Huka Falls in New Zealand blew my mind. This is no ordinary waterfall and for that reason, I just had to write a separate post telling you all about it. Huka Falls is a mesmerising waterfall on New Zealand’s biggest river, the Waikato. The Waikato runs from Lake Taupo through a lot of the North Island. Lake Taupo isn’t just an ordinary lake either, it was created after an eruption of New Zealand’s biggest supervolcano over 300,000 years ago. The lake now stands as one of New Zealand’s most scenic spots in the North Island and though the volcano is said to be cooling it’s by no means extinct. So the whole area surrounding Huka Falls is pretty crazy but the waterfall itself is a must-do when visiting New Zealand. We incorporated Huka Falls into our road trip from Auckland to Wellington.
Before diving into everything you need to know about visiting Huka Falls and the near-by region here are some exciting facts about the waterfall itself. I think it’s one of the fasting flowing waterfalls I’ve ever seen and you’d definitely be amazed by it too.
Huka Falls Facts
As well as being visually pleasing these insane facts about Huka Falls make it even more special.
- 220,000 litres of water gushes through Huka Falls per second
- The canyon before the drop of Huka Falls is only 15 metres wide compared to the rest of the river at 100 metres wide
- The drop at the end of the waterfall is 35 feet
- You can take a jet boat directly to the foot of Huka Falls!
- The only reasons that Huka Falls, as well as the river, are so blue is because of the light reflecting on the water
- You’ll hear Huka Falls before you see them – the gushing of the falls can be heard from quite far away!
- You can also take a river cruise to the base of the falls for a more mellow experience
The sheer speed that Huka Falls flows is incredible and not what I expected! The sheer blue mixed in with the foaming white of the water is so captivating it’s hard to draw your eyes away.
Where About’s is Huka Falls in New Zealand?
Huka Falls in located in the Taupo district of the North Island in New Zealand. It’s definitely one of the highlights to enjoy up north. Road tripping is one of the most popular ways to see New Zealand and you’ll probably drive straight past Huka Falls during your itinerary. It’s really not hard to squeeze this waterfall in. I recommend visiting Huka Falls whilst exploring Lake Taupo. How much time you’ll need for Huka Falls depends on what you’re planning on doing. We simply enjoyed looking over the Falls but there are so many other things to enjoy from walking to adrenaline activities like jet boating. I’d scribble a couple of hours to a day for Huka Falls.
Huka Falls Viewing Areas
Huka Falls is easy to find. It’s well signposted from the main roads and the main viewing area is just a short 2-minute stroll away from the carpark. There are three main viewing areas for Huka Falls. The most obvious is the main one leading from the carpark. You’ll find a bridge where you can enjoy the views above and below the falls. Walk over the bridge and turn left to the edge of the falls where you’ll see the water plummeting into the basin below. The jet boats and river cruises literally go right into the basin at the edge of the falls so I bet it’s an amazing experience. It looked fantastic as we watched on but very wet!
The third viewing area is from above which I loved. I love any Aerial viewpoints because I just think you get such a different perspective from above. Coming down to Huka Falls from Taupo you’ll probably notice the ‘Huka Falls Lookout’ sign before the sign for the carpark so it’s up to you which you enjoy first. We ended up doing the lookout second. Turn left off the main road and follow the bend right around.
There may be cars. Parked up as you turn but ignore than and keep going round until you see the viewpoint. It’s easy to get confused because as you turn into the road there is a walking track at the left-hand side. We actually thought this was the trail to the lookout but realised a short time into the walk that it was taking us back down to the falls where we had just been. As you drive round the bend you’ll see the viewpoint in front of you. I imagine its busy in the summertime so I’d expect parking to be limited.
Huka Falls Jet Boat
Huka Falls welcomes all adrenaline junkies to board the jet boat! If you love speed and seeing waterfalls close up then this activity may be for you. The Huka Falls jet boat is licensed to take passengers right up the base of the mighty falls. Watch up close as 220,00 of water gushes over 35 feet every second! You’ll also get to enjoy some other sections of the river too.
The jet boat rides last for half an hour and runs all year round. You can book advance or on the day at the information desk located in the Huka Falls car park. Even though this experience does look like heaps of fun but it is expensive. For a 30 minute ride on the jet boat, it’s $135 per person! As a budget traveller, I find that way too expensive! But if you’ve got a little more cash to play around with then you can decide if the price is worth it!
A little more relaxed then the jet boat experience is the Huka Falls River Cruise. These cruises operate all year round giving travels a unique experience of the falls and Waikato river. Cruise down the river exploring the water, bushland and native animals that live alongside this vast landscape. It’s also a much more affordable option! Adult tickets start at $39 per person. This cruise lasts for 1 hour and 20 minutes including a complimentary hot or cold drink on board. Cruises run every day four times a day so booking in advance is advised to avoid disappointment on the day. In the summertime, the cruise runs at, 10:30, 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30 the 4:30 cruise is not available in winter. For more information or to book a river cruise at Huka Falls check out their website here.
Aratiatia Dam Gate
A little further upstream from Huka Falls is the Aratiatia Dam Gates. The flow of the river is harnessed by these gates to help sustain the river and for the jet boat rides. The opening of the dam gates releases over 80,000 litres of water at once which is pretty crazy! The gates are opened four times a day in summertime and three times a day in winter. The gates were used in the famous movie ‘The Hobbit’ which you watch here. There are multiple viewing areas to view the opening of the gates enjoy a walk from Spa Park to Huka Falls and continue a little further to the dam or park in the car park and follow the signs for the Aratiatia rapids. For more information and another jet boat experience take a look here.
Facilities at Huka Falls
There are a few facilities within the car park at Huka Falls. Parking is free so there is no need to worry about time limits. Enjoy lunch with an awesome view of the falls on some picnic benches located a short throw away from the carpark. There’s also an information desk located in the car park as well as toilets but these have to be paid for! There is the option for camping at Huka Falls which I’ll explain at the below.
The main carpark leading to Huka Falls is locked at night so only available to access during day time hours. In winter the car park opens from 8 am – 5:30 pm and 8 am – 6 pm in the summertime. If you get locked in unexpectedly there is a relief number you can call on the gate but it will come at a hefty price. If you plan on enjoying some of the walking tracks at Huka Falls then just ensure you have plenty of time to get back to the car before they close the gates.
Camping at Huka Falls in New Zealand
New Zealand is a haven for campers especially those travelling by campervan, caravan or RV. New Zealand is one of the few countries that allow freedom camping. Freedom camping is camping in an area that isn’t classed as a campground for free. As a budget traveller, this really helped us with our budget in New Zealand. It is an expensive country and travelling New Zealand definitely threw our budget off and we are usually quite good at budgeting well. There are three freedom camping areas at Huka Falls just a little further down the road from the main car park. Though there are three areas as of July 2019 only camping area B was open. The campsite is okay with portable toilets which aren’t great.
The site does get very busy and there isn’t loads of space so if you plan on staying overnight ensure you get to the campsite in the afternoon to secure a spot. The road into the campsite is also in poor condition. I wouldn’t recommend taking a caravan or any kind of trailer into this camping area. We did take our rented campervan down but we went very very slowly. Just be aware and take your time. Campsite A is just a short walk away with facilities to wash dishes and cleaner toilets so they are worth walking too!
Other Things to Do in Taupo New Zealand
As well as Huka Falls the Taupo district has other things to do as well. A couple of days could easily be spent around Lake Taupo and the lake comes alive with water sports in the summertime. Some great options are:
- Craters of the Moon Thermal Walk
- Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings – Kayak out to these rock carvings
- Hiking trails at Mount Tauhara
- Huka Honey Hive
- Taupo Museum
- Take a photograph at the #LoveTaupo sign
- Huka Prawn Park
- Visit Tongariro National Park
- Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Lake Taupo is a great spot to be based for a few days. We visited in winter and found it pretty quiet but everything was open and available. I can only imagine how much the lake comes to life in the summer!
I hope you enjoyed this post about visiting the mighty Huka Falls. This waterfall is definitely one of my favourite in the whole of New Zealand. For more of my posts on New Zealand then take a look here. I urge everyone to visit this incredible country at some point in life. The nature in New Zealand is remarkable and it leaves you with a sense of peace and fulfilment. A working holiday visa is a great way to get most out of New Zealand and earn some cash whilst you enjoy this amazing country!
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