1. Home
  2. Discover
  3. Highlights
  4. Waikato River

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

Filter by
Map
Displaying 1 - 10 of 16
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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
  • 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.

    $42 - $99
  • 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
  • Urban 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!

    $139 Book now
  • 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
  • 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.

  • 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
of 2 Next

Share your #LoveTaupo stories with us

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.

    More info 
  • Scenic attractions

    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.

    More info 
  • 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 
  1. Home
  2. Discover
  3. Highlights
  4. Waikato River