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the rains, it is possible to paddle every day of your trip. Just


three hours south of sandwiched be-

tween the crater lakes of Ro- torua and Rotoiti, the hamlet of Okere Falls is a great start- ing place with year-round kayaking on the Kaituna River. Boasting a large com-

munity of boaters, it has been dubbed the epi- center of NZ paddling. Shake off jet leg with a few laps on the river and stock up on local beta before heading further afield. Most of the smaller rivers on the North Island

are rain dependent and dry up during the height of summer, from January to March. During wet- ter months, however, creeks like the Tuakopi and Waihi are the place to be, with drop after vertical drop. A handful of the North Island’s larger rivers

maintain flows throughout the summer. The Wairoa, Tongariro, Waikato, Rangitaiki and Rangitikei cluster within three hours of Rotorua and offer up a variety of whitewater


from fun to full on. On the volcanic Central Pla- teau, beneath the shadows of NZ’s still-active triple threat—mounts Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe—deep underground aquifers feed the Waihohonu and Ohineponga rivers with continual, icy flows. Eventually, the alpine wilderness and inces-

sant rains of the South Island lure all thirsty paddlers. The confluence town of Murchison is nearly everyone’s first pit stop upon depart- ing the Willing Picton ferry. Centrally located near several small creeks, the Matakitaki River and the high volume Buller River, Murchison is home to legendary NZ paddling pioneer Mick Hopkins’ kayak school and the country’s largest whitewater festival, Bullerfest. From Murchison, the west coast is just three

hours away. Here, the Southern Alps shoot up out of the Tasman Sea, creating a stunning backdrop for a slew of steep, crystalline creeks. The Mecca of steep creeking is the seaside town of Hokitika. Because the rugged landscape lim- its road access, a helicopter is often the only feasible shuttle rig. Flights with Hokitika’s local pilot, Bruce Dando, usually range from $80–120 NZD per passenger, depending on group size. Traveling further south towards NZ’s self-ap-

pointed adventure capital, Queenstown, and on into the immense, sheer landscape of Fiordland National Park offers countless more paddling opportunities. After a couple months in NZ, if you haven’t hit

at least a dozen world-class rivers, you’re not driving hard enough.

DIGITAL EXTRA: Click here to watch a New Zealand highlights reel from Tyler Fox and Bottom’s Up Kayaking.

Every year for the past decade, over 500 paddlers gather in Murchison on the first weekend in March for Bullerfest, NZ’s largest whitewater festival. Sophie Hoskins, Tyler Fox and Louise

Urwin think pink at last year’s event. PHOTO: BRENDAN BAYLY

Dan Caldwell enjoys an ephemeral moment at the Gates of Argonath,

Upper Hokitika River. PHOTO: SAM EWING




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