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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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  • Maori Cultural Attractions

    Backyard Tours

    Nau mai Hāere mai - Welcome to our backyard. Sit back, buckle in and relax as we drive you around Turangi to Tongariro National Park, the first Dual World-Heritage Park. Tours for you in-mind and we can custom transfers to suit. Contact us today!

    $60 - $180
  • Apartments

    The Reef Resort

    Located on the Taupo lake front, with direct lake access. NO road between the property and lake. The pool is a heated fresh water pool, and a genuine thermal sitting pool. Rooms serviced daily and free WiFi. Complimentary Gym Membership off site.

    $150 - $900 Book now
  • Motels

    VU Thermal Lodge

    At one of the best locations in Taupo, we guarantees you to enjoy the beautiful view of lake and mountains; We have a thermal water bore on site, over 10 ground floor units have private thermal tubs/pools; a communal thermal house and a outdoor pool.

    $130 - $468 Book now
  • Holiday homes

    Ultimate Luxury Lake Terrace

    This three bedroom lavishly furnished home is the ultimate place for you to spend your precious time out. Located right on Lake Terrace with uninterrupted lake and mountain views you will not want to leave.

    $500 - $700 Book now
  • Heritage attractions

    Go Explore NZ - Tongariro National Park Guided Tour

    Explore the dramatic scenery of the Tongariro national park. This tour will be guaranteed to take your breath away in both summer and winter. The Tongariro National Park is home to some of New Zealand’s most wild and rugged terrain.

    $209 - $239 Book now
  • Visitor Information Centre

    Taupo i-SITE Visitor Information Centre

    We provide a comprehensive, impartial information an booking service for Taupo, the Great Lake Taupo Region and New Zealand for accommodation, activities, attractions and travel bookings.

  • Other wedding services

    The Wedding Angel

    The Wedding Angel, Belinda de Lautour, is a registered celebrant and wedding planner.

  • Takeaways & bakeries

    Burger King Turangi

    Burger King Turangi does great burgers. We do other stuff too but our burgers are where it all started. The name is probably a clue.

  • Fashion & clothing

    John Taylor Jewellers

    Welcome to the world of John Taylor Jewellers where beauty, colour and fantastic design is available to you every day.

  • Holiday parks & campgrounds

    Taupo TOP 10 Holiday Park

    A great kiwi holiday spot with a natural thermal plunge pool and a good range of accommodation. A super base to explore the Aratiatia Rapids or Mt Ngauruhoe also known as "Mt Doom". Both attractions feature in the Lord of the Rings films.

    $20 - $154 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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