Wairaurahiri River (II+)

This is an ideal packraft mission with loads of variety: A gorgeous, remote lake, continuous, G2+ river, great huts, fascinating history and loads of options of how to complete a trip, depending on time, preference and weather.

Thanks to Jamie McAuley for the descriptions and Janet Musker for the photographs.

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From Hauroko carpark to Teal bay hut:
From the Lake Hauroko Carpark, you can either paddle the lake to Teal Bay Hut or walk via the Teal Bay Track (9kms, 9 hours, DOC times). The paddle is ~14kms and would be difficult and dangerous in much less than perfect conditions.

Hauroko in Maori translates to ‘Lake of the sounding wind’ (Hau = wind, roko= lake). The deepest lake in New Zealand, it can be an incredibly dangerous piece of water. Wind can increase very quickly and waves of several meters are common on rough days – enough that boaties treat Hauroko with some caution. Do not underestimate this lake on your packraft.

If in doubt, walk the above track, or alternatively Johan from Wairaurahiri Jet can take you as far as the outlet for a small fee. He runs trips down the river almost daily in the peak season, and dishes out fascinating history about the lake and the river. He can also take drop packs at Wairarahiri Hut or Waitutu Lodge.

Wairaurahiri Wilderness Jet Is another jetboat operator on the river, which may also be able to help with transport/logistics.

From Rarakau Carpark (South Coast) to Teal bay

Teal bay can also be reached from the South Coast via the Hump Ridge (17km, 10 hours). Great alpine tops, with views over the whole route. Provides a nice loop back to your car (either at beginning or the end). This route does not travel on track managed by the Hump Ridge Trust (see below).

Wairaurahiri River (II+)
The steepest commercially jetboated river in the world, the Wairaurahiri is a constant flow of class II/II+ rapids that drops 150m over 25kms from Lake Hauroko to Foveaux Straight.

The very continuous nature of the rapids means that you need to be completely comfortable and competent at that class of rapid, as well as self-rescue. Large eddies are few and far between; a flip could mean a very long swim otherwise.

There is a little more information on the Wairaurahiri on Rivers.org.nz web page.

Took us around 5 hours to paddle both times I’ve done it (1 low water, 1 normal flow). Fun river, and gorgeous forest.

It’s a good idea to contact Wairaurahiri Jet and Wairaurahiri Wilderness Jet to let them know that you’ll be on the river. They’ll have a great idea of current conditions too..

Waitututu Lodge is a unique and simple backcountry lodge with some creature comforts (hot showers, drying room, flush toilets). It’s owned and run by Waitutu Corporation on land returned under the ‘Landless Natives Act’ 1907, and run as a back to basics ecotourism venture. 35 dollars per night (or $20 extra for bedding), discounts (free?) for Ngai Tahu descendants. Confusingly, Waitutu Lodge is at the mouth of the Wairaurahiri River (true right). (Waitutu River is further west..). If you are walking out from Waitutu lodge, there’s a track from the lodge on the true right of the river which takes you back to the South Coast Track, near the swingbridge

On the true left of the Wairaurahiri is the DOC owned Wairaurahiri Hut – $5. There’s a swingbridge immediately upstream of the hut, which can also be seen from the river.

Wairaurahiri Hut to Rarakau Carpark via Port Craig and South Coast track.

Walking along old tramways this flat walk takes you over some massive timber viaducts built for getting rimu logs to the sawmill town at Port Craig. Now enveloped in bush, the only buildings remaining at Port Craig are the Lodge (owned by The Hump Ridge Track) and the Old Schoolhouse, which is now the Port Craig School DOC Hut $15 per night.

Wairaurahiri to Port Craig – 6 hours, 16 kms.
Port Craig to Rarakau carpark – 7 hours 20 km. DOC times.

The track is in excellent condition, so fit walkers can make pretty good time.

Wairaurahiri Hut to Teal Bay Hut/Lake Hauroko via Hump Ridge

This track provides a simple loop back to a car parked at Lake Hauroko, and gets in a stunning alpine traverse. From the Edward Burn Viaduct, head up the Hump Ridge Track toward the Okaka Lodge (private lodge run by the Hump Ridge Trust. From Okaka lodge is ~ 7kms of straightforward tops travel along to ‘the hump’ to join the South Coast to Teal bay track (info above).

The track from Edward Burn was built is managed and maintained by the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track Trust – a community based charitable organisation. Their staff and legendary volunteers maintain the track and boardwalk in addition to all shelters, toilets, and Okaka lodge itself.

With that in mind, a little additional respect is asked when travelling on this track. The trust requests that you;

  • Call ahead to register that you will be on the track – and consider making a small donation to trail maintenance.
  • Camp at least 500m from the track, and not near the tarns above Okaka lodge (from which they gain water supply). If you head a little further along the ridge there are plenty of good campsites.
  • Take care with your toilet waste, the area is highly visited.
  • Respect the hard work of the trust and the unique culture of this track in NZ.
  • Consider spending some $ in Tuatapere (nights accom/post trip beer) to help out the community!


The river flows from Lake Hauroko, so is usually in condition to paddle. Best bet is to nicely ask one of the jetboat operators about current conditions and flows.

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