The Whanganui River

Sometimes quick and narrow, sometimes wide and lazy, carving its way through farmland, primeval forests, steep gorges, waterfalls and fern-laden riverbanks.

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.  

Our Boat

Our trusty jet boat will carry you to a forgotten world, guided by our highly experienced and friendly crew.

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  • My wife and I went on the River and Rail Run and it was one of the best trips we have done. The rail run was something completely different from anything we're done before. All of the staff were great attending to our every need. Maree in particular was very knowledgeable and great fun too. I would definitely recommend this trip to everyone.

    Louis Lincoln, Spain

  • We booked as a surprise for our respective partners, the river and rail trip. From being greeted like lost friends at the front office by the girls to Alan on the jet-boat and Ray, Rob and Mitchell on the rail-carts and Vaughan on the bus, they have assembled an enthusiastic crew that made the day a pleasure wit their little quips, a great knowledge of the area and the scenery was second to none. A very professional setup that I would recommend to put on everyone's bucket list.

    B T Stiling

  • Fantastic day highly recommend to all! - We did the river and rail run and had a fabulous time learning the history and taking in the wonderful countryside along the way. The guides were excellent and all the staff were very friendly and informative. Had a great lunch set up after the jet boat ride to prepare us for the rail run.

    Willeson, Auckland

  • We've wanted to go on the railcarts for some time and a visit from my brother and sister in law was the perfect excuse. We were greeted my big smiles when we arrived at FWA HQ. Those smiles were on every staff members face as we came across them at different junctures of the trip. The railcart was easy to drive and to trip to Tokirima was fun, scenic and informative. Our guide, Ray, drew on his personal knowledge of the people and area to make our journey very personable - I felt connected. The jetboat ride had the usual jet boat thrills but the Wanganui River is a very different character to the Shotover or Waikato. She's an old lady with lots of history and stories - and rapids of course.

    Tim, Owhango

  • Relaxing, kiwi adventure. Great scenery, old relics and history. Informative friendly guide. Recommend it for family and friend groups. Close encounters with locals and animals and nature.

    Susan Bones