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Whanganui National Park, what to do — trip guide & tips

The Whanganui River is the heart of this Park. As a designated person, with the rights of a citizen the Whanganui River symbolises the soul of the traditional owners. The River flows from the mountains to the Tasman sea with lowland forest wrapped around the river edges — where the river embraces the National Park.

Getting there

“The park is located in the central North Island with the township of Taumarunui to the north and Wanganui to the south. The small towns of Pipiriki, Ohinepane, and Whakahoro are main gateways to the river itself.

Roads lead into the park from all directions. Some give access to main track systems, others directly to the river. There are regular bus services to Taumarunui and Wanganui. A number of companies run on demand shuttles to the start of tracks and organise car shuttles for people canoeing the river.” Whanganui National Park website.

Best time to visit

Spring to Autumn

Weather

Whanganui Weather Forecast and Observations

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Kayaking the River and listening to narratives that interpret the River through the lens of Maori context. Let the river do the walking is a magical way to explore a heritage lowland forest. The 145 km river trip runs from Taumarunui to the village of Pipiriki, takes about five days to complete by canoe or kayak. A three-day journey from Whakahoro to Pipiriki is an option. The river is suitable for beginner paddlers – although there are more than 200 rapids between Tamaranui and Pipiriki, most of them drop less than a metre. Safety equipment is supplied by kakak organisers. It is recommended an authorised canoe hire company is engaged.
Whanganui National Park @Lonely Planet
  • Walking in the footsteps of many who have gone before and meeting the people who call the River home. Check our walking section for more information.
Whanganui National Park @Tom Wilson
  • The evocative emotion of the Bridge to Nowhere and its significance as a memorial to World War I settlers who tried and failed, due to soil fertility to farm the upper lands of the Whanganui River. The bridge (1935) was to support the nascent settlements’ transport links. A road was planned from Raetihi to Stratford. By the mid 1930’s the land was effectively abandoned with the bridge opening a massive memorial memorial to failed development. The bridge is a 45-minute walk from the Whanganui River from the Mangapūrua Landing on the Whanganui River, up the Mangapūrua Stream. The Bridge to Nowhere’ is the largest and most intact structure relating to the former Mangapūrua Valley Soldiers Settlement (World War I) and has an Historic Places Trust Category I listing.
Bridge to Nowhere @Travel Notes
  • Native flora and fauna. Bird species such as kererū native pigeon, fantail, tūī, native robin, grey warbler and tomtit are often seen and heard along the riverbank. The call of the brown kiwi can often be heard at night. The river is rich in eels, lamprey, species of galaxiid (a group of native fish species including whitebait and kōkopu), kōura freshwater crayfish and black flounder. Consult the DOC brochure for lowland forest descriptions of vegetation.
Brown kiwi at Whanganui National Park @NZ Herald
  • A River journey highlight is a night at Tieke Kainga, the only DOC hut that is also used as a marae. It is an informative way to be immersed in the local culture and learn about the history of the area.
Tieke Kainga @shroomerhikes
  • Jet boats are another popular way to see the sights of the river.
Whanganui National Park Jet boats @Timsvideochannel1
  • On foot, the four-day Matemateaonga Track follows an old Māori track and is one of the most popular walks in the park. The Mangapūrua Track takes three to four days, starting at Whakahoro and ending at the Bridge to Nowhere.
Matemateaonga Track, Whanganui National Park @Kowhaiz
Matemateaonga Track @Wilderness Magazine
  • Both brown and rainbow trout can be caught in the river, and hunting of pigs, goats and fallow deer is encouraged. Hunting permits are required.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN WHANGANUI NATIONAL PARK

WALKING AND TRAMPING

HUNTING

CAMPING

STAY IN A HUT

MOUNTAIN BIKING

Mangapurua/Kaiwhakauka Track

The tracks can be walked or biked from either direction and when combined with a jet boat ride on the Whanganui River create a unique tramping or biking and boating circuit.

The track follows old road lines with good gradient. Approximate walking times for the track are:

  • Whakahoro to Mangapurua Landing: 13 hours (6 hours to Mangapurua/Kaiwhakauka junction)
  • Ruatītī Road end to Mangapurua Landing: 11 hours 4 hours to Mangapurua/Kaiwhakauka junction)

These allow for leisurely walking. Biking times are approximately half the stated walking time, times are roughly the same if done in reverse.

Mangapurua, Kaiwhakauka Track @Wilderness Magazine

OTHER ACTIVITIES

  • Fishing: Brown and rainbow trout are found in the Whanganui River and its tributaries.
  • Heritage sightseeing: Historic bridge, grassy flats and old chimneys stacks. These, along with small stand of exotic trees which mark the sites of settlers homes are revealed to visitors in the Mangapurua and Kaiwhakauka valleys. Find out more about the Bridge to Nowhere and Mangapurua/Kaiwhakauka Track.
  • Kayaking and canoeing: The Whanganui is New Zealand’s longest navigable river, canoeable for over 200 kilometres. There are huts and campsites along the river. Tieke Hut is run as a Marae (meeting house) by local Māori and traditional customs are observed.
Whanganui river @NZ Trout App

COMMERCIAL OPERATORS

 

GUIDED ACTIVITIES AND TOURS

Canoe Safaris

Guided canoeing/kayaking and rafting on the Whanganui River, Whanganui National Park and Mangapurua Valley Scenic Reserve, the Rangitikei River and on the Mohaka River, Kaweka Forest Park.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing; Rafting

Services: Transport; Equipment rental; Accommodation; Guided activities and tours

 

Bridge to Nowhere Lodge

Biking and cycling tours, Whanganui National Park and Mangapurua and Kaiwhakauka Tracks.

Activities: Mountain biking

Services: Transport; Equipment rental; Accommodation; Guided activities and tours

 

Adrift Guided Outdoors Adventures

Guided one to multi-day recreational activities (walking, kayaking, canoeing, biking/cycling) in Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks, and central North Island rail trails.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing; Mountain biking; Skiing and ski touring

Services: Transport; Guided activities and tours

 

Unique Whanganui River Experience

Guided canoe trips on the Whanganui River.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing

Services: Guided activities and tours

 

Tread Routes

Guided cycle trail and mountain bike trips in the North Island, as well as guided walking to tracks.

Activities: Mountain biking

Services: Guided activities and tours

 

Owhango Adventures

Guided tours on the Whanganui River as well as a range of canoe and kayak hire options.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing

Services: Guided activities and tours

 

Blue Duck Station

Accommodation, and guided walking, mountain biking and hunting in Whanganui National Park.

Activities: Hunting; Mountain biking

Services: Accommodation; Guided activities and tours

 

Yeti Tours

Guided canoeing and kayaking on the Whanganui River.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing

Services: Equipment rental; Guided activities and tours

 

Haka Tours Limited

Guided mountain bike tours at various North and South Island locations more specifically Turangi, Tongariro, Whanganui, North Canterbury, Mahaanui, Twizel, Central Otago, Wakatipu.

Activities: Mountain biking; Walking and tramping

Services: Guided activities and tours

 

Whanganui Scenic Experience Jet

Guided jet boating and canoeing on the Whanganui River and to the Bridge to Nowhere.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing

Services: Equipment rental; Guided activities and tours

 

Whanganui River Adventures

Guided jet boating, canoeing and transport for the Whanganui River and Bridge to Nowhere.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing; Mountain biking

Services: Transport; Equipment rental; Guided activities and tours

 

TRANSPORT

 

Tarata Helicopters

Helicopter landings in the Whanganui National Park and Hutiwai Conservation Area.

klmtar@clear.net.nz

Services:  Transport

 

Dempsey Buses

Transport services for Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks from a base in Raetihi.

Services:  Transport

 

Canoe Safaris

Guided canoeing/kayaking and rafting on the Whanganui River, Whanganui National Park and Mangapurua Valley Scenic Reserve, the Rangitikei River and on the Mohaka River, Kaweka Forest Park.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing; Rafting

Services: Transport; Equipment rental; Accommodation; Guided activities and tours

 

Whanganui River Adventures

Guided jet boating, canoeing and transport for the Whanganui River and Bridge to Nowhere.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing; Mountain biking

Services: Transport; Equipment rental; Guided activities and tours

 

Precision Helicopters Limited

Commercial helicopter landings for tourists or hunters in Taranaki, Whanganui, Whareorino Forest Cons Area, Pureora Forest Park and Pirongia Forest Park.

Activities: Hunting

Services: Transport

 

Hill Country Helicopters

Helicopter transport, charters and tours in Kaimanawa, Kaweka and Ruahine Forest Park and Whanganui National Park.

hillcountry.helicopters@xtra.co.nz

Services: Transport

 

Adrift Guided Outdoors Adventures

Guided one to multi-day recreational activities (walking, kayaking, canoeing, biking/cycling) in Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks, and central North Island rail trails.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing; Mountain biking; Skiing and ski touring

Services: Transport; Guided activities and tours

 

Bridge to Nowhere Lodge

Biking and cycling tours, Whanganui National Park and Mangapurua and Kaiwhakauka Tracks.

Activities: Mountain biking

Services: Transport; Equipment rental; Accommodation; Guided activities and tours

 

EQUIPMENT RENTAL

 

Canoe Safaris

Guided canoeing/kayaking and rafting on the Whanganui River, Whanganui National Park and Mangapurua Valley Scenic Reserve, the Rangitikei River and on the Mohaka River, Kaweka Forest Park.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing; Rafting

Services: Transport; Equipment rental; Accommodation; Guided activities and tours

 

Whanganui Scenic Experience Jet

Guided jet boating and canoeing on the Whanganui River and to the Bridge to Nowhere.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing

Services: Equipment rental; Guided activities and tours

 

Whanganui River Adventures

Guided jet boating, canoeing and transport for the Whanganui River and Bridge to Nowhere.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing; Mountain biking

Services: Transport; Equipment rental; Guided activities and tours

 

Yeti Tours

Guided canoeing and kayaking on the Whanganui River.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing

Services: Equipment rental; Guided activities and tours

 

Bridge to Nowhere Lodge

Biking and cycling tours, Whanganui National Park and Mangapurua and Kaiwhakauka Tracks.

Activities: Mountain biking

Services: Transport; Equipment rental; Accommodation; Guided activities and tours

 

ACCOMODATION

Canoe Safaris

Guided canoeing/kayaking and rafting on the Whanganui River, Whanganui National Park and Mangapurua Valley Scenic Reserve, the Rangitikei River and on the Mohaka River, Kaweka Forest Park.

Activities: Kayaking and canoeing; Rafting

Services: Transport; Equipment rental; Accommodation; Guided activities and tours

 

Blue Duck Station

Accommodation, and guided walking, mountain biking and hunting in Whanganui National Park.

Activities: Hunting; Mountain biking

Services: Accommodation; Guided activities and tours

 

Bridge to Nowhere Lodge

Biking and cycling tours, Whanganui National Park and Mangapurua and Kaiwhakauka Tracks.

Activities: Mountain biking

Services: Transport; Equipment rental; Accommodation; Guided activities and tours

 

 

TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION

 

  • Recommended is the Wilderness magazine Whanganui Journey Map (Folded) Whanganui National Park for tramps and multi-day walking trips. Mobile downloadable information relies on electricity.  Water-proof tramping maps are an excellent way to ensure you have the relevant information at all times.
  • Know before you goIf you are planning a trip down the river, make sure you are properly equipped.Every one needs to take: a life-jacket, sleeping bag, waterproof clothing, warm woollen or pile clothing, changes of clothing and shoes, sufficient food and drink for the journey (plus an extra day’s supply), sun-cream, sunglasses, sunhat and a warm hat. Equipment you will need as a group includes: cooking equipment , fuel, a lighter, first aid kit, plastic drums (or equivalent) for food and dry clothes, tents (spaces in huts may already be taken), a spare paddle, rope and string and spare plastic bags.”

Information from Whanganui National Park official website

Whanganui River is worth the journey.

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