The 5 Best Kayaking Tours in New Zealand

Whether sea, river or lake, in New Zealand there is a variety of opportunities to explore the country with a canoe or kayak.

You will see the most beautiful and hidden areas you can imagine! Depending on whether you want to do extreme sport, visit famous Hobbit locations or glide comfortably along on the water, New Zealand offers all your heart could possibly desire. Here is our selection of the 5 best kayaking tours in New Zealand.


1. Scenic Kayak Tours on Lake McLaren in Tauranga

The sunny seaport of Tauranga is one of the most popular cities in New Zealand and is so for a reason. It will tempt you with loads of marine adventures, you can go sailing, fishing, dolphin watching or kayaking.

Just 15 minutes away from the city is the beautiful Lake McLaren with its picturesque falls. For those who enjoy something a little quieter and at the same time want to experience a breath taking landscape, the lake is completely right. From the steep cliffs, streams run gently into the lake and a varied birdlife is literally within reach of the paddle. You can find everything here. Paddle to the Mangapapa Canyon, whereby the endemic bush touches the water and creates a cave; it will make your New Zealand trip unforgettable! Waimarino Kayak Tours lets you choose from guided tours or explore the area by yourself and your friends. They have four different tours, including evening tours with glow-worm adventure at the Mangapapa canyon, day tours to the canyon or one in Rotorua on Lake Rotoiti.


2. Kayak New Zealand's largest lake

Lake Taupo is the largest freshwater lake in New Zealand and Australia and impresses with stunning scenery in front of dark volcanic peaks from the Tongariro National Park. Scenic delights greet you at every turn. Here you can have a kayaking experience with calm, cool and clear ice blue water. You can visit waterfalls or Masons Rock, an impressive volcanic fan of rock that emerges from the lake. There are imposing rock carvings of the Maori that tower 100 metres over the water, which you can only view from the waterside!

Your guide from Taupo Kayaking Adventures will explain the cultural significance of the lake and surrounding areas. They offer a wide range of trips with their motto “big lake, big adventure.” Kayaking, fishing and mountain biking can be mixed here or you can enjoy a relaxing paddle in the evening. Most of the trips start either at Acacia Bay, Western Bay or Kinloch, a small town near Lake Taupo with beautiful beaches. From there you paddle along native bush, remote shores and steep cliffs. If you book full day or overnight tours, refreshments and meals are included. The lake waits for you!


3. Whanganui River Canoe Trips

With 290 km, the Whanganui River is one of the longest waterways in New Zealand and is located in the same-named national park on the North Island. Sheer, moss overgrown rock walls meet palms that can be found again on the as-smooth-as-glass water, however, you don’t need to forget rapids. You will pass deep fern-clad gorges, waterfalls, pristine native bush and caves. Beyond that, the river fascinates with utter solitude; you can only hear birds chirping and water rippling through the paddles.

Ben and Rebecca from Whanganui River Canoes, based in Rahetihi, offer three- to five-day guided canoe trips in the national park with double canadian canoes. The tours start in Whakahoro (3-4 days), Ohinepane (4-5 days) and Cherry Grove (5-6 days) and end in Pipiriki, where a shuttle will pick you up. You can also choose to do freedom hire with solo canoes.

Those looking for something considerably faster can book a one-day tour with a jet boat to the Bridge to Nowhere, that continues with a canoe or kayak to Pipikiri. Enjoy a part of New Zealand as it was centuries ago while you drift back down the river. You can also book an overnight canoe tour from Whakahoro with a stay at John Coull, further to Mangapurua Landing (Bridge of Nowhere), where the jet boat will pick you up and bring you to Pipiriki. During your tour your vehicles and bags are stored safely. Let your journey begin.


4. Kayak a famous "The Hobbit" filming location

Hobbit fans can now cause instability on the calm Pelorus River! Not in barrels like the dwarfs, but on more comfortable, stable boats still tracing Bilbo’s route. The Kayak tour from Pelorus Eco Adventures is not only a must for fantasy supporters, but for all who search for a natural adventure on the most beautiful river courses on the South Island. Crystal clear water splashes softly over the gravelly riverbed, trees throw cool shadows here and there; a peaceful scenario mixed with rapids.

Your tour guides show you how to operate the boats, navigate them with traditional wooden canoe-style paddles through the rapids and tell insider stories to the shooting of The Hobbit and the nature in the region. If you like, you can swim in the river at several private swimming locations. All around a great adventure through an incredibly beautiful landscape in the footprints of Peter Jackson and The Hobbit. Experience a real unexpected journey.


5. Kayak the Dart River in Otago

Whether skiing, biking or trekking, the area around Queenstown is known for all sorts of sport and, of course, kayaking too! Have an unforgettable trip in front of glaciers and snow covered mountains and enjoy the “magic” the scenery creates.

First exciting, high-speed jet boating into the Te Waipounamu Heritage Area, then with funyaks (inflatable canoes) on the Dart River in Glenorchy. That’s the full-day tour by Dart River Wilderness Jet and Funyaks on the untamed beauty in the Mount Aspiring National Park, belonging to the UNESCO world heritage. You go up the river with the jet boat, passing the majestic landscape of ‘middle earth’. The boat is replaced by an easy handling funyak, in a calm section of the river. Highlights are hidden streams, rock pools and dramatic chasms. The tour is rounded off with a wilderness picnic lunch and the rare and manifold flora and animal world you will encounter.

Enjoy your kayaking adventures in New Zealand!

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