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"To us, trips feel like we're out doing the things we love with a group of good friends and that's exactly how it is at Hidden Valleys."
- Grant South (Southy)

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The Waiau River Multi-Day Whitewater Rafting in New Zealand

Grade 2-3

Rafting doesn’t come much better than this! The Waiau River Multi-day River rafting tour is a two night, three day package of fabulously interesting white water, great mountain scenery, fish and fantastic camping. With a favoured position on the east coast of the New Zealand, the river is less subject to weather conditions.

Picture how different the world would look if all our tunnels were gorges with overhanging rocks and you were travelling by raft in the extraordinary stretches of water that are so well known to all locals: one of which is only a couple of metres wide.

The headwaters of the Waiau flow from mountains in the Lewis Pass region, joining the Hope River on the eastern side of the Lewis Pass, where it flows towards Hanmer Springs. The river passes through several stunning gorges and open valleys, with small to medium Grade 2-3 rapids. The exception to this is ‘The Narrows’, a short gorge with Grade 3-4+ rapids at the entrance. If you’d rather, there is an option to take a short hike and re-board the rafts after this section.

The Waiau offers something for everyone. With a surprise around every corner, the river provides a great trip for an outdoors oriented family or a group of friends or workmates. There is the option to either hike in or take a jaw dropping helicopter ride.

A Typical Journey On The Waiau With Hidden Valleys

We often raft the river as a three day, two night option that allows you to truly take in the vast camp sites and totally immerse yourself in the river travel.

Alternatively, you may choose a one day, heli-in, raft-out option or choose to stay several nights on the water. Better still, you’re free to choose a timetable that best suits you or your group, allowing you to hike in if you wish.

We suggest that you spend the night before departure in the stunning alpine resort town of Hanmer Springs, as the put-in for the rafting journey is only a short drive the next morning.Enjoy the last café you’ll see for a while and soak in the natural, spring fed hot pools.

Day 1

After a helicopter flight to the Waiau headwaters, we have the luxury of rafting light boats through the numerous rapids above camp 1, where your gear will be awaiting you.

For those keen on hiking, the St James Walkway enters the Waiau valley, providing a more active start to your raft trip, also adding an extra day/night to your adventure.The choice is yours.

Day 2

Prepare yourselves for an amazing day, busy navigating your way through rock gardens and viewing mighty sights as you calmly float down towards ‘The Narrows’. Prepare to be awestruck when we beach the rafts to refuel with energy, and take a quick walk to look down at the still, deep, blue pools beneath us.‘How can our raft possibly fit through that gap?’, you’ll ask yourself. Then incredulously, you’re navigating the corners of The Narrows and arriving into the still, deep, blue pools at the bottom, before traversing another small gorge and hitting camp for the night. Time to sit back and relax or swim, while your guides prepare their unique wild/fresh food and snack menu for you.

Day 3

The last day sees us in a striking gorge with numerous waterfalls dropping in and tumbling down, all the way out to the Hope River. Raft out to the junction of the Hope and Waiau Rivers and if the weather’s kind to you, float on all the way down to Hanmer.

Rafting Ability

This river rafting tour is Grade 2-3 with some Grade 3-4+ rapids at the entrance to The Narrows. A reasonable standard of fitness and confidence in water is required and a minimum age may apply.

Accommodation and Getting There

We can arrange all your transport and accommodation requirements.


Two nights – Three days
Adults $1650, Children $1450 (fly-in option), Adults $1450, Children $1250 (drive-in option) 
Ada Pass Hike-In = $1750 (fully guided), $1250 (self guided)

Departure Dates

The river rafting season runs from October to the beginning of April. Please enquire for more details as trips depend on water levels.

I have accompanied Southy on several of his Golden Oldies’ rafting trips, when he takes a group of local identities on rivers such as the Waiau, Landsborough, Waiototo and Karamea, to name but a few.  Most of the rafting group are aged between 60 and 90 years of age and it’s fabulous for the group to still be able to access the back country that has been, and still is, such a big part of their lives. One of the major advantages is that the group never has to carry heavy packs or sweat up steep hill sides – a bonus on any trip! From the comfort of their rafts, the group enjoys the magnificent surroundings of whichever river they happen to be rafting.  Stops are made for delicious lunches with billy tea. Evening meals often include venison and trout caught along the way and cooked over a campfire. Long sessions of storytelling of the day’s trip, or previous trips, continue into the night. These rafting tours are an amazing way for me to spend time with some of New Zealand’s older outdoor identities and visit spectacular back country, often inaccessible by any other means. Thanks for asking me along Southy.
Syd Woods