trip.  Below are links to some easy movements that once repeated, will build your endurance, and performance for multi day tours. 

Shoulder rotations

Torso rotations

Swiss ball sitting

Back stretches

Sitting to standing


Book a Guided River Tour Today 

Book your Whanganui River trip today to be guided through one of New Zealand’s most pristine natural and historical environments. Our guides are knowledgeable and friendly, ready to make your trip one to remember.

We pride ourselves on being able to teach anyone the correct canoe skills and techniques to get you not just down the river, but in a more relaxed and competent style so your muscles can enjoy building on them the next day.  Mult-day options are available so that you can make the most of your time in the area. Experience New Zealand at its best. 

River of Many Stories

Posted by Website Admin on November 22, 2014

Canoeing New Zealand’s Stunning Whanganui
By Michael Lanza

Within minutes after launching our canoe into the chocolate-brown and, at the moment, tranquil Whanganui River, in the southwestern corner of New Zealand’s North Island, I begin to get a sense of why the native Maori people believed that every bend in this striking waterway had a mauri, or “life force.” We’ve entered a nearly unbroken gorge of sheer sandstone and mudstone cliffs soaring up to 200 feet straight out of the water, draped with jungle-like foliage in infinite hues of green. Cicadas buzz and rattle almost deafeningly. Ribbon waterfalls pour in straight, pencil-thin lines down walls so oversaturated that they weep tears from every fern and leaf.

The Maori are right: this place is very much alive.

Also within minutes, my partner in this canoe, whom I met just an hour ago, begins pointing out birds such as tui and kingfisher, and plants like the toi-toi, with its long stalks and large, cream-white seedpod heads. She identifies trees like the punga, with its giant fronds, and the thick-trunked totara sprouting from the cliffs, while casually schooling me in Maori terms and history on this river of many human stories and ghosts.

Mereana (“Merayanna”) Matekingi Lewis, a woman in her 60s with waves of gray-white hair and multiple laugh lines joining like the tributaries of a river at the corners of her eyes, is part Maori, and the Whanganui is her family “owa,” or river. She is descended from the people who once carved canoes from those fat totara trunks and plied these waters for innumerable generations, harvesting wild edibles and herbs and scattering their tales and legends liberally along these riverbanks. She liberally spices conversation with Maori terms such as “waka,” meaning “canoe.”

By pure luck, I’ll spend the next three days on the Whanganui sharing a canoe with my own personal historian-naturalist.

Whakahoro to Pipiriki

Mereana and I are the clients of Laura Wallis, a 22-year-old guide with a local outfit called Canoe Safaris. Laura is leading us down the pristine, 54-mile-long stretch of the Whanganui from Whakahoro to Pipiriki. Mostly within Whanganui National Park, the Whanganui River offers one of the most beloved multi-day wilderness trips in a country known for its wealth of adventure offerings, because this trip hits a somewhat rare trifecta: unusual natural beauty, deep and fascinating human history, and the accessibility of being within the abilities of people with basic paddling skills (including families, of which we’ll see plenty at campsites). The section we’re traveling comprises the bottom segment of the Whanganui River Journey, a 90-mile, five-day canoe or kayak adventure from Taumarunui to Pipiriki that is the only water-based trip listed among New Zealand’s vaunted Great Walks.

The Whanganui River holds such special reverence, in fact, that it has been granted the same legal rights as every New Zealand citizen. On Aug. 30, 2012, an agreement was reached giving the Whanganui a legal identity—a first in the world for a river. According to the New Zealand Herald, the river “will be recognized as a person when it comes to the law.”

Dipping my paddle into waters brown from recent heavy rains, and steering our canoe through the first of more than 200 class I and II rapids we will navigate over the next three days, I’m looking forward to getting to know this river-personage better.

Canoeing the Whanganui River below Whakahoro.

Steeped in Maori History

From its headwaters on the slopes of the active volcano Mt. Tongariro ( which i hiked a day before embarking on this trip), the Whanganui River meanders 180 miles (290k) through thickly forested hill country—what Kiwis call “bush”—to the Tasman Sea at the town of Whanganui. It is the country’s third-longest river and longest navigable one. Over the ages, the Whanganui and its tributaries have sliced downward through mudstone, or “papa,” creating gorges riotous with plant life in one of the rainiest places on the planet.

But more than any other New Zealand national park, Whanganui’s history is intricately interwoven with the history of human settlement here.

For at least 600 years before Europeans arrived, the Whanganui Valley was one of the most densely inhabited areas on the island. Numerous Maori villages, or kainga, and family settlements called marae existed along its banks; the Maori fished and traded all along the Whanganui and some of its tributaries. They call the river “Te awa tupua,” and consider it a “taonga,” or special place. In Maori legend, every bend and rapid has a “kaitiaki,” or guardian who protects that spot’s mauri.

After colonists settled here, a major trading post grew up at the river’s mouth. Alexander Hatrick started the first regular steamboat service in late 1891, after having the paddle-steamer Wairere shipped in sections from London and reassembled here. His boats provided mail and freight to Maori and settlers along the river until the construction of roads in the 1920s, though the steamboat business continued until 1958. The New Zealand government encouraged citizens to settle and farm the valley in the 1930s, but the last of those farms were abandoned by the early 1940s, the people fleeing the remoteness and hardscrabble lifestyle.

In 1986, New Zealand established Whanganui National Park, which now safeguards one of the largest remaining tracts of podocarp and hardwood lowland forest on the North Island, an alphabet soup of greenery: trees like the kamahi, tawa, rimu, mÄ«ro, tōtara, kahikatea, mataÄ«, and nÄ«kau palm, and ferns ranging in size up to the 100-foot-tall mamaku. The park and river provide rare habitat for numerous species, including the whio, or blue duck, the North Island’s largest population of brown kiwi (numbering an estimated several thousand birds), 18 kinds of native fish, and eels, lamprey, koura (freshwater crayfish), and black flounder.

Whanganui River, Whakahoro to Pipiriki, day one.

Bridge To Nowhere

The bush grows so thickly on the cliffs that vegetation often hangs out over the river. We paddle past myriad dark, vertical slots cutting into the walls, too deep for us to see where these big cracks end, and too narrow to probe into with our canoes. Usually, we can only hear a waterfall inside those slots, not see it, the view inside blocked by close, curving walls. Water pours from these cracks as if from a jug, filling the goblet of the river.

But then, late on our first afternoon, we come upon a side canyon that’s several feet wide on river right, and Mereana and I nose our canoe inside it. About 30 feet in, we tie the canoe off to a rock and climb up onto a wide ledge, walking over the slick stone and through the shallow stream draining this slot canyon for another 30 feet, stopping at a waterfall rising before us. It’s deeply shaded and at least 10 degrees cooler than the temperature in the sunshine on the river. Mosses hang from the slimy walls like long, unkempt hair.

Back on the river, minutes beyond that side canyon, we reach John Coull Hut. The hut typically fills up—and will tonight—so we choose instead to pitch tents in a nearby, grassy clearing, where by nightfall a small tent village materializes. At dusk, kids run around the camping area. The Whanganui is definitely popular, but as we’ll discover over our three mid-summer days out here, parties disperse on the water, so we see hardly any other canoeists while paddling.

Canoeing the Whanganui River.

Still, we want to get ahead of the crowd. So in the morning, we rise early and get on the water just after 8 a.m. Mereana says she heard a morepork, New Zealand’s native owl, overnight; Laura heard a kiwi. The New Zealand bush comes more alive after dark than it is during the day.

Just before noon on day two, we take out at Mangapurua Landing for the 40-minute uphill hike to the Bridge to Nowhere. A concrete structure spanning the deep gorge slashed into the bush by Mangapurua Stream, it was built in 1935-1936, financed by the New Zealand government. The objective was to eventually build a road to settlements in this valley that had been opened up to World War I veterans by the government, hoping to encourage the development of agriculture. But life was hard, and the land not suitable for farming. The last settlers left after a flood in January 1942

The trail climbs bluffs a few hundred feet above the river, through dense bush with big punga and other trees sprouting from a nearly vertical wall. We step from the cool shade of the bush onto the bridge and into the sun-blasted heat.

Gazing down a few hundred feet into the gorge, I’m reminded of other wild lands I’ve explored, like Hells Canyon in the United States, where government-supported efforts to bring in settlers ultimately failed. The Bridge to Nowhere, an anomalous structure in the middle of wild country, connected to no road or community, stands as a monument to the flawed presumption that we can always tame the wilderness. Lucky for us that this effort failed, too, or this trip might be a very different experience.

The Bridge to Nowhere offers a lonely metaphor for the long, varied, and sometimes-turbulent history of human presence on the Whanganui River—demonstrating how nothing stays constant, whether seen from our relatively short historical perspective or the longer view of natural history. Settlers introduced non-native possums and domestic goats to New Zealand, which have devastated the populations of many native birds and other animals along this river. So the Whanganui River’s story tells of the successful preservation of a special, historical place, but also a cautionary tale about the capacity for humans to unintentionally mar the natural world—if not forever, then for a very long time.

And the only true constant, of course, is this river.

The camping area at John Coull Hut.

Tieke Kainga Marae

As someone who spends much more time in mountains than on a river, it takes me a little time to recalibrate my senses to a water trip. But slowly, I start getting into the rhythm of it, seeing not just continuous green walls but the incredible complexity of vegetation on the cliffs. Mereana and I paddle close to the bluffs and touch the plants hanging from the walls, everything as waterlogged as a sponge in a kitchen sink.

On our second day, we paddle through more fun, bouncy wave trains and past more waterfalls than we can count, and peer into a few tributary slot canyons. A pleasant rain shower briefly cools us off on an otherwise warm, sunny day. In the dead heat of mid-afternoon, we pull the canoes onto a muddy riverbank and take a cooling dip in a placid stretch of the Whanganui.

Mereana grew up in New Zealand, but now lives in Perth, Australia. In Maori, Mereana means “fighting girl,” she tells me, adding with a hearty laugh, “Remember that!” Her upper left arm bears a tattoo, representing her marae, inscribed by an uncle when she was 11 years old.

Waterfall on the Whanganui River, just before Pipiriki.

This trip down the Whanganui, birthplace of her ancestors, is clearly very meaningful for her. Her family came from the lower Whanganui River, she says, and one grandmother came from a spot about halfway upriver. This gives her an affiliation with all of the “sub-tribes” on the river, meaning she’s related to anyone who comes from here, and thus, by tradition, has the right to walk on any marae on the Whanganui River. It is considered trespassing to enter a marae without permission, like entering someone’s home without being invited in, as she explains to me.

So it is with great solemnity that, at the end of our second day, when we take out across the river from the Bridge to Nowhere Lodge and a campground where most parties spend the night, Mereana leads Laura and me on a tour of Tieke Kainga marae, about a hundred feet above the river.

We walk quietly into the grassy courtyard of this ancient village and religious spot. Thick bush rings the marae on all sides but the front, which faces downhill, toward the river. A few small buildings occupy the site, including a meeting hall and a one-story home. No one is here, but Tieke Kainga is probably still used by Maori families for weddings and funerals, Mereana tells us. A red totem several feet tall, carved from one log of a totra tree and topped by a large head with a wildly painted face, stands in the middle of the courtyard area. The head on top represents the mountains at the source of the Whanganui, and the characters on the totem tell the story of the tribe’s whakapapa (pronounced “fakapapa”), or genealogy. Symbols of river waters spill from the totem’s base.

In early evening, Laura prepares a delicious dinner of steak and potatoes with vegetables and an orzo salad. Our guide—whom I have yet to see wear shoes on this trip, including on the hike to the Bridge to Nowhere—has proven an able backcountry chef, feeding us a first dinner of pasta with chicken, vegetables, and salad, and breakfasts featuring pancakes with fresh blueberries and eggs, toast, sausage, bacon, and home fries. Laura also charmingly uses many wonderfully evocative Kiwi colloquialisms, like saying “heaps” when she means “a lot,” as in “you’re taking heaps of photos;” and “wee” for “little,” as in “we’ll stop at that wee sandy bit.” She says this in the canoe while nodding toward a sandy beach, pronouncing it, “a wee sandy bet.”

After dinner, Mereana invites us to join her laying out our sleeping bags for the night on the veranda of the small house.

Sitting on the grass above the river, Mereana, Laura, and I talk until well after dark, when we hear a morepork in the tree behind us. We shine lights into the tree and see this owl-like bird perched there. Throughout the night, we hear the morepork making its well-known, loud screeching sound, but also its rarely heard “morepork” call.

Guide Laura Wallis paddles in one of the tributary streams of the Whanganui.

Autapu Rapid

On our last day, a few hours of paddling downstream from the marae and Bridge to Nowhere Lodge, we reach the final and most notorious wave train on the Whanganui: Autapu Rapid. Google “Whanganui River” and you will read many nail-biting tales of canoeists flipping in it. We have been talking about it since putting onto the river the first day. Laura tells us bluntly that at the river’s current, high level, “about 95 percent of canoeists get swamped by the waves.”

Staring at it, I figure it’s class III. But Laura also assures us that, if we did flip, we would merely bob safely through the waves into the gentler water below the rapid and easily swim to the shore.

I ask Mereana whether she wants to run it, and she enthusiastically chirps, “Of course!” With attitude like that from my partner, there’s no way I can back out.

We go for it, digging furiously with our paddles, trying to keep the bow straight down the piles of choppy, roiling water. But first one wave crashes over the gunwales, then more. As our canoe lists hard to starboard on its way to capsizing, the last thing I see and hear before going under is Mereana—the “fighting girl”—catapulting out of our canoe, laughing uproariously.

Mereana Matekingi Lewis at Tieke Kainga, a Maori marae.

See my other stories and images from adventures in New Zealand:
Super Volcanoes: Hiking the Steaming Peaks of New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park
Off the Beaten Track in New Zealand: Trekking the Rees-Dart in Mt. Aspiring National Park
Into the Mystic: Sea Kayaking Doubtful Sound In New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park

THIS TRIP IS GOOD FOR canoeists and kayakers with experience paddling swift rivers. Novices paddle this class I-II river, but some of its more than 200 rapids are challenging, depending on the water level. Autapu Rapid, the last major one before Pipiriki, is notorious for swamping canoes, although it’s a wave train that people safely swim through, and it can usually be avoided entirely to river right.

Make It Happen

Season September to May.

The Itinerary The three-day, 54-mile trip on the Whanganui River begins at Whakahoro and ends at Pipiriki. The entire Whanganui River Journey, a 90-mile, five-day excursion from Taumarunui to Pipiriki, is the only water-based adventure listed among New Zealand’s vaunted Great Walks.

Getting There A shuttle is required to the put-in at Whakahoro or Taumarunui, and from Pipiriki, a minimum one-hour drive from the town of Ohakune.

Huts/Camping On the three-day trip, spend your first time at John Coull Hut (bunkrooms or camping) at mile 23, and second night at Bridge to Nowhere Lodge or the campsites adjacent to it or across the river, at mile 41. Reservations are required for huts and campsites from Oct. 1 to April 30, and can be made at DOC offices or at; there is a per-person nightly fee. During the off-season, purchase hut tickets prior to your trip; camping is free then.

Map and Guide The Whitewater NZ “Guide to the Whanganui River,” $9 NZ in DOC offices and stores, or $10 NZ (including postage) from Whitewater NZ, +64 27 486 6994,

Rangitikei River Canoe Safaris
The Whanganui River Journey

Whanganui Special

Posted by Website Admin on November 16, 2011

1'st September–Spring!!  

We have canoe trips starting this month and the weather is much warmer and the days longer. The Tui and Bellbird are out on the riverbanks and will give you an early dawn chorus. We have a 4 day Whanganui trip starting on the 27'th September, and a 3 day Whanganui on the 5'th October.

Early season trips are great - not many paddlers and easy paddling with a slightly higher river levels. We have options to stay in huts or camp, and one night is included at Ramanui Lodge. 

Please call or email for details

A quick comment

"Dear Simon

 A belated thank you to you and Kelly and Jane for the most superb 5 days on the Whanganui before Christmas.  It was magic; a really special trip for us and the boys.  Some of the things we really appreciated include:
  • Kelly was so knowledgable about the river and its Maori and Pakeha history - as well as being totally unflappable and great company
  • We really liked the way the trip was planned - eg combining long days with half days as well as interspersing camping with a hot shower and a comparatively luxurious night at the lovely Bridge to Nowhere lodge. (Danny loved all those baby animals!)
  • The food was superb - camping food like I've never had before
  • The rapids are hard enough to give a thrill but not so hard they are too scary
  • The scenery and the peace and tranquility was magnificent
Thanks again - we totally recommend your company!

New Canoes. Summer 2009: We've updated our canoe fleet with 7 new NovaCraft Canoes from Canada, and also two new river kayaks with storage hatches, a few new tents, paddles and rescue equipment including another satellite phone.

Lavender Farm One Day trip.  This is a new trip for this season on the upper section of the Whanganui River. The trip starts at Taumarunui and takes you through the many small bouncy rapids to the finishing point 22km downstream at Ohinepane. There is still plenty of the early riverboat history to be seen with the remains of rock weirs that were made over 100 years ago to keep the channels deep enough. Lunch is on the river or after a short walk to the Lavender Farm where you can enjoy a cold drink, tea or espresso coffee. We use our 6 person Voyageur Canoes for this trip with a guide in the back of each boat. The trip is suitable for the whole family and takes around five hours.

2 Day Whanganui Trip with Jetboat.  This trip covers the scenic 3 day section of the river but with a Jetboat included to make it possible over a weekend. The first night is at John Coull hut and campsite, then on day two we paddle 18km to the start of the Bridge to Nowhere track. After lunch we walk to the Bridge and back to the river. A short paddle and we are met by the jetboat and are whisked the last 21.5km down to Pipiriki and then by bus back to Ohakune.

Thanks to James Morris of for the makeover of the website. James worked as a Whanganui river guide for a number of seasons before eventually moving to Canada and setting up Ventureweb. If you are looking for a website or a re-design then contact James at Ventureweb. Please drop us a note if you think there is anything on the site that needs tweaking.

If you are thinking of a trip this summer please drop us an email, or call on 0800 272335

Many Thanks,


The Canoe Safaris Team