The mighty Whanganui River begins its journey on the slopes of volcanic Mt Tongariro – a World Heritage Area. It winds west through New Zealand’s North Island to the Tasman Sea, sometimes quick and narrow, sometimes wide and lazy, carving its way through farmland, primeval forests, steep gorges, waterfalls and fern-laden riverbanks.
With 239 rapids below Taumarunui, the Whanganui River is the longest navigable river in New Zealand.
Of spiritual significance to Maori, it’s steeped in indigenous and European history, from legendary explorer Tamatea to the pioneers and traders who navigated inland by paddle and steamboat.
Māori folklore tells that its path was formed after two mountains fought over the beautiful Mt Pihanga. With Mt Tongariro the victor, Mt Taranaki was forced to seek a new home — gouging the riverbed as he went.
The Whanganui River is the ancestral home of three iwi (tribes) known as ti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, who built their villages on its banks. The middle reaches were home to the people of Tama Ūpoko, the upper reaches to the Hinengākau, and the lower to the Tūpoho.
Today, we invite you to travel along the River and back in time, as we catch glimpses of its almost forgotten histories. You’ll also get close to New Zealand’s unique native wildlife and capture its stunning scenery – much of which is only accessible from the water.