Aratiatia Dam and Huka Falls

Aratiatia Dam rapids and opening times and Huka Falls

Huka Falls

Aratiatia Dam and Rapids

 A favourite free attraction 13km from Taupo is the opening and closing of the gates at the Aratiatia Dam.

Aratiatia DamThe 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.

Aratiatia Dam and Rapids Opening Times
Find out the water release times:

During summer (Oct - March)  10am, noon, 2pm and 4pm 
During winter (April - Sept)  10am, noon and 2pm

Important safety warning

Swimming IS NOT permitted at the Aratiatia Rapids. It is extremely dangerous and sadly death and injuries have occurred in the past. The dam can potentially open at anytime.  So even if there is hardly any water and you think that it's safe, DO NOT SWIM!

Before every opening of the dam warning sirens can be heard. Listen out for these warnings and ensure only viewing from a safe viewing point. Please note that the dam gates may release at any time without warning!

Huka Falls

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.


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Our favourite destinations…


New Zealand’s economic heart and biggest city is also an exciting family visitor destination, situated on a sunny harbour with city beaches just minutes away from the CBD. Orientate yourself by heading down to Viaduct Harbour, wandering the waterfront, checking out the super yachts or enjoying the waterfront restaurants. Nearby is the must-visit Sky Tower along with excellent and kid-friendly museums and tons of exciting activities!


Wellington is New Zealand’s capital. Here you will find New Zealand's parliament buildings, including the 'Executive Wing', more well-known as 'The Beehive' due to its distinctive shape. Another icon to look out for is the Wellington Tram, which was the main means of public transport between 1878 and 1964.


With a population of around 400,000 Christchurch, in Canterbury, is the South Island ’s largest city, yet much of it has the feel of a small town. Perhaps that’s why it’s known as the Garden City but with the expansive Hagley Park, Botanic Gardens, Port Hills, River Avon and numerous beaches the city certainly has an open, relaxed feel that’s hard to beat.


With its well-deserved reputation as New Zealand’s activity adventure capital you’ll never run out of activities and things to do in Queenstown, but you may run out of time! With breathtaking scenery, activities and festivals, cafes and restaurants, skiing and snowboarding, shopping and wineries, this lakeside alpine resort rates as one of the world’s top vacation destinations for all ages and seasons.


Rotorua sits on the shore of Lake Rotorua, one of sixteen lakes in the area formed by hundreds of thousands of years of eruptions from the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The area is renowned for its geothermal activity and top of any activity list is to see the bubbling mud pools that are around the region for yourself. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley offers a first hand insight into the devastation caused by the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera and is a great place to discover steaming volcanic craters and bubbling, spitting  pools of mud!

Nelson and Golden Bay

The Nelson and Golden Bay regions, at the top of the South Island, boast enviable sunshine hours, glorious sandy beaches, safe swimming spots, lots of wildlife to look out for, and Abel Tasman National Park - an absolute must to explore, on foot, by kayak, your own craft or watertaxi.  Nelson is home to a vibrant arts and crafts community with a fabulous Saturday market, and is close to award-winning wineries and family-friendly bike tracks to take you around the coast.

Hawkes Bay

Napier was rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake and is now known as NZ's Art Deco City.  The Art Deco influence has created a unique city – nowhere else can you see such a varied concentration of art deco style. With over 2,200 sunshine hours a year, Napier is a year-round holiday destination with countless activities to entertain the kids – there's days of entertainment on Marine Parade alone, plus numerous other family-friendly trips and activities.  Add to that the beaches, walks and flat cycle paths, outdoor cafes and entertainment, and you have a perfect holiday destination!


Beautiful, unspoiled beaches, fishing, historic gum fields, kauri forests – the Far North has it all. With subtropical temperatures, it's often known as ‘the Winterless north', with warm, humid summers and mild winters.
Gateway to the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a pretty, lively beachside town and a perfect base for your family holiday. It’s your start point for Bay of Island adventures including day cruises, sailing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and reef or wreck diving.