Taupo’s untouched ancient forests and swamplands, impressive geothermal wonderlands, and breath-taking volcanoes are crisscrossed with excellent walking and hiking tracks of all lengths and levels of difficulty. From pleasant lakefront and riverside strolls like the Great Lake Walkway and Huka Falls trails, through to the Tongariro River Trail and Lake Rotopounamu native bush walks ringing with birdsong.
Huka Falls Lookout Walk
Huka Falls is just a five minute drive north of Taupō, off SH1 on Huka Falls Road. From the Huka Falls carpark, it's just a 10 minute walk to cross the bridge over the falls and turn left. There are several lookout points on this easy access walk to take advantage of the views of the spectacular Huka Falls. The incredible volume of water tumbling over the falls is due to the Waikato River being forced through a channel of hard rock only 15m wide and 10m deep. The river emerges with a rush at the northern end to form the falls.
Spa Park to Huka Falls Walk
This walking track allows you to walk rather than drive to the Huka Falls from Taupō. Taking 1hour 30 minutes this 3km track is a pleasant walk for all ages, starting from Spa Park and winding along the banks of the Waikato River. From the car park walk five minutes down to the river's edge where you'll cross the Otumuheke Stream, a naturally hot stream which flows into the Waikato. The well-defined track then continues along the riverbank and offers lovely views along the way. Return via the same track or arrange transport from Huka Falls carpark.
Aratiatia Rapids Lookout Walk
These are the famous rapids used in the filming of the barrel escape scene in Peter Jackson's movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
The Aratiatia Dam and Rapids are located on Aratiatia Road, off SH5 10 km north of Taupō. Taking just 10 minutes, the 620m track leads to the two lookout points begins 50 metres from the bridge on the true right of the river. Before the water was diverted to the power station in 1964, the Aratiatia Rapids were the largest in Australasia - the Waikato River dropping 28 metres in just one kilometre. Today their full potential can still be seen during the scheduled daily releases - 10 am; 12 noon; 2 pm (and also 4 pm 1 October - 31 March). Each release lasts 15 minutes.
Kawakawa Bay Tracks
The K2K and Orakau tracks both take you into the picturesque Kawakawa Bay; walk the trails separately, or link them together for a longer day out.
Kinloch to Kawakawa (K2K)
Time (one way): 2 hr walk, 9 km
The track to Kawakawa Bay begins at the western end of the beach to the right of the parking area. Glorious views feature as the track climbs from Whangamata Bay and sidles along the top of a broad cliff. The bush is dominated by rewarewa but look out for the giant matai too. Once you reach the rocky lookout the track winds down into Kawakawa Bay. Here there is a shelter, toilet and plenty of opportunities for a swim or lakeside picnic.
Return via the same track, or link with the Orakau trail.
Time (one way): 3 hr walk, 10 km
From the carpark on Whangamata Road, the trail follows the Orakau Stream and wetland through regenerating native bush down to the beach at Kawakawa Bay. The trail is generally downhill and offers views across Lake Taupō.
Return via the same track, or continue on to Kinloch via the K2K.