The main access to the Central Whirinaki is from the River Road car park, approximately 15 kilometres from the Minginui Road turnoff on State Highway 38 at Te Whaiti. This turnoff is 21 kms east of Murupara and is well sign-posted. From the other direction, the turnoff is 77 kms from Aniwaniwa on SH 38, where there is a DOC visitor centre.
From the River Road car park the track leads down to a bridge crossing the Te Whaiti-Nui-A-Toi Canyon, with impressive views up and down the Whirinaki river. Just before the canyon is a turn off providing an alternative route to the Whirinaki waterfall.
The main track leads over the canyon and follows the true right of the Whirinaki river. After a short distance the junction with the track to Moerangi Hut is reached. This track has recently been improved by DOC. Further on the Central Whirinaki track, a bridge crosses the Mangamate stream. Follow the stream to reach the relocated Mangamate Hut.
About 1.5 hours from the start of the track, a turn-off to the Whirinaki Falls is reached. This side-trip is well worth the effort and makes a spot for lunch spot. A bridge crosses above the falls with impressive views down to the raging waters. The track across leads the bridge provides an alternative route back to the River Road car park along the true left of the Whirinaki river. However it is not as scenic as the main track.
If you're not ready for lunch yet, then another great spot for lunch is situated a further hour along the track at Vern's camp site. Until recently there was only a picnic bench and long-drop situated here, but DOC have been busy and have built a marae style shelter with a log burner. Vern's camp would now indeed make a great place to camp.
From Vern's Camp to the hut is about another 2.5 hours with only Kahanui stream to break the trip. Although the hut is a good five hours from the car park, the track is not difficult and there are plenty of good views of the Whirinaki River.
Although we saw none on this trip, Whio (Blue Duck) are quite common in the area.
Central Whirinaki Hut is a large 25 bunk hut, usually with a warden during busy periods. It has a large kitchen area although seating is a bit sparse with two triple level bunk rooms. The hut deck is a great place to sit and enjoy dinner after the tramp in.
For the return trip, we followed the same route back to the vehicle, apart from completing the Whirinaki Falls loop track by crossing to the true left of the Whirinaki at the Falls bridge. This route is probably less scenic than the main route on the true right.