At the heart of Whanganui National Park lies the Whanganui River, this gentle river flows for 170km through one of the largest tracts of untouched lowland podocarp forests in the North Island. Pipiriki and Whakahoro are the main gateways into the park.
From Whakahoro you can experience the Whanganui Journey, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and the only Great Walk that isn’t actually a walk. Instead for this 3 day journey you canoe or kayak 87km along New Zealand’s longest navigable river, steeped in Maori and European history with deep gorges and bush-clad valleys. Guided trips are available and due to the gentle gradient, this is a perfect canoe or kayak trip for beginners. You can break up your paddling experience with a short 40 minute walk to the Bridge to Nowhere, an abandoned settlement which has gradually been reclaimed by the surrounding forest.
Further along, Tieke Kainga offers accommodation at a local marae, providing a fantastic and authentic insight into local cultures and traditions. There are many short walks in Whanganui National Park, the Department of Conservation website has detailed information on activities in the area as well as the wildlife you might encounter. For those short on time, the Bridge to Nowhere Jet Boat Tours offer an exhilarating way to experience the river, your guide will share their rich knowledge of the flora and fauna of the park and the history behind the abandoned settlement.
This return Jet Boat trip takes you into the middle reaches of the Whanganui River. Pristine native bush cloaks the banks and you will see deep gorges covered with ferns, caves, rapids and other unique and amazing scenery. Your guide will share stories of the Awa (Maori for river) with you and show you some of the secrets of this historic and cultural icon. Along the way you will stop at the Mangaio Gorge and the Manganui-O-Te-Au River, home to the endangered Blue Duck. Continuing on deeper into this wilderness area you'll arrive at the Mangapurua Landing. Hear the native tui and bellbirds and catch a glimpse of the woodpigeon. A 40 minute walk through the bush takes you to the historic Bridge to Nowhere - gateway to the Valley of Abandoned Dreams.
Bring a picnic lunch to have at the Bridge, complimented by the tea/coffee and biscuits provided and enjoy tales from your guide of the historic Mangapurua Valley and its pioneering people. A return walk to the boat and trip back down river to Pipiriki completes this unique experience suitable all ages.