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Nature & Wildlife

White water rafting NZ 6 top spots: thrills, holiday fun

  • 3 minutes

New Zealand


White water rafting, kayaking, canyoning, jet boating or natural rock water slides take your pick. Your family could be taking a leisurely walk while you are screaming in delight as you barrel down New Zealand’s natural water world. For the occasional white water adrenaline thrill the experience is not cheap or free. However it is absolutely guaranteed fun and joy as it swirls into a shared journey, through the roar of a river. For families on a budget there are activities around the rafting experience that are free, nature doesn’t charge for walks or cycle trails.

@Raglan Rock

1. RAGLAN ROCK CANYONING. Canyoning, waterfalls and glowworms

Raglan seems to have it all. Surf beaches aplenty with consummate professionals who enjoy folding newbies into the surf culture. (Check our Facebook page and Raglan travel guide for details) Perhaps not so well known is Raglan Rock, a top favourite offering an exhilarating sense of achievement. Climb, abseil, jump off waterfalls, day or night, surround yourself with glowworms, go caving underground or explore some of Raglan’s local climbing areas. You will canyon your way through turbo charged cascading torrents of water as you descend Mt Karioi’s ancient lava flow. It is a team effort while at the same time an individual experience for participants. Raglan Rock has the thrill and adrenaline rush making for a memorable experience. Raglan Rock works collaboratively with Raglan Surf School enabling family and friends to pick and choose activities that match their fitness levels as well as interests.


Tongariro River is a classic holiday experience with something for everyone. A place where a gentle stroll on Tongariro River walks, soaking in geothermal pools or rafting. The River is not always the flowing trout streams and inlets. About Tongariro River Rafting is insight into what makes this kiwi enterprise a buzz for visitors. Family or friends have choices from rafting a grade 2-3 river to extreme rapids to combinations where mountain biking and white water rafting test the endurance of the dedicated outdoors active visitor. And then there is an opportunity to whisk yourself up the mountain ranges of the Whakapapa. In summer the sky gondola whisks you up to a relaxing Gondola ride to the Knoll Ridge Chalet. The spectacular views of Mount Tongariro make this a family favourite. Tongariro River Rafting offers parents to indulge in a spot of fly fishing while family members spend an afternoon careering down river gorges. The experienced tour operators offer something for everyone.

White water rafting, Turangi, New Zealand
White water rafting, Turangi


Mohaka Rafting is the proud owner of a 5.0 Trip Advisor rating, it’s hard to argue with star studded reviews. The Mohaka River offers something for everyone, with Grade 2, 3 and 4/5 trips available throughout the warmer months (along with multi-day expeditions to immerse yourself in the wilderness). So pack some togs (swimmers), lunch and water, and prepare for spectacular scenery, lots of laughs, a little bit of hard work now and then, and the satisfaction of a day spent with family or friends. For family and friends who do not want to go white water rafting the Mohaka River Farm offers alternatives such as horse trekking and farm experiences.

Guests are offered opportunities to observe and experience seasonal hands-on homesteading and farm activities including:

  • Gardening
  • Animal Interactions
  • Crafts
  • Culinary Arts – from harvest to table including canning/preserving, cooking & baking.

‘Mohaka’ roughly translated from Maori means ‘place of dancing’ which is a great metaphor to apply to the river given how much fun it has turned out to be for visitors. Mohaka Rafting takes full advantage of this offering a number of different white water rafting experiences from Grade 2-5 day trips and multi-day expeditions up to a week.

One of the highlights is ‘The Big One’, a Grade 4/5 experience that takes you down a beautiful and less travelled route through the most spectacular canyons and gorges in the North Island. It’s called the big one because the immense scale of the gorge can make you feel very small by comparison. There’s also a bit of cliff jumping to fit in just in case you want a few more challenges.

The 172 km Mohaka River is an original highway through the Hawkes Bay. To preserve the unique character of the upper river, a water conservation order was put in place in 2004. Downstream of the bridge, more precisely below the Department of Conservation’s Everett camp site, the river changes to Grade III rapids and then to Grade IV and V, running through steep-sided gorges, before returning to calmerr water as it approaches the coast.

New Zealand’s longest swingbridge at 110 metres (360 ft) in length spans the Buller River 14 kilometres west of Murchison in the Upper Buller Scenic Reserve
Buller River 14 kilometres west of Murchison in the Upper Buller Scenic Reserve


Where four rivers meet is the arguably the white water capital of Aotearoa New Zealand. The tiny settlement of Murchison attracts devotees to raft the Buller. Ultimate Descents offers choice from ½ day excursions to multiple day heli-rafting immersive adventures. A plus for families is the option to go rafting with the kids. Children can join six years or above.

  • One of the few adventure activities for all the family
  • Fun wave trains to raft for the kids
  • Entertaining and informative guides
  • All equipment and clothing supplied


Another white water rafting experience for families where the kids are introduced to the thrill of rafting through a movie set. The guided rafting tour through the location of the dwarves in the barrels scene of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on Marlborough’s stunning Pelorus River will be highlighted for the adventurous soul in all of us. This highlight is a great family day trip with family photos, kayak in a safe controlled environment, with experienced guides, on an easy exciting journey down the Pelorus river. The tours are operated by Kayak New Zealand’s Most Beautiful River.

Pelorus River, New Zealand
Pelorus River
@Vector Wero Whitewater Park
@Vector Wero Whitewater Park

6. WHITE WATER RAFTING IN AUCKLAND. An urban surprise in Auckland.

White Water Rafting Kayaking Paddleboarding urban based, just hop on the motorway. Located in Vector Wero Whitewater Park, Great South Rd, Maunukau is an opportunity for Aucklanders to indulge in water sports from the comfort of their homes. A definite plus is the introduction to an iconic New Zealand awesome action day where your next foray could be the wild waters of New Zealand Rivers.

Getting there

The journey is worth it.


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