Waikato River 5 Day, 'Dam to the Sea'

  Colin Tent

New for the 2012 - 2013 Season. Up to five days and 142km of gentle paddling (no rapids) on a slow flowing scenic river.l

You begin your Waikato River Journey at Karapiro Dam. If you have your own transport, those who arrive the night before our trip can get accomodation at the the Mighty River Holiday Park, Karapiro, or bed, dinner and breakfast at the Rangiriri Hotel (approximate cost $60pp, twin/dbl food and accommodation) or in Waiuku, food your choice of local eateries - fish and chips to 4 star restaurant and leave your vehicle in Stressfree Adventures safe storage.

Stops on the trip can be made at your choice of holiday parks and motel/backpackers (at your cost) or even discreetly on the riverside if you have a tent (provided free with camping gear by Stressfree Adventures). Checkout kayaktrails.co.nz/kaiwaka.html ('Dam to the Sea')

If you choose to stay over at Huntly on your trip, next day you may wish to check out Rangiriri (see below) then continue further downstream and spend the night on an island in a tent.

Rangiriri is a New Zealand Heritage Site. It was here during the Waikato Land Wars of 1863-64 that a small band of 350 to 400 Maori manning a defensive redoubt of earthworks and trenches faced 1500 British troops and seamen supported by gunboats and artillery. The controversial surrender of the Maori defenders marked the turning point of the war. An audiovisual presentation of the battle can be viewed at the Rangiriri Battle Site Heritage Centre and tearoom over the road from the cemetery containing the graves of the British soldiers. Those with time can walk what remains of the defences and Redoubt.

As you leave Rangiriri on the east bank of the river for the next 18 km is part of Te Araroa, the New Zealand - long walking trail. The trail also passes  alongside the Waikato's second largest freshwater wetland (7000 hectares of swamps and bogs) inhabited by large numbers of native and introduced bird species.

You can have lunch on any of the islands shown on your trail map.

From Rangiriri you should follow the three day Te Pae o Kaiwaka Kayak Trail to Mercer and stay the night in tents alongside the hulks of two of the early paddlewheel steamers (P.S. Rawhiti II and P.S. Freetrader) that used to ply the waters of the Waikato River from Hamilton to the sea at Port Waikato. There is a Motorway Service Centre just 300 metres further on that you can get to by crossing the bridge*. It has toilets, McDonalds and other fast food outlets.

Next morning you pass under the Caesar Roose Bridge* and the now landlocked Tuoro Island (which appears to be farmland with a rowing boat club etc) at Mercer (just off SH1) In the early 1900's Tuoro Island was the home of Caesar Roose, the pioneer riverboat man of the Waikato. You drift down the river past the cliffs at the end of Pioneer Road (named after the military gunboat Pioneer one of five armoured paddle steamers from the Land Wars of the 1860's when the river was the main access to the fertile lands of the central Waikato).

As you paddle quietly down the river away from the noise of the motorway it is easy to imagine what early journeys were like with todays stands of native bush while the hills have been cleared for farming.

After lunch you pass under Tuakau Bridge. Soon 18 km of easy paddling is over and you spend your fourth night in a duck shooters whare on Whatamakiri Island. Camping

Day five, after a hearty breakfast paddle past the Elbow and head into the islands of the Waikato River Delta. The islands are home to many species of duck and shags (cormorants) plus native fantails, kingfishers, pukeko and the rare Austalasian bittern. These islands hide the dozens of duckshooters' maimais and whitebait stands that are inhabited by many keen locals during the open seasons. You may rest at a maimai for lunch.

A short paddle after lunch brings you to Hoods Landing near the old Awaroa Stream that was the portage route to the southern Manukau Harbour and later the present town of Waiuku. After five days and 142kms of gentle paddling your journey finishes with a short drive to Waiuku.

There are a number of opportunities for photo stops throughout the trip - bring your camera (we can supply waterproof bags).
Kentish The Kentish was opened in 1853 by Edward Constable and holds the oldest continuous “Publicans Special Licence (No 47) for the sale of spirituous liquors” in New Zealand.
Dinner and breakfast are available in house or at a number of nearby restaurants and cafes.

StressFree Adventures shuttle to SH1 at Bombay the next morning to meet buses going North, South or to Coromandel and trains to Auckland, leaves at about 8.30am. Those continuing with one or more days on the Waimanu (Manukau Harbour) Trail can restock at the local New World supermarket. Secure vehicle storage is available in Waiuku.


Duration 5 days, 4 overnights in tents, motels and a duck shooters whare

Approx 4 - 6 hrs plus breaks per day

(Days one and two from Karakpiro are longer distances but sometimes faster depending on water outflow from the dam)

Kayaking area

Karapiro Dam to Hoods Landing, Waiuku

**This trip is currently being run only as a Freedom Trip. We take all your equipment to Karapiro Dam or any other place you may wish to begin your river adventure and pick you up at the end of your trip and return you to your transport - train, bus, car (you may leave your car in our lockup in Waiuku). We supply all camping equipment and can do forward bookings for motels and hotels on the trail.

Check in 8.30am at Waiuku for Kentish Hotel pickup. Other start points are available and mutually agreed meeting times can be arranged
Minimum Age 16yrs to have single kayak
This five day trip is not suitable for young family members however family groups can be accommodated on separate or part trips
Prior Experience Not necessary

Freedom Trip participants must be prepared to provide all meals, including dinner, from lunch day one to lunch day five. Stops can be made in Hamilton, Ngaruawahia, Taupiri, Huntly, Rangiriri and Mercer for accommodation and food, with tents supplied for river bank freedom camping, see www.kayaktrails.co.nz/kaiwaka.html

Cooking gear and water bottles supplied, bring your own food on Freedom Trips

Minimum Numbers 2 Adults (single or double seakayaks or a double canoe)


2013 Price List

Guided Kayak

(includes free return transport from Waiuku Base)

Length of Journey Price Trip
5 days/4 nights **POA Karapiro Dam to Hoods Landing

Freedom Kayak

(includes free return transport from Waiuku Base)

Length of Journey Price Trip

Up to 5 days  4 nights



$95pp  Day one

Extra days $65pp per day

Motel accommodation extra

Karapiro Dam to Hoods Landing