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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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  • Restaurants

    The Steak House

    The Steak House Taupo welcomes tourists, families, couples, corporate groups and local residents alike.

  • Bed & breakfast

    The Loft Taupo

    An invitation to step into a world full of old-fashioned charm and kiwi hospitality. Just 5 minutes from Taupo township, The Loft is nestled on a hillside above Lake Taupo in picturesque Acacia Bay. There is a great restaurant within walking distance

    $195 - $230 Book now
  • Cycling & mountain biking

    Great Lake Pathway (Lion's Walk)

    Voted New Zealand's Favourite Urban Ride in 2017, the Great Lake Pathway (Lion's Walk) is perfectly suited for families and offers spectacular views across Lake Taupo to the snow-capped peaks of Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu.

  • Motels

    Acapulco Motor Inn

    Acapulco Motor Inn has a range of accommodation choices that can sleep from 1 to 8 guests. Some Motel units have a spa Pool or spa bath and all rooms have air conditioning.

    $100 - $350 Book now
  • Takeaways & bakeries

    Sushi Paradise

    Authentic licensed Japanese sushi restaurant. Serving fresh sushi rolls and hot Japanese food!

  • Fashion & clothing

    Number One Shoes

    Number One Shoes offer a huge selection of footwear for the whole family – men’s, women’s and kids’ shoes.

  • Venues & accommodation

    The Brantry corporate dining

    The Brantry is able to accommodate up to 60 guests so is well suited for corporate functions, weddings, birthdays and family gatherings.

  • Homewares & decor

    eKo

    We provide a stunning collection of unique clothing, jewellery and homewares imported from all over the world including; Italy, Morocco and Southern Asia. We like to think we have something for everyone!

  • Support services

    Vine Eatery corporate groups

    Our talented chefs invite you to indulge in the dishes that have inspired our mediterranean & New Zealand influenced menus.

  • Sports & outdoors

    Gordon's Outdoor Equipment Taupo

    Gordon's Outdoor Equipment specialise in providing you with all the quality equipment you need for your outdoor adventure. Whether it be skiing, snowboarding, tramping, camping, nordic walking or just walking the dog, we would love to help you!

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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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