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Witness the awe-inspiring sight of rushing water when the dam gates of Aratiatia Rapids are opened. The powerful cascade fills up a narrow gorge and can be viewed from several vantage points. Once you have watched nature at work, explore the beautiful surrounding bushland on foot or by mountain bike.
The rapids are harnessed for hydroelectric power by a nearby power station. As the gates open, water spills out at up to 23,775 gallons (90,000 liters) per second. When they close, the turbulent water retreats to a gentle stream.
The rapids attracted global attention when they featured in Peter Jackson’s film The Hobbit: the Desolation of the Smaug. This was one of the locations for the barrel riding scene where the dwarves try to get away from the elves. They climbed into barrels that were then hurled downstream. Rest assured that for the filming, no actors were actually in the wooden containers when they were dropped into the water.
The falls tumble down 91.8 feet (28 meters) over the course of 0.6 miles (1 kilometer). View the water show from one of the lookouts on the overlooking rocky bluffs. Another great location is from the bridge at the dam on Aratiatia Road. Alternatively, ride the rapids on a jet boat tour.
Make a day of exploring the surrounding countryside. Hike or mountain bike through the scenic reserve off Aratiatia Road, on the banks of the Waikato River. Take the 2-hour scenic trail that passes through the 351-acre (142-hectare) protected area. See an array of native flora and fauna as you go.
Aratiatia Rapids are located off State Highway 1, approximately 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) north of Taupo. Come by rental car, taxi or bus from the lakeside town. The dam’s control gates open several times a day throughout the year with an additional opening in the summer. Check the times with the Taupo Visitor Centre’s website.
This family-friendly Wairakei hotel is within 2 mi (3 km) of Wairakei Natural Thermal Valley, Wairakei International Golf Course, and Prawn Farm. Huka Falls is 2.1 mi (3.3 km) away.
Situated on a river, this luxury lodge is within 1 mi (2 km) of Wairakei International Golf Course and Huka Falls. Wairakei Natural Thermal Valley and Spa Thermal Park are also within 3 mi (5 km).
Situated near the airport, this luxury hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Taupo Hot Springs and Waipahihi Botanical Gardens. Taupo Bungy and Golf Club Taupo are also within 3 mi (5 km).
Situated in Taupo, this hotel is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Spa Thermal Park and within 3 mi (5 km) of Huka Falls and Lake Taupo. Golf Club Taupo and Taupo Bungy are also within 15 minutes.
This family-friendly Taupo motel is within a 10-minute walk of Golf Club Taupo and Spa Thermal Park. Lake Taupo and Huka Falls are also within 3 mi (5 km).
Situated in Taupo, this hotel is within 3 mi (5 km) of Taupo i-SITE Visitor Information Centre, Lake Taupo, and Huka Falls. Taupo Museum and Art Gallery and Barbary are also within 2 mi (3 km).
Situated near the airport, this motel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Barbary and Lake Taupo. Taupo Bungy and Taupo Hot Springs are also within 3 mi (5 km).
Situated on the riverwalk, this aparthotel is within 3 mi (5 km) of Taupo Museum and Art Gallery, Lake Taupo, and Huka Falls. Barbary and Taupo i-SITE Visitor Information Centre are also within 2 mi (3 km).