We extend the framework of the finite volume method to dispersive unidirectional water wave propagation in one space dimension. In particular, we consider a KdV–BBM-type equation. Explicit and implicit–explicit Runge–Kutta-type methods are used for time discretizations. The fully discrete schemes are validated by direct comparisons to analytic solutions. Invariants' conservation properties are also studied. Main applications include important nonlinear phenomena such as dispersive shock wave formation, solitary waves, and their various interactions. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.