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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

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Experience the Waikato River

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  • 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
  • Jet boating

    New Zealand River Jet

    At New Zealand River Jet we specialise in the extra ordinary jet boating experience. With tours ranging from 1 hour to 5.5 hours, we offer our clients the opportunity to experience a true, kiwi, iconic adventure.

    $125 - $225
  • 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
  • Biking trails

    River Side Trail

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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
  • 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.

  • Hiking trails

    Waikato River Walking Track

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

  • 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!

    $139 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.

    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 
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