From its origins high on magnificent Mt Tongariro, the Whanganui River travels towards Taumarunui, then winds south through the Whanganui National Park. For over 800 years, Māori have lived here, building marae and kainga, cultivating sheltered river terraces and engaging with the forests. Numerous marae still exist along the river, and the river is home to many descendants of the original inhabitants.
European settlers followed in search of a new life and farming opportunities and in the late 1800s and early 1900’s the river became a major visitor attraction, with visitors enjoying leisurely riverboat cruises. The Whanganui River became internationally known as the Rhine of New Zealand.
Today, the most popular way to experience the Whanganui River is to get up close and personal in a canoe. The Whanganui River Journey is a 3 or 5-day canoe trip and is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks’ (though there’s not much walking involved). Launch from either Taumaranui (5-day option) or Whakahoro (3-day option) and paddle to Pipiriki, staying in DOC-run campsites along the way.
There are plenty of options for freedom canoe hire as well as guided tours.