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Waikato River

Born on the eastern slopes of Mt Ruapehu, the longest river in New Zealand drains Lake Taupo through Taupo town, blasts through a narrow rock chasm to create the Huka Falls, then winds more peacefully northwards towards Port Waikato, south of Auckland.

Otumuheke Stream has been used by local Maori for its therapeutic benefits for hundreds of years.

Mountain bike trails line the banks of the Waikato River.

Mountain bike trails line the banks of the Waikato River.

Almost 100km of Waikato River Trails and 34km of Huka Trails wind alongside the river, passing through native bush, exotic forest, historic landmarks, interesting rock formations, farmland, open reserves, boardwalks over significant wetlands, and expansive lake and river landscapes.

Along its length, nine hydro stations on river dams supply around 10 percent of New Zealand’s electricity.

Along its length, nine hydro stations on river dams supply around 10 percent of New Zealand’s electricity.

At the Aratiatia Dam near Taupo, gates are opened several times a day to thunderously flood the steep canyon of the Aratiatia Rapids with water. This is where the famous ‘dwarf barrel’ scene from the movie The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug was filmed.

The river is the subject of many traditional Māori stories.

The river is the subject of many traditional Māori stories.

The most famous Maori story is the Waikato taniwha rau, or Waikato of a Hundred Water-Monsters. This refers to the many enemy tribal chiefs who once lived along the waters’ edge, and their strength and importance to the district.

Getting to the Waikato River

The Waikato River drains from Lake Taupo at Taupo Boat Harbour. From here it winds it's way through the North Island of New Zealand to the sea at Port Waikato.

There are various walking and biking access points to the river and trails. If you are driving, Spa Park, Huka Falls and the Aratiatia Dam have carparks.

Waikato River, Taupo, New Zealand

Experience the Waikato River

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  • Jet boating

    Rapids Jet

    Experience real white water Jet Boating. Rapids Jet is a fun, safe & exhilarating experience which takes you to the Aratiatia Rapids, through the narrowest canyon on the river to the Fuljames rapids where scenes from Yogi bear & hobbit were filmed.

    $129 Book now
  • Geothermal walkways

    Spa Thermal Park to Huka Falls walk

    Walk along the banks of the Waikato River from the hot springs in Spa Thermal Park to the spectacular Huka Falls.

  • Bike trails & parks

    Huka Falls to Aratiatia Dam trail

    This grade 2-3 loop trail is perfect for the whole family. Highlights include river views, the impressive Aratiatia Dam release, stunning native bush and a hidden geothermal stream.

  • Cycling & mountain biking

    Waikato River Trails

    Mountain bikers can explore a series of trails along New Zealand's longest river - the mighty Waikato River. The trails cover about 100 kilometres of previously inaccessible Southern Waikato land from Lake Karapiro to the Atiamuri Dam.

  • Hiking trails

    Waikato River Walking Track

    This shared-use track starts at the Huka Falls carpark and ends at Otupo Flat.

  • Kayaking

    Kayak the Mighty Waikato River with Canoe & Kayak

    Let Canoe & Kayak pilot your exploration of the crystal clear waters of New Zealand's longest river, the mighty Waikato, on a 2 hour guided trip. This stunning tour runs daily and is perfect for the whole family.

    $59 Book now
  • Volcanic/Geothermal

    Taupo Kayaking Adventures Kayak & Geothermal Adventure

    Kayaking through geothermal features along the Waikato River, stoping for a warm shower under a hot springs waterfall and wandering through Orakei Korako Geothermal Park is without a doubt the best way to experience the geothermal wonders of NZ.

    $230 - $270 Book now
  • Biking trails

    River Side Trail

    Two way trail along the beautiful Waikato river between Control Gates Bridge and Spa Park.

  • Fishing – Fresh Water

    Chris Jolly Outdoors - Fly Fishing

    Guided Fly Fishing for Brown and Rainbow Trout in the stunning Lake Taupo Region. Chris Jolly Outdoors' specialist fly fishing guides have the local knowledge and expertise to ensure both novice and experienced angers have the trip of a lifetime.

    $460 - $900 Book now
  • Theme & leisure parks

    Huka Prawn Park

    New Zealand’s only prawn park offers a fun filled day of entertainment for the family. Pack a picnic and towel and spend the day creating exciting prawn memories to last forever.

    $29 Book now
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Discover more highlights...

  • Scenic attractions

    Lake Taupo, New Zealand

    At the heart of New Zealand’s central volcanic plateau sits the largest freshwater lake in Australasia, Lake Taupo.

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    Tongariro River

    Flowing north from the snow-clad peaks of Tongariro National Park, through the picturesque town of Turangi, the pristine Tongariro River is one of the world’s best places to catch trout.

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  • Scenic attractions

    Huka Falls Taupo

    At Huka Falls nearly a quarter of a million litres of water per second erupts from a natural gorge and thunders 11m into the Waikato River below.

    More info 
  • Scenic attractions

    Geothermal

    Lying on a volcanic plateau above a vast underground lake of magma, Taupo is alive with astonishing geothermal activity.

    More info 
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