Whanganui River Journey huts near capacity over summer, says Department of Conservation

There have been lots of people canoeing the Whanganui River during the holiday season. Photo / Bevan Conley

There were a few nights in the Christmas-New Year period when just about every hut and campsite space on the Whanganui River was full.

The busiest nights for Department of Conservation (DoC) facilities were December 29 and January 3, when 308 of the 356 spaces at huts and campsites were taken. The most popular are the Ōhauora Campsite, John Coull Hut and Campsite, Mangapurua Campsite and Tieke Kāinga and Campsite.

“The season is going well, visitors are enjoying themselves. There have been no incidents or rescues,” said acting senior DoC ranger Katy Newton.

The weather has been hot and dry, and the river is low. It’s a peak time for river visitors.

Tieke and John Coull are almost fully booked for the next two weeks.

There have been, and will continue to be, nights when particular huts and campsites are fully booked – but there is likely to be space available at others.

Total bookings for the full Whanganui Journey/Great Walk during the year to June 2022 are 1857, for 17,212 bed nights.

Since December 15 everyone aged over 12 and spending the night at a DoC facility must be double vaccinated. People booking will be asked their vaccination status.

It will be checked by wardens at huts and campsites, and spot-checked at other places.

“Visitors will need to make a judgment on whether they are comfortable with that,” Newton said.

There will also be QR codes at park entrances and exits, and at huts and campsites.

The Whanganui Journey is very different from New Zealand’s other Great Walks, Newton said.

It’s a three to five-day paddle between Taumarunui and Pipiriki, and not a walk. To do it without a guide people have to be confident swimmers, have experience in a canoe and be fit enough to paddle for six to seven hours a day.

“If you aren’t an experienced canoe user or are travelling alone, book a guided trip instead,” Newton said.

In this new year, DoC’s Whanganui office is open to the public only by prior appointment.

Across the street from it, the Whanganui i-SITE can sell individual Backcountry Hut tickets (serviced and non-serviced) and handle inquiries and new bookings for the Whanganui Journey and other Great Walks, said Whanganui & Partners acting chief executive Jonathan Sykes.

The i-SITE can also amend or cancel bookings if they were made originally with it.

There is a DoC iPad in the i-SITE where people can book online for any of the services the i-SITE is unable to provide.

Annual hut passes can be accessed by ringing or emailing DoC’s Kapiti visitor centre – 04 384-7770 or [email protected] Hunting permits can be requested through DoC’s Whanganui website, [email protected], or by emailing [email protected]

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