Guide to the Whanganui Journey in New Zealand

Guide to the Whanganui Journey in New Zealand

The Whanganui Journey is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, but it doesn’t actually require any walking. This canoe or kayak journey down the Whanganui River is great for groups of all ages and sizes.

The Whanganui River carves through the lush rainforest in one of the most remote locations in New Zealand. Cut off from civilization, the river cuts through deep gorges and stunning scenery. There are many campsites all along the river, which allow your trip to last between three to five days.

Read all about our trip down the Whanganui River to help you plan your own trip!

Whanganui River Canoe
Whanganui River

Content and photographs provided by Yana Kogan and Timon.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase or booking through one of our links we may earn a small commission (don’t worry, it’s at no extra cost to you).


Guide to the Whanganui Journey in New Zealand

Where is it

Whanganui Journey: New Zealand

The Whanganui is in a dense rainforest between Tongariro and Taranaki. It is about two hours southwest of Rotorua on the North Island. With very few roads to access this river, kayak rental companies are located near Taumarunui and Whakahoro.


Best Season to Visit 

Whanganui Journey: River

The Great Walk season is from October 1 – May 1. During the season, the huts and campsites require prior bookings. In season, huts have cooking stoves and a resident hut warden. Out of season, huts are first come first serve with discounted rates, some without cooking stoves.

Campsites are all basic with a long drop toilet and shelter unless located near a hut.

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How Many Days to Visit

The Whanganui Journey can take anywhere from three to five days. You have the chance to extend the tours up to ten days. We recommend three days which will allow you to explore the best part of the river, starting in Whakahoro and ending at Pipiriki.

For more details on hut locations, distances and maps, check out the DOC website for the Whanganui Journey.


How to Book Your Trip

Whanganui River Journey
Relaxing on the river

The Whanganui Journey will require booking in advance. A booking with a kayak or canoe hire is required, which comes with transportation to and from the river. You must book campsites/huts online prior to the trip.

We recommend booking a trip with Taumarunui Canoe Hire. They are a family-run company offering canoe and kayak rentals. We felt they provided some of the best services in all of New Zealand. Contact Karen or Ron via email at tm[email protected] or by phone at 0800 226 6348.

Booking a campsite or hut can be done online. The cost of huts and campsites varies depending on if you visit during the Great Walk season or out-of-season, and can be booked online. There is also a private campsite across from Tieke Kainga called Ramanui, which can be booked directly with Taumarunui Canoe Hire.


Our Whanganui Journey

Whanganui River Adventures
Group trips on the Whanganui

Distance: 62.6 miles / 100.6 kilometers
Time: 3 Days (17 hours paddling)


Day 1

Whanganui Journey: Bridge
The Bridge to Nowhere

From Whakahoro to John Coull campsite:
Distance: 20.7 miles / 33.3 kilometers
Time: 5 hours 20 mins

This day has the biggest change of scenery, going from a nice scenic river with surrounding hills into a deep canyon within the national park.

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Day 2

Whanganui River Journey: National Park
In the Whanganui National Park

From John Coull campsite to Ramanui campsite:
Distance: 26 miles / 41.8 kilometers
Time: 7 hours

Day two is the most scenic of the 3-day journey and is in the heart of the national park. A little over three hours paddling from John Coull is the Bridge to Nowhere and a one-hour walk into the bush to visit the famous bridge.

Finish the afternoon paddling to either Tieke Kainga or Ramanui campsite.


Day 3

Whanganui Journey: Side Gorge
A side gorge off of the Whanganui River

From Ramanui campsite to Pipiriki:
Distance: 15.9 miles / 25.5 kilometers
Time: 4 hours, 45 mins

The last day of paddling to Pipiriki is the shortest day but comes with the most excitement. This day has several rapids and is fun to navigate with a large chance of getting wet. It requires some hard paddling and is lots of fun.


Day Hike Alternative

Jet Boat Tours to Bridge to Nowhere would be the best way to experience the Whanganui within the National Park and get a taste of the scenery in one day. Going to the Bridge to Nowhere takes you into the middle of the park and will also provide some interesting historical context to the region and the bridge itself.

You can book a tour through Whanganui River Adventures.


Important Things to Know

  • Rain occurs in this region often. Be prepared for rain at all times.
  • There are several rapids that are novice rapids but can still tip the canoe, especially towards the end of the journey. You will get a chance to get wet with the potential to flip the canoe.
  • Gas burners are available at all huts and available for use by tent campers.
  • Water is available at each hut. Water is not filtered and you can filter/boil for your own precaution; however, hut water is almost always drinkable in New Zealand.
  • A 60L barrel and five 30L barrels are provided for your gear. This is more than enough space for tent gear, clothing, food, drinks, and all supplies.
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That’s it – we hope you enjoy your Whanganui Journey!


Planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!


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