River Sports

Ohakune is a great place to base yourself for river sports

Ohakune is a great place to base yourself for river sports – with the mighty Whanganui River wending its way from Mt Tongariro to the sea. Ohakune is sited between the drop-off and pick-up points for the multi-day river trips as well as a short drive from Pipiriki where jet boat tours depart. The town is also close to a number of popular white water rivers such as the Rangitikei and Tongariro.

The 220km Whanganui River runs from Mt Tongariro through rugged bush country west of Lake Otamangakau towards Taumarunui. Downstream from Taumarunui and the Ongarue River confluence, the Whanganui River runs in a southerly direction through the Whanganui National Park to the mouth at Wanganui.
The Whanganui River is popular as a multi-day journey, mostly by Canadian canoe or kayak for some. The journey can start at several entry points including Taumarunui and Whakahoro.

The section from Whakahoro down to Pipiriki typically takes 3-4 days and leaves the road end and doesn’t see vehicle access again until Pipiriki. There are rapids but they are gentle and just enough of a challenge to make the trip exciting. The river was once navigable by paddle steamers and there are long flat water stretches meandering through gorgeous canyons fringed with native forest. The journey is through an area that is steeped in history – Maori and European – which is an important part of the experience. For those who don’t have a few days to spare, there are combination trips available – travel by jet boat upriver and then canoe back down for part of the river in one day. These trips are available from Pipiriki.


Rafting on the Rangitikei River utilises different sections of the valley, with Grade 5 whitewater on the upper gorges and Grade 2 stretches through the areas near Mangaweka through some spectacular scenery including the million-year old Mokai Gorge, used for parts of the Lord of the Rings films.

Rafting on the Tongariro River offers Grade Three rapids, ideal for first-timers to experts over more than 60 rollercoaster rapids through unspoilt wilderness. Or you can take a trip on the easy waters of the lower Tongariro for children and families.

The Whangaehu River, 20km east of Ohakune, is acidic – it drains the volcanic Mt Ruapehu Crater Lake – but it also offers some challenging white water kayaking for enthusiasts.

Jet boating

Jet boat tours are available on the Whanganui River; as an exciting joy-ride taking in the magnificent scenery, as a high-speed water taxi ride to the Bridge to Nowhere or other tracks in the Whanganui National Park, or to the start of your canoeing trip on the river.

The Bridge to Nowhere

Built in 1936, the Bridge to Nowhere stands as a poignant memorial to the abandoned hopes and dreams of the Returned Servicemen and their families, who settled in the Mangapurua Valley as part of a Government rehabilitation programme. Initially prosperous, the areas difficult access and heavy rainfall, and the onset of the Great Depression, eventually saw every family walk off the land - and as the native bush steadily regenerated, and reclaimed the road, only this one relic remained - the concrete structure which was later named - The Bridge to Nowhere.

Visit the Bridge to Nowhere for morning tea, with Spirit of the River Jet, and proud tangata whenua hosts, Brent and Claire Firmin. You will have a lovely day out, lots of fun, and gain valuable insight into life on the Whanganui River, past and present, whilst enjoying the unspoilt nature around you. There is so much of the Whanganui River that is only accessible by boat, and our jet boat "Te Wairua o te Awa" is the way to see it. Have a great day out in a small group!