A favourite free attraction 13km from Taupo is the opening and closing of the gates at the Aratiatia Dam.
The Aratiatia rapids are one of the river's outstanding scenic features. Mighty River Power releases water down the rapids several times each day, and a road bridge across the top of the rapids provides an excellent vantage points from which to see the rapids. Get there early so you can check out each side of the bridge and the tiny trickle of the river below. Or follow one of the short walking tracks to viewing platforms (5 - 10 minutes walk).
As the gates slowly start to open the water first seeps then rushes through and cascades downstream, completely transforming the stream within minutes.
Water release times:
During summer (Oct - March) 10am, noon, 2pm and 4pm During winter (April - Sept) 10am, noon and 2pm
These are the largest falls on the Waikato River and amongst the most impressive in New Zealand.
The water flows down a series of waterfalls, finishing with a 12 meter drop and there are walking tracks and viewing platforms along its length. You can drive just a few minutes out of Taupo along Huka Falls Road and park close to the viewing platforms. Otherwise there are easy family walks in both directions - either heading towards the Aratiatia Rapids or back towards Taupo.
Huka Falls Walkway (approx 2 hours)
Turn right off Tongariro Street into Spa Road at the northern end of Taupo, then left into County Avenue and drive into Spa Thermal Park. Following the signs, walk for five minutes across the park to the Waikato River.
Near the start of the walkway, a bridge crosses a natural hot stream. The well-defined track winds along the riverbank and offers lovely views on the way. The walk finishes at the spectacular Huka Falls, where the Waikato River is confined to a deep rock channel. The river emerges with a rush at the northern end to form the falls.
A pleasant walk for the whole family. Return via the same track or arrange transport from Huka Falls carpark (across the bridge). This walk can be linked with the Aratiatia Rapids Walk.