The Huka Falls Taupo are one of North Island’s most popular attractions. Located on the Waikato River, which drains into Lake Taupo, the Huka Falls are a dramatic sight. Up to 220,000 litres of water every second squeezes through a gap five times smaller than the usual width of the river and tumbles over a hard granite ledge down a twenty metre drop. The result is a maelstrom of blue water, so coloured as the clear water reflects blue light which is intensified to this vivid shade by the air bubbles in the rapidly flowing water. The Maori word, Huka, translates as “foam” – and the falls are aptly named.
A walk to see Huka Falls Taupo
It’s easy to visit Huka Falls by car rental in New Zealand. Just a five minute drive from Taupo, on a well signed turn off from the SH5, they are situated north of the town in Wairakei Park. Ample car parking is provided and it’s an easy walk down to the waterfall. There are a series of viewing platforms from which you can view the swirling water and a footbridge over the river itself. Even though the summer water temperature is an attractive 22°C, you’d be unwise to jump in – there’s a seriously dangerous undertow caused by the water crashing deep into the waterfall’s plunge pool.
Take a hike
There are two good walks in the Huka Falls Taupo area. The first, the Spa Park Walk, takes about two hours to make the round trip. Beginning at the Spa Thermal Park, it offers photogenic views down into the river gorge and past rainforest. As the track approaches Huka Falls Taupo, you’ll hear the sound of rushing water which signals your approach to the viewing balconies popular with photographers. The longer Aratiatia track, about twice the distance of the Spa Park Walk, leads you from the viewing platforms of the falls up to the cliff tops. The views of the Waikato River from up here are worth the hike. It’s all downhill from there; the path leads down to the Aratiatia hydro dam and rapids. There’s a picnic area here and three viewing points – time your visit to coincide with the opening of the dam gates to see the rapids flowing.
Huka Jet Boat
Adrenaline junkies are in for a treat here as the jet boat offers all the thrills and spills you’d expect from a country synonymous with adventure. The boat speeds along the Waikato River at up to 50 miles an hour and riders are treated to 360° spins. The boat takes you within a few metres of the Huka Falls speeding within inches of rocky cliffs past the Huka Prawn Park, Waiketei Geothermal Plant and Aratiatia Dam in its half hour journey. Trips depart every thirty minutes and cost NZ$115 per adult, NZ$69 per child. If once is not enough, there is also an Instant Replay ticket option for a further NZ$19.