Paddle the Whanganui River


Ohakune, New Zealand

When to Go

12-18 March 2023

Fitness Level

Level 2: Moderate



New Zealand – the land of the long white cloud, ridiculously gorgeous terrain, and home to ten mind-blowingly beautiful Great Walks.

The Whanganui Journey is one of them – 120km of downstream paddling that follows its winding journey through the majestic wilderness of the north island’s southwest, on what is an epic adventure. With remote hills, bush-clad valleys, and deep Maori history, this adventure takes you on a five-day expedition from Ohinepane to Pipiriki.

We organize almost everything for you. From the open Canadian canoes and your safety gear to the gourmet cooked breakfasts & 3-course dinners with New Zealand wine, spacious tents, comfortable 3-inch thick sleeping mats, and cooking gear. You just bring a sleeping bag and your personal gear.

Accommodation from Day One through to Day Seven is included, with camping the name of the game throughout the expedition, and two night’s in private ensuite units in Ohakune bookending the adventure.

This Best Life Adventure includes a private minibus charter from Palmerston North Airport (the closest airport to Ohakune where we start the river adventure), and back on the final day. You are free to make other transport arrangements to meet us at the start point if you prefer.


MINIMUM NUMBERS – this expedition is subject to a minimum number of 8 paying guests and once reached, the expedition is guaranteed to go ahead if not, it will be cancelled, and you can transfer amounts paid to an alternate expedition or departure date or receive a full refund.

COVID POLICY – Best Life Adventures may postpone or cancel this Event due to Covid-19 travel restrictions being imposed by national, federal, state, or local governments which limit travel to the Event and result in the event being postponed or cancelled. A decision on whether the Event will take place will be made prior to the event based on the most up-to-date information available at the time.


We’ve added Refund Protect, a completely no-risk add-on for ALL of our Best Life Adventures that will refund you 100% of the value of your adventure with us, should you need to cancel for any valid reason right up to the moment you’re adventure commences.

If you suddenly get struck down by illness, need to isolate, the government shuts down the border or a plethora of other reasons – you’ll get 100% of the value of your adventure back…within 48 hours.

When you book your adventure with us simply add the ‘Refundable Booking’ option to your expedition, it’ll cover your ass if things go pear-shaped in the two months leading up to your trip. To find out all about it visit the Refund Protect website and then get yourself signed up for a magnificent adventure with us. 

Please also check their Terms & Conditions to ensure you’re fully aware of what they will and won’t cover.

As advice, as ever, is to also take out personal travel insurance within seven days of booking any adventure with us, which will ensure you are covered for the time between booking your adventure with us, and when the refundable booking protection kicks in.


Your Best Life Adventure starts at Palmerston North Airport where our bus will transport you to the accommodation in Ohakune, around two hours drive north.

Alternatively, you can make your own way to Ohakune in time for our expedition briefing at 20:30 on Sunday 12th March.

If you’re travelling from southeast Queensland you can fly from Brisbane to Palmerston North, via Auckland, departing around 09:00 and arriving in Palmerston around 18:00 all on the same day.


Our expedition starts once we check out of the accommodation in Ohakune and take a short bus ride to the river.

At Ohinepane we unload the canoes and barrels and show you how to pack your canoe. The first day includes lunch at Poukaria Campsite, we paddle past the old riverboat landing at Kirikau and take a short walk at MaraeKowhai for a view of the Ohura falls and the War and Peace Poles that were erected by the Hau Hau warriors.

It’s then a short paddle to the first night’s camp at Maharanui.


Day Two on the Whanganui leads us into the gorge, which starts to narrow as we leave the last road access point behind at Whakahoro.

We pass Laceys and Wade’s landings and several old Maori Kaianga. Later in the morning, we pass Mangapapa campsite, Man of War Bluff and Kirikiriroa where the river does a huge horseshoe turn past the Verandah, the Whirlpool and down to Tamatea’s Cave and a lunch stop at Ohauora campsite.

There is plenty of time for stops with safe places to get out and swim.

We set up camp for our overnight at Ohauora campsite.


Once we’ve had breakfast and packed up camp, we hit the river by 9am.

It’s a stunning morning paddle down the straightest part of the river and through another vertical gorge before stopping at John Coull campsite for morning tea.

Back on the water, we pass the confluence of the Tangarakau and Whangamomona rivers, Mangawaiiti campsite, and the Otumangu landing – one of the post-WW1 farming settlements. We then start to see the first pine trees since Whakahoro (planted by the early settlers), before stopping at the Mangapurua campsite for the evening.


After breakfast, we leave the canoes behind and take a walk to the Bridge to Nowhere (45 min each way) for expansive views from the bridge high above the river.

If it’s a warm day we can wash off in the river, before paddling the last 1.5hrs down to Ramanui campsite, stopping for a short walk at Tangahoe landing to the Tangahoe waterfall.

As we pull into the river bank, dinner and hot showers await at Ramanui Campground. There’s the option to upgrade to sleeping in a cabin if you like (pre-bookings only).


After breakfast, we start paddling and pass the Kahura landing and one of the locations for the filming of “River Queen”.

It is another hour’s paddle through the steep gorge until the river cascades through Ngaporo rapid and past the Mangaio stream and Mangaio rock where several of the early eyebolts can still be seen that were winching points for the riverboats.

From here it’s downstream to Pururoto Caves and past to the legendary Autapu rapid for lunch.

From Autapu there are several small rapids before the Paparoa rapids swing the canoes past the old eel traps and down to the end of our journey and the landing at Pipiriki. Once we’ve packed the boats and climbed into clean clothes, it’s a one-hour drive on our bus back to Ohakune.

We check into our accommodation before our farewell dinner in the town, swapping stories of adventure and sowing the seeds for the next one. We’ll find a local alehouse to take our tired bodies on a journey deep into the night.


After breakfast we checkout, before the bus departs for the airport, ready to start your journey home.

A single supplement for the nights we spend time in Ohakune is AU$200 per night.

If you don’t have a sleeping bag you can hire one for AU$50 for the duration of the adventure.

$2,700AUD per person – twin-share tents.


  • Return transport from Palmerston North Airport, New Zealand to Ohakune
  • Five days Whanganui River Canoe expedition including canoes and safety gear
  • All campsite bookings, spacious tent, sleeping mat, and cooking gear
  • Two nights’ accommodation on day one and day seven in twin-share units in Ohakune (Single Supplement Price AU$500 paid in addition to the above price)
  • All meals from dinner on day one, through to breakfast on day seven, including soft drinks, water, and local New Zealand wine, local transport, guides, entrance fees, etc.
  • Certified experienced guide(s) trained in wilderness first aid
  • Flights into/out of New Zealand
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Sleeping bag
  • Additional personal expenses including visa (if required) and any passport fees
  • Additional accommodation and associated costs before or after the Event
  • Specialist/specific personal gear and equipment suitable for the Event
  • Additional sightseeing trips or optional extras
  • Meals, other than those included in the itinerary
  • Alcohol
  • Fines or penalties incurred during the Event
  • Medical and associated costs including medical evacuation
  • Legal costs incurred during the Event

Once you book we’ll share our recommended gear list with you.

DEPARTURE / RETURN TIMES – the bus departs from Palmerston North Airport around 19:00 on Sunday 12 March 2023. We aim to have you back at the airport around 11:00 on Saturday 18 March 2023.

COVID POLICY – Best Life Adventures may postpone or cancel this Event due to Covid-19 travel restrictions being imposed by national, federal, state or local governments which limit travel to the Event and result in the event being postponed or cancelled. A decision on whether the Event will take place will be made prior to the event based on the most up-to-date information available at the time.

INCLEMENT WEATHER OR RIVER CONDITIONS – we run this adventure in all but the most difficult conditions and will take guidance from our in-country partner and the New Zealand Department of Conservation where required.

Expedition Reports

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Peaceful, primal, professional, challenging and full of adrenalin.
Michele Laurie


This was out and out one of the best experiences I've ever had. The trip exceeded my expectations in every department. The hospitality was second to none and the care taken for all of us was outstanding. Safety was never forgotten and was balanced with a load of fun and great humour throughout.
Simon Christie


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