Explore the scenic beauty paddling up the Whanganui River, a landscape of remote hills and bush clad valleys.


  • Drift down the Wanganui River in a canoe or kayak.

  • Take a break from the water on a short walk to the Bridge to Nowhere.

  • Be immersed in culture and history with a unique stay at Tieke Kainga, the only DOC hut that is also used as a marae.

Watch videos of the Whanganui Journey


Track overview

87 or 145 km one way

Kayaking and canoeing

3 or 5 days

Seasonal restrictions

2014/2015 Great Walks season: 1 October 2014 - 30 April 2015


During the Great Walks season: Bookings are required for huts and campsites.


Outside the Great Walks season: Bookings are not required - huts and campsites are first come, first served.

Dog access

No dogs


About this track


Canoes departing from John Coull Hut, Whanganui River. Photo: J. R Lythgoe.
Canoes departing from John Coull Hut,
Whanganui River

Trip options

The 145 kilometre river journey from Taumarunui to Pipiriki takes an average 5 days to complete by canoe. A shorter 3 day journey from Whakahoro to Pipiriki is also possible.

For a 5 day / 4 night trip:

  • Day 1 and 2 - Taumarunui to Whakahoro
  • Day 3 - Whakahoro to John Coull Hut
  • Day 4 - John Coull Hut to Tīeke Kāinga
  • Day 5 - Tīeke Kāinga to Pīpīriki

Guided options are available. Find commercial operators that provide services to the Whanganui Journey

Distances between campsites and huts

Taumarunui to Whakahoro

Distance: 57km

Access points are at Ngāhuinga (Cherry Grove) in Taumarunui or further downstream at Ōhinepane (accessed from River Road SH43).

Travelling the upper reaches of the Whanganui River, you’ll pass through a mixture of farmland and patches of native bush. You’ll be in for some excitement as you shoot down rapids on this section of the river. Camp beside the river at Ōhinepane, Poukaria or Maharanui campsites. From here, you get the feeling of venturing into the heart of a rich and rugged landscape.

Whakahoro to John Coull Hut

Distance: 37.5km

Many begin their river journey here—the scenic middle reaches of the river, featuring numerous waterfalls after heavy rain. Past Mangapapa Campsite, take a long loop around the Kirikiriroa Peninsula, pass the Tarepokiore (whirlpool) rapid and then the large overhang known as Tamatea’s Cave. Please do not enter the cave as it is wāhi tapu (a sacred place). Ōtaihanga Reach leads you to your overnight stop at John Coull and Campsite and John Coull Campsite.

You may see long-tailed bats fluttering overhead at dusk.

John Coull Hut to Tīeke Kāinga

Distance: 29km

On this section, follow the river as it meanders through bush-covered hills, passing the mouths of the Tāngārākau and Whangamōmona rivers where they join the Whanganui. Perched high above the river, Manga-wai-iti is an attractive spot to camp or stop for lunch.

Continue your trip downstream to Tīeke Kāinga where you can examine the intricately carved pou whenua and learn about the history of Tīeke and the tikanga (protocol) of the marae.

Side trip: Bridge to Nowhere

At Mangapurua Landing, where the old riverboats used to tie up, hop out of your canoe and take the 40-minute (one way) Bridge to Nowhere Walk to this poignant reminder of the Mangapurua Valley farm settlement, carved out of the bush and then abandoned between the two World Wars. Look out for cyclists—the track is also part of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail.

Tīeke Kāinga to Pīpīriki

Distance: 21.5km

You’ll pass through the scenic gorge of the Manganui o te Ao River where it enters the Whanganui after its journey from the slopes of Mount Ruapehu. Ngāporo and Autapu rapids can provide plenty of excitement and perhaps a cool dip on a hot day. More exotic trees and farmland indicate you are getting close to Pīpīriki. Pass an eel weir on your left, shoot the Paparoa rapid and you will see the boat ramp below Pīpīriki village up ahead.

Map of the Whanganui Journey 

Fees and bookings


2014/2015 Great Walks season: 1 October 2014 - 30 April 2015

  • In the Great Walks season: huts and campsites must be booked in advance. Fees are paid at the time of booking.
  • Outside the Great Walks season: huts and campsites are first come, first served. Fees are paid with a Backcountry Hut Pass or Hut Tickets.


Fees are charged per person, per night to stay in huts or campsites on the Whanganui Journey. There are no fees for park entry.

Whanganui Journey fees
Facility Type Peak season


(18+ yrs)
(5-17 yrs) 
(18+ yrs)
(5-17 yrs)
Hut $32.00 Free $15.00 Free


Free Free
(except Ohinepane and Whakahoro which are $10 drive-in campsites)
  • Maximum stay periods apply. Peak: maximum 2 nights at huts and campsites. Off-peak: maximum 3 nights at huts, 5 nights at campsites.

A 10% discount is available to members, staff and instructors of the following organisations, who also hold a valid 12 month Backcountry Hut Pass: NZ Mountain Safety Council; NZ Federated Mountain Clubs; NZ Deer Stalkers Association; NZ Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR); Scouts New Zealand; GirlGuiding NZ.

Discounts are not available online. To receive the discount we need to sight your membership card and Backcountry Hut Pass, so please visit a DOC visitor centre in person. If you get a discount you won't be charged a booking fee.

Bookings to 30 April 2015 now open

Book the Whanganui Journey online

Terms and conditions

Read the Booking Terms and Conditions for general information, age ranges, prices, discounts, penalty rates and the alterations and cancellations policies. Bookings not meeting the terms and conditions will be treated as invalid and cancelled.

Booking Great Walks on behalf of others

Guided groups

To operate a commercial activity in an area managed by the Department of Conservation, you will need to apply for a concession (an official permit), in addition to any bookings you would need to make. Read more about concessions 

Booking on behalf of others

To make multiple bookings for facilities/services on behalf of customers, you must obtain permission or an agent agreement from the Department of Conservation. To do this, email:  

Getting there

Map with location of the Whanganui Journey.
Location of the Whanganui Journey

Traditional entry or exit points for the Whanganui Journey are off SH4 at:

  • Taumarunui
  • Ōhinepane - access from Taumarunui
  • Whakahoro - access from Raurimu or Ōwhango
  • Pīpīriki access from Raetihi or Whanganui

Equipment hire, services, food and transport can be found in Taumarunui, Whanganui, Raetihi, Ōhakune and National Park Village. Find commercial operators that provide services for the Whanganui Journey

Know before you go

Your safety is your responsibility. To have a great time in the outdoors, know before you go the five simple rules of the Outdoor Safety Code to help you stay safe:

  1. Plan your trip
  2. Tell someone
  3. Be aware of the weather
  4. Know your limits
  5. Take sufficient supplies

1. Plan your trip

Seek local knowledge, plan your route and the amount of time you expect it to take.

It's important to plan, prepare and equip yourself well. Have the right gear and skills required for the trip and always check the latest information about facilities you plan to use, and local track and weather conditions.

On the Whanganui Journey, be aware that:

  • Once on the river, emergency communication is available only at John Coull Hut and Tieke Kainga, and there is only road access to the river at Whakahoro and Pipiriki.

More information:

Check for alerts at the top of Whanganui Journey page, or contact:

Whanganui Office
Phone:      +64 6 349 2100
Full office details

2. Tell someone

Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.

3. Be aware of the weather

New Zealand's weather can be highly unpredictable - expect weather changes and be prepared for them.

On the Whanganui Journey, be aware that:

  • Heavy rain and flooding can occur at any time of yearon the Whanganui River and the weather can change quickly. You will need to be prepared for rain, cold and windy conditions.
  • Don’t canoe the river when water levels are predicted to rise or it is in flood. If you capsize, you may not beable to get back in, or swim to the river’s edge.
  • Always pull your canoe up high on the bank and tie it to something secure. It may not be raining on the river, but rain elsewhere in the large catchment can cause the river to rise several metres overnight.

More information:

Check the Whanganui rural area weather forecast of the MetService website.

4. Know your limits

Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience.

On the Whanganui Journey, be aware that:

  • The trip should only be undertaken by people in good physical condition and fitness - once you're on the river below Whakahoro, there is no turning back.

5. Take sufficient supplies

You must be self sufficient: be sure you have enough food, clothing, equipment and emergency food for the worst-case scenario.

Take an appropriate means of communication such as a cellphone and/or personal locator beacon. Personal locator beacons provide increased personal safety. You can rent them from various outlets, check details on the Rescue Co-ordination Centre NZ website

On the Whanganui Journey, be aware that:

  • Food and drinks are not available for purchase at huts and campsites.

More information:

For a comprehensive gear list, read New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association’s Guide to the Whanganui River.

What to take

Personal equipment you will need includes:

  • 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-block, sunglasses, sunhat and a warm hat.
  • toilet paper

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.

Take the New Zealand Canoe Association's Guide to the Whanganui River as a guide.

Nature and history

Nature and conservation

The land surrounding the river is only about one million years old. Formed of soft sandstone and mudstone (papa) from the ocean-bed, it has been eroded by water to form sharp ridges, deep gorges, sheer papa cliffs and waterfalls.

Over this land has grown a broadleaf-podocarp forest of rata, rewarewa, rimu, tawa, kamahi and kowhai with beech dominant on the ridge tops. Tree ferns and plants that cling to the steep riverbanks are very distinctive.

Bird species such as kereru (native pigeon), tiwaiwaka (fantail), tui, toutouwai (robin), riroriro (grey warbler) and miromiro (tomtit) are often seen and heard. 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 kokopu), koura (freshwater crayfish) and black flounder.

History and culture

Māori cultivated the sheltered terraces and built elaborate eel weirs along river channels where eels and lamprey were known to converge. Every bend of the river had kaitiaki (guardian) which controlled the mauri (life force) of that place. The mana (prestige) of a settlement depended upon the way in which food supplies and living areas were looked after for the benefit of the tribe and visitors.

Te Atihaunui, a Paparangi people, settled the valley from 1100 AD. In time the river became linked by a series of pa which were later called 'the plaited fibres of Hinengakau'.

The first major European influence arrived with missionaries in the 1840s. In 1891 a regular riverboat service began carrying passengers, mail and freight to the European settlers on the river between Taumarunui and Pipiriki and thriving tourist trade soon began between Mt Ruapehu and Wanganui.

The main riverboat trade ceased in the 1920s due to better roads, a main trunk railway and the development of other tourist attractions around the country, although riverboats were still operating in the late 1950s.


For more information about the Whanganui Journey contact:

Whanganui Office
Phone:      +64 6 349 2100
Full office details

Whanganui Journey Booking Agents

Wanganui Visitor Information Centre
Phone: +64 6 349 0508
Address: 31 Taupo Quay

Taumarunui Visitor Information Centre
Phone: +64 7 895 7494
Address: Railway Station

Ruapehu Visitor Information Centre
Phone: +64 6 385 8427
Address: 54 Clyde Street

Adrift Outdoors
Phone: +64 7 892 2751

Blazing Paddles LTD
Phone: +64 7 895 5261

Canoe Safaris
Phone: +64 6 385 9237

Taumarunui Canoe Hire and Jet Boat Tours
Phone: +64 7 895 7483

Whanganui River Canoes
Phone: 0800 40 88 88

Yeti Tours
Phone:0800 322 388


Whanganui Office
Phone:      +64 6 349 2100
Full office details
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