Canoeing & Kayaking
The most popular stretch of river for canoeing and kayaking is the 145km downstream run from Taumarunui to Pipiriki. This has been added to the NZ Great Walks system as the Whanganui Journey. It’s a Grade II river – easy enough for the inexperienced, with enough roiling rapids to keep things interesting. If you need a Great Walks Ticket, you must arrange one before you start paddling.
Taumarunui to Pipiriki is a five-day/four-night trip, Ohinepane to Pipiriki is a four-day/three-night trip, and Whakahoro to Pipiriki is a three-day/two-night trip. Taumarunui to Whakahoro is a popular overnight trip, especially for weekenders, or you can do a one-day trip from Taumarunui to Ohinepane or Ohinepane to Whakahoro. From Whakahoro to Pipiriki, 87km downstream, there’s no road access so you’re wed to the river for a few days. Most canoeists stop at Pipiriki.
The season for canoe trips is usually from October to Easter. Up to 5000 people make the river trip each year, mostly between Christmas and the end of January. During winter the river is almost deserted – cold currents run swift and deep as wet weather and short days deter potential paddlers.
To hire a two-person Canadian canoe for one/three/five days costs around $100/200/250 per person not including transport (around $50 per person). A single-person kayak costs about $70 per day. Operators provide you with everything you need, including life jackets and waterproof drums (essential if you go bottom-up).
You can also take guided canoe or kayak trips – prices start at around $350/850 per person for a two-/five-day guided trip.