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Waikato River

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

Travelling the Waikato (meaning ‘flowing water’) by river float, scenic boat cruise or jet boat is one of the best ways to experience its power and beauty.

Travelling the Waikato (meaning ‘flowing water’) by river float, scenic boat cruise or jet boat is one of the best ways to experience its power and beauty.

Most sections are calm and scenic, while other sections like Huka Falls are turbulent and impassable.

Huka Falls 

Most sections are calm and scenic, while other sections like Huka Falls are turbulent and impassable.

Huka Falls 

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

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 Taupō, 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 Māori 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 Taupō at Taupō 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, Taupō, New Zealand

Experience the Waikato River

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  • Boat Cruises

    Huka Falls River Cruise

    Huka falls River Cruise is the only Cruise boat that visits Huka Falls. Locally owned and operated our team proudly share a river experience with travellers wanting to visit New Zealand's most visited natural attraction, Huka falls.

    $39 - $93
  • 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.

  • Hot pools

    Otumuheke Stream

    Warm geothermal waters from Otumuheke Stream flow gently into the Waikato River at Spa Thermal Park, providing a hot spot where bathers can relax in healing mineral water.

  • 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
  • Jet boating

    New Zealand River Jet

    At New Zealand Riverjet we specialise in the ultimate jet boating experience. We don’t want to take you for a quick spin, we want to show you a unique glimpse into New Zealand’s history and scenery.

    $99 - $645
  • 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.

  • Urban and Scenic Attractions

    Hukafalls Jet

    Hukafalls Jet is the only jet boat company permitted to take you to the base of the mighty Huka Falls for unique water-level views! Nothing gets you closer!

    $135 Book now
  • Kayaking

    Taupo Kayaking Adventures Waikato River Float

    Cruise down the slow moving gentle waters of the Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river, past un-spoilt beauty, stunning cliff faces and native forest. A great leisure activity suitable for families.

    $60 - $80 Book now
  • Theme/Leisure Park

    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.

    $29.50 Book now
  • Scenic attractions

    Aratiatia Rapids

    Aratiatia Rapids is one of the most popular natural attractions in the North Island. Thousands of litres of water are released from the Aratiatia Dam creating a spectacular flow of water through a narrow gorge.

  • 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
  • Hiking trails

    Waikato River Walking Track

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

  • 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

Discover more highlights

  • Scenic attractions

    Lake Taupō

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

    More info 
  • Scenic attractions

    Tongariro River

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

    More info 
  • Scenic attractions

    Huka Falls

    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, Taupō is alive with astonishing geothermal activity.

    More info 
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