Aratiatia Rapids Lookout Walk

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The Aratiatia Rapids Lookout Walk is located near Taupo in the Central North Island.  It follows alongside the Aratiatia Dam’s spillway as the water makes it way back into the Waikato River.   The Aratiatia Rapids Lookout Walk is a straightforward 10-minute one-way walk to the upper lookout 620 metres away from the carpark.   Watch the spillway gates open for an exciting view of the rapidly flowing water; it’s breathtaking to see.

Explore the Local Area

What better way to see this beautiful part of New Zealand than from the air. Suppose you’re feeling adventurous then why not try a tandem skydive.  The team at Taupo Tandem Skydiving are very experienced and will look after you while you take in the breathtaking views of the Taupo area.

Quick Facts

        • Location: Taupo, Central North Island
        • Distance: 1.20 km
        • Time needed: 55 Minutes
        • Difficulty: Very Easy
        • Wheelchair Access: No
        • Route: Round Trip
        • Elevation: 298m
        • Wet Feet: No
        • Toilets: Yes
        • Dogs: No
        • Mobile Coverage: No
        • Last Updated: November 2020
  • Track Highlights

    The opening of the dam gates to release water over the rocks.  Keep an eye on the gate times, 10 am, 12 noon, 2 pm and only in the summertime 4 pm. Get there early and walk to the lookout points.

  • Track Quality

    Very Good

  • Hazards

    There are cliffs around the walk so watch out if you get off the track.  Steep drop off down to the river.

  • Transport


  • Water


  • Driving Instructions

    The walk begins 13 km or 15 mins drive from Taupo.  Take Wairakae Dr out of Taupo, then onto State Highway 5 – Thermal Explorer Highway. Turn right at Aratiatia Rd.

  • Shops or Restaurants Nearby

    See restaurants in Taupo

  • Area & Track History

    Aratiatia Power Station was the first hydroelectric power station on the Waikato River; it was built in 1960. From the Aratiatia Dam, the Waikato River drops 28 metres over one kilometre and is a sight to see when the spillway gates are opened four times a day. The Aratiatia Rapids has also featured in Peter Jackson’s movie The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug where Bilbo Baggins rescues the dwarfs from elves by hiding them in barrels which float down the river.

  • Best Things To Do Near This Walk

  • Map Location of Aratiatia Rapids Lookout Walk

    Map of walk

Points of Interest Along the Walk

In the map above, if you zoom in on the walk, you’ll see all the following track points and their location. Each point has photos along with a description of each one.

Point 1: Aratiatia Rapids Lookout Walk Carpark

The carpark is very easy to find.  Parking is available on both sides of the road. To find the track, cross over the road, so you are on the downside of the river. Look downstream of the river, and 25 metres to your right is the start of the track. If you can time your walk to just before 10 am 12 pm or 2 pm you will see the floodgates open.

Point 2: Viewing Platform

Now walk along this track for around ten minutes then take the track to your left. This will take you down to the gorge viewing platform. 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, 4 pm are the best times to see the floodgates open, in the winter the gates do not open at 4 pm. If you have time up your sleeve, go back to the turnoff and turn left and walk out to the lookout. This is about 20 minutes. This lookout was built by the powerhouse workers, who lived right behind you. All you will see now is sealed roads and hectares of Blackberry’s.

All walks in Taupo…

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