Whanganui River Journey
There is a section of the Te Araroa, through Whanganui National Park, that walkers have the option of paddling through instead of walking. The Whanganui River flows southbound, so Southbound walkers will have an easier time logistically. On this page, we will go through a few options and then discuss how we did it as Northbound TA walkers (as well as some other options that exist for Northbound walkers). We would highly recommend paddling the Whanganui as a part of your Te Araroa experience. We felt like we had a much better understanding of the place after meeting folks in this area, and learned more about Maori culture and New Zealand history in this section specifically.
About the Route.
The Whanganui River Journey is considered one of the Great Walks in New Zealand. This means that on top of hiring a canoe you will need to make sure to reserve campsites/huts along the river. Some of the most popular options seem to be to paddle from Taumarunui to Wanganui, from Whakahoro to Wanganui, or Whakahoro to Pipiriki. Whatever option you choose depends on how much time you have, how much road walking you are willing (or not willing) to do, and how much money you are willing to spend on the canoe hire. From things that we heard, most folks recommended the section of paddling from Whakahoro to Pipiriki because it sounded like paddling to the city of Wanganui got tough at the end because the ocean currents and winds were often working against you. As a Southbound walker (which we were not) it may make the most sense paddle all the way to the city Wanganui to avoid a long road walk from Pipiriki to the city of Wanganui.
Things to Consider As a Northbound TA Walker.
There seem to be three options for Northbound TA walkers when thinking about navigating the Whanganui River section of the trail:
Walk on the road from the city of Wanganui to the city of National Park, thereby avoiding the option or situation of paddling the river altogether.
Walk the river road from the city of Wanganui to Pipiriki. Then, hire a jet boat ride to the Bridge To Nowhere and walk the Te Araroa Trail all the way to Whakahoro where you can continue on the trail.
Walk the road to Pipiriki from the city of Wanganui. Somehow organize, hitch, or find a ride around to Whakahoro or Taumarunui to begin your paddle back to Pipiriki from there. Then, make your way around back to Taumarunui or Whakahoro, where you can continue to walk Northbound.
Try to paddle up stream. We didn't hear of anyone doing this -- it sounded terrible to us -- but maybe it could work (or at least you could learn a lot trying)...
How We Did it.
We went for option three. We called ahead to Whanganui River Canoes and it just so happened they had a trip ending in Pipiriki the day before our hoped for paddle date. They told us if we made it (walking) to the pickup in time, we could get a ride with them back to their holiday park in Raetihi. We could then begin our paddling journey from Whakahoro to Pipiriki in three days and get a ride back to their holiday park in Raetihi. It also just so happened that the day after we got back they had another three day trip leaving, so we caught a ride on the bus back down to Whakahoro, and began hiking on the TA again from there.
We were glad we did it because the paddle is a very unique experience, but it was logistically intensive and we got lucky that it all fell into place. We highly recommend Whanganui River Canoes!
On our Whanganui River Journey we stayed at John Coull campsite and the Tieke Kainga Marae. We especially appreciated staying on the Marae where we had the privilege of learning more local cultural practices.