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Whirinaki canyon guide

==the cj way++

The CJ way Guide to Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park Te Whaiti-Nui-A-Toi Canyon- 


Absolutely stunning Ignimbrite gorge and canyon 

Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park

15 minute from parking

Easy to bridge, Hard down to canyon. 


Best time to visit: any time of the day

Water shoes recommended


  • Coordinates of River road car park: (-38.6753784, 176.6989380)

  • Coordinates of Te Whaiti-Nui-a-Toi Canyon: (-38.6808595, 176.7014787)

  • Google maps will get you as far as Minginui (the little village) but then you’ll have to navigate down the unsealed roads yourself. Follow the signs for the Whirinaki track which will take you to River Road Car park (6.2km from Minginui). Walk the Whirinaki track for 15 minutes until you come to a small bridge which is directly over Te Whaiti-Nui-a-Toi Canyon. While you can view the canyon (both ways) from here, it is a little overgrown. Also - about a minute before you reach this bridge, there is a fork in the track (Whirinaki track is a loop track back to this point) and you want to take a left here. This is important as the first time we went right and got lost. haha.

  • So, if you want to put your adventure hat on, and go right down to the canyon level, read on – but please make sure you have suitable footwear etc. To do this you will need to walk over the bridge, then turn right almost immediately afterwards (about 50m and opposite a pink ribbon). Navigate your way through the forest to get down and be very very careful. It can be pretty hectic so make sure you have water shoes on and expect to get covered in mud/moss. We stayed a wee way up where the ‘stacked’ canyon walls were a little higher and it was safe to do so.

 best time to visit? 

  • Since the forest is so shady you can visit at almost any time of the day. An overcast day can make the shadows and highlights less intense , however some light can also give more pop to your photos (so a mostly cloudy day is ideal haha).

  • Both times we visited, we ended up staying for hours so were able to watch the lighting conditions change. Early morning or late afternoon, is still probably a sneaky peeky tid bit better but honestly, this spectacular canyon is 11/10 all day.  

 cj travel tips 

  • Take an old towel down to rest your gear on as it can be very wet and mossy in the canyon.

  • Wear water shoes/shoes with very good grip if you are planning on photographing the canyon.

  • DOC have done up an awesome brochure for this park - but you’ll have no service at river road car park so make sure you download a copy to your phone before you arrive. You can use this link here

  • Pack lunch and eat in the carpark - DOC have done a great job of putting in benches and the birdsong is quite beautiful. (N.B there is also a loo in the carpark too). 

 cj photography tips 

  • A tripod is an absolute must here. Almost all of our exposures were at least a second when the sun was behind the clouds!

  • A polarising filter is also essential to cut through the glare in the water but also to bring out the vibrant greens on the ignimbrite rocks.

  • Take multiple exposures to bring back more shadow and highlight detail in photoshop.

 what we found useful to pack 

​In addition to the usuals (camera gear, suitable clothing, water and food, first aid, etc. we found the following items useful for this amazing canyon:

  • Water shoes - you're walking on slippery, muddy mossy rocks so you really want to be steady on your feet;

  • A rain jacket (it starts raining all the time here  - even if it's sunny when you arrive  haha); and

  • Clothing you don't mind getting a wee bit muddy. 

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