The couple who bought mayor Annette Main's tourism lodge on the Whanganui River have been thrust in at the deep end.

On their first night in possession Kelly Stephens and Jane McCall hosted 14 people.

The couple's first night at the The Flying Fox was December 21. The land, buildings and business are at Koriniti, 46km from Whanganui, and usually reached by the lodge's namesake across the Whanganui River.

The place has beds for 25 people, and there's a camping option for others. Some get meals cooked and there's a shop to buy fresh and packaged food.


Former owner Whanganui mayor Annette Main is at the end of a phone when the new owners have questions.

Ms McCall says she and her husband are passionate about organics and sharing that beautiful place, and are there for the long haul. "They will have to carry me out in a box."

Having spent the past 10 years working in corporate/government jobs for the Corrections Department life up the river is a "fabulous change" for her.

It's less of a change for her husband.

He's been a self-employed Whanganui River canoe guide for 16 years.

Both intend to work at The Flying Fox fulltime and keep it open over winter, advertising romantic weekends warmed by woodburners.

"The lovely thing about this place is that it's idyllic in terms of escape from everyday life," Ms McCall said.

They're keeping operations much the same, but plan to extend the camping facilities and bring the garden back up to full production.

Their visitors come from both ends of the spectrum.

One end is people staying in the cottages to "get away from it all" for a few days. The other is young people from all over the world who are paddling or walking the Te Araroa Trail, or people pedalling the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail.

The shop sells "treat items" for people in the cottages as well as pasta and sauces for the campers and self-caterers. It's also got a line of Tranquillity kawakawa beauty products made by Ms McCall's daughter and family.

And in future it will have artwork made by the couple. He paints and does bone carving and stone sculpture. She does photography and felting.

Visitors can enjoy the river scenery and isolation or use canoes or bicycles to explore the immediate area.

In their first week The Flying Fox hosted a party of six Te Araroa canoeists, who put the place on the Te Araroa Facebook page. Since then they have had about 12 people in off the trail each week.

"Word gets out that there's a shower and a shop with fresh provisions. After five or six days on the river that's what you need."

Canoeists also love the free Wi-Fi - for some the first contact with the outside world in days.

The pair are offering a special deal for Wellington Anniversary Weekend.