On our trip to New Zealand last month, my family drove about 45 minutes south of our farm house rental near Rotorua to visit Taupo. Even though it rained all day, we enjoyed our day trip to Taupo. (ICYMI, you can read about our adventures at Hobbiton and in Rotorua).
Our first stop just north of Taupo was Huka Falls. Since it was cold and rainy, I decided at the last-minute to book a river cruise to the falls instead of doing the one-hour hike to the bridge. We climbed into this boat and began to cruise up the calm Waikato River.
The scenery was beautiful, and if the fog and rainy haze had lifted, I’m sure it would have been spectacular.
The ceiling of the boat was covered in dollar bills given to the captain from visitors all around the world. The captain told us that Huka Falls is the most visited attraction on the North Island of New Zealand.
My kids got to take turns steering the boat up the river:
After about 45 minutes, we arrived at Huka Falls. It is very powerful!
The boat got as close to the falls as possible, and we took turns on the outside viewing platform taking photos. The captain warned us that people have lost cameras and phones out there due to the force of the waterfall on the boat.
We stayed at Huka Falls for around 15 minutes while the boat made several passes at different angles. Nature is a powerful force!
Aratiatia Dam and Rapids
Our boat trip departed from the parking lot of the Aratiatia Dam. Because of the timing of our river cruise to Huka Falls, we got to see the water released from the dam twice.
For the first time, we stood at the bridge by the dam. It was mesmerizing to see the water start pouring through and fill a space that was empty.
After our boat cruise, we were once again by the dam for another water release. Since it was raining, my family just wanted to get back in the car. But I wanted to see the rapids from downstream. I mean, when else are we going to get to see this? My middle son decided to brave the rain with me and go on a short hike to a lookout point downstream.
We hiked about 10 minutes to the first lookout point. Here is a “before” photo of the empty rocks:
And here is the “after” photo:
After visiting Huka Falls and the Aratiatia Rapids, we headed into the town to check out Taupo. Of course, we had to eat at the famous Airplane McDonald’s!
Yes, you can eat in a decommissioned DC3 plane! And of course we did. You can even look in the cockpit and read the crazy story of how and why the DC3 ended up at a McDonald’s in New Zealand.
Just across the street from McDonald’s, we stopped for a photo by this sign at Lake Taupo. As you can see, the weather wasn’t quite as good as it was for the photo at the top of the post.
Despite the bad weather, our day trip to Taupo was very enjoyable. If we ever return to Taupo, next time we would go on a boat ride across the lake to see Maori rock carvings and visit the nearby Craters of the Moon.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.