For our second Great Walk we decided to give our legs a break and get our arms pumping with a three day canoe trip down the Whanganui River. When we first planned this trip we were envisioning white water rafting down a roaring river in our badass canoe, cause after-all what’s more badass than a canoe? What we Nick got was three days of paddling down calm waters with the occasional little rapid. Nick paddled pretty much the whole time while someone just sat back and enjoyed the views.

Although the trip wasn’t exactly what we were originally expecting, it was still a great experience that allowed us to see a different part of New Zealand. To give you some background, the Whanganui River is the third largest river in New Zealand and flows through some of the densest forests in the country. There are options for 3 day, 4 day, or 5 day journeys but we opted for the 3 day. The longer the trip, the higher up the river you start. So when we began not only we were with our own group, but we also ran into groups of people who were on their second or third day. After speaking with several groups that did the 5 day we think the shorter trip was the way to go. From what we heard, the views really start becoming impressive around the third day of the longer trips (Our first day). Not to mention 5 days of canoeing down a calm river can really take a toll on both your arms and your patience. Not sure how it’s possible, but Justine got cabin fever in a canoe on an open river… on the first day.


Besides the occasional temper tantrum, the trip was very peaceful. The river flows through steep, tree-covered cliffs with tiny waterfalls all along the way. There are also plenty of banks and areas to pull over and enjoy a rest or lunch, but beware of the sandflies! Being from New Jersey we never had to deal with sandflies before and they are the devils bug. They’re like mosquitoes but smaller, harder to swat and their bites are 10x worse. If you’ve ever been bitten by one before than we’re sure you’re nodding in agreement. Their bites itch more and last longer… so maybe the trip wasn’t as peaceful as we mentioned.


Our campsite the first night

The highlight of our trip came on the third day. We were given a map with very little direction on it, but the one thing it clearly stated was to stay left of the big rock on the second rapid. So obviously when we came to the second rapid we decided to go the adventurous way… the right side of the rock. On the left side of the rock the water was very shallow and to be honest looked pretty boring. We had waited three days for a decent rapid, and after-all, it’s not an adventure if you go the easy way. So we went all in and immediately slammed into the rock wall flipping our canoe. Epic fail, but still the most fun we had on our trip. We were lucky enough that there was a kayaker who saw us flip and helped pull us to the closest bank. After helping bail the water out of our canoe he gave us some Gandolf-esque words of encouragement, “Fortune favors the brave…well maybe not in this case, but at least you looked good doing it”. You should definitely flip your canoe at least once on this trip.



Taking a quick break on dry land to check our the “Bridge to Nowhere”

Overall, the Whanganui River Journey was a fun trip that we don’t regret doing, but also isn’t something we would recommend as a must do in New Zealand. If you’re an adrenalin junkie this definitely is not for you, but if you enjoy the peace and quite and getting away from everything for a few days this would be more your style. For those of you interested in doing this Great Walk, there are several companies you can book through but we would highly recommend using Taumarunui Canoe Hire. It was great for us because they have complimentary camp grounds you can use the night before and/or after your trip. Plus they bring you cupcakes and juice at the end! But remember, in additional to the canoe hire you have to book your camp sites through DOC.