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The Whanganui River Journey

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September 2021 Issue

Tackle New Zealand’s wettest Great Walk in three days or five.

Taumarunui to Ohinepane Campsite

22km, 3-5hr

The lesser paddled upper reaches of the river will give you a greater chance of solitude, and enjoyable sets of rapids as you drift through rolling hills and farmland. Fast paddlers will reach the campsite within 3hr and some may wish to continue to the smaller Poukaria campsite.

Ohinepane Campsite to Whakahoro Campsite

35km, 6-8hr

Day two is punctuated by more rapids, but it is prone to treefall which can become trapped in the water and can be dangerous for paddlers. The scenic Whakahoro Campsite is reached on a 400m track from the landing and offers views over the river. Yes, you will need to carry your barrels up. Fortunately, paddlers can eat their feelings away at nearby Blue Duck Cafe.

Whakahoro Campsite to John Coull Hut and Campsite

37.5km, 7-9hr

The starting point for the popular three-day journey, Whakahoro also marks the beginning of true wilderness – the next road access is not until Pipiriki 88km away. This section is one of the most scenic as it passes through narrow mossy gorges. It’s a relaxing day with small rapids so you may feel it in your arms by day’s end. John Coull Hut is a good spot to listen for kiwi or spot long-tailed pekapeka at dusk. 

The Whanganui River Journey

John Coull Hut and Campsite to Tieke Kāinga

29km, 7-9hr

Within a few hours, the iconic Bridge to Nowhere is reached – a must-do diversion on this section. The 1.5hr return walk starting at Mangapurua Landing is a good chance to stretch the legs. Arrive early to find a mooring and avoid crowds from jet boat tours. From here, continue to Tieke Kāinga – the only Marae accommodation of the Great Walks. 

Tieke Kāinga to Pipiriki

21.5km, 4-6hr

If you’ve managed to stay in your canoe thus far, the final day’s paddle might have other plans for you. The infamous Fifty-fifty, which capsizes half of the paddlers who take it on, is one of two rapids sure to thrill on the short but sweet final leg to Pipiriki. 

145km (Taumarunui to Pipiriki); 87km (Whakahoro to Pipiriki)
Easy / Moderate
3-5 days
John Coull Hut (24 bunks), Tieke Kainga (20 bunks). Multiple campsites
Taumarunui, Whakahoro (from Owhango or Raurimu), Pipiriki

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