Big Days!

In fact, Big Big Days!

I have always felt that multi-day river trips are to be enjoyed, to be savoured, to be at least as much as possible, unhurried. They are meant to be a highlight experience, rather than something to be endured.

And yet the standard three day trip on the Whanganui River through Whanganui National Park, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and the most popular multi day river trip in New Zealand, is, unless the river is high, simply not like this – not unhurried.

The normal 3-day trip, that probably 90% of people who paddle the river do, starts at Whakahoro and finishes at Pipiriki. It is a section of river that is beautiful, rich in flora, fauna and history.

So, What’s the Problem?

The problem is this. The trip is 87km long. The first two days can take anywhere from 7 – 9 hours on the water (37.5 kms one day and 29km the next), while the last one takes anywhere between 4 -6 hours (21.5kms).

Those are BIG days. In fact, those days are so big that one wonders how many people endure the Whanganui Journey, and rightly bask in the achievement afterwards, rather than truly enjoy it. Even to make those times above, boats need to be in the water and moving along, not much dawdle time there.

How Does This Compare to Other Multi Day River Trips?

As a comparison, this is what to expect on River Valley’s other multi day river trips on the Rangitikei River.

Each morning we generally we like to be on the water by no later than 9.30am. We stop for lunch for an hour or so at noon. Camp is normally reached by 3.30pm. This means an unhurried breakfast and pack, while getting to camp mid afternoon allows time for reading, swimming and relaxing. This sort of schedule also means that there is plenty of “wiggle” time to stop and look at anything particularly interesting.

Average distance covered per day, about 15 – 18kms.


Camping on a multi-day river trip can be surprisingly intimate and comfortable. After some little time getting to know each other, guards are quickly dropped, and a surprising amount of honest fun communication takes place.

However, on the Whanganui, if committed to covering the entire distance in 3 days, this can be hard.

Why? Because everybody else is also doing the section in 3 days! This means campsites could have 100 people staying at them. Not my idea of small group intimate campsites.

So, What Can Be Done?

We have decided for the coming season to discontinue 3-day dory trips on the Whanganui and have a 4-day trip as our minimum on this river. We want you to be able to truly enjoy and treasure your time in the Whanganui National Park, and we do not consider that we can in all conscience offer this if you are only on the river for 3 days.

There are other advantages as well.

** We can stay at uncrowded campsites

** We don’t have to push hard to get to camp early to claim better tent sites

** We have time to stop and look at anything that interests us

** And most important, we have the chance to slip into river time

This Won’t Please Everyone

We realise that this change will not suit everyone. Some people are time poor, and we have had to lift the price (though as little as we can).

However, a dory trip on the Whanganui is a marvellous and unique experience. It truly is something to be savoured and the memories treasured.

I hope you can experience this by joining us on a Whanganui River Dory trip this coming summer.

Brian Megaw

Peace & Quiet on a Multi-Day Dory Trip On The Whanganui River