In New Zealand/ Travel Destinations

Lake Taupo: Huka Falls River Cruise vs Jet Boat

HUKA FALLShuka falls river cruise

Why should you go to Huka Falls? Well, not only is it on New Zealand’s longest river, home to the most beautiful turquoise water, but you have a choice of ways to explore these epic falls depending on your capacity for thrills – on board the relaxing Huka Falls River Cruise, or on the adrenaline-packed jet boat.

We had been in New Zealand’s North Island for a week before we caught a glimpse of the sun, and then finally it made an appearance.  Time was tight: we had travelled from Rotorua to try and fit in a bit of Lake Taupo time before making our way to the Waitomo Caves, and despite dashing to the tourism office as soon as we arrived, there weren’t a lot of options for us.

We were told that our son wasn’t quite old enough for the Jet boat -crushing – and that our only alternative was the river cruise. Errrr, a river cruise you say? Rob and I looked at each other with disappointment – should…we…still do this…?! I don’t like saying no to new experiences, so we thought since we’d driven all this way, we may as well.

[scroll to the bottom of the post for information & tips]

hukafalls-4The meeting-point for the river cruise is only a 10 minute drive from Taupo, making it a perfect activity if you’re staying in the city itself. We met up with our captain, who was a really friendly chap that got everybody talking.


He led us to our boat and showed us around – the tea, coffee, blankets were all there to make us feel at ‘home’. The river cruise takes 1h20, which is the perfect amount of time to see the beauty of the Waikato River, and the falls themselves. If you’re a budding photographer, there will be no better way to get that perfect shot – and the captain will hang around long enough for you to get your winning snap.

Despite the sunshine, temperatures were actually pretty low in Lake Taupo, and boy was I glad to be inside being offered a hot chocolate by the awesome captain. We were comfortable, warm, and entertained – even the kids were entranced.

The cruise moved at a leisurely pace, letting us take in the natural surroundings, and learn about the bush and wildlife. The water here is unbelievable – an astonishing gradient of blue hues ranging from crystal clear, turquoise and at times dark petroleum blue.

After cruising for about 45 minutes, including a short stint when the boat was piloted by our son (!), and seeing the jet boat whoosh past a few times – jealous – your ears start picking up another sound. Something stronger, constant, powerful. You start approaching the falls, and nothing can prepare you for its sheer strength – it’s a humbling moment.


The water quickly changes from turquoise to white, the 220 thousand litres/second that tumble over the falls create this astonishing sight, and the river cruise we thought would be boring? Well, it went incredibly close for the sake of us photographers! Thanks Captain!

hukafalls2hukafalls4The combination of the scenic boat ride, the excitement and thrill of the waterfall, and well, the comfort of having a cup of tea whilst looking at one of the most beautiful places on the North Island makes this a fantastic day out, and one I would definitely recommend for families looking for something to do with kids in Taupo. If you are a keen photographer, I’d also recommend the river cruise. If you don’t have kids, or a camera – seriously go on the jet boat – it looked sick.



Cruise Times: 10:30 / 12:30 / 14:30 / 16:30 (open all year round)

Price: $37pp / $15 child (5+) / $89 Family (2 adults + 2 kids)

Child-friendly rating4/5

Find out more about the Huka Falls River Cruise




Have you visited New Zealand’s North Island with kids? What were your favourite things to do?


  huka falls river cruise

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  • The Family Explorer

    I loved everything about New Zealand when I went several years ago on my honeymoon! We were able to go to both Rotorua and Waitomo Caves, but didn’t make it to Lake Tuapo. It looks beautiful! I guess we’ll have to go back!

  • Wow! I have always wanted to visit New Zealand and hope to take the girls one day. Your photos make me want to go even more x

  • Coombe Mill (Fiona)

    I’m not quite sure how we missed this one in New Zealand, it was 20 years ago and probably less of a tourist attraction but still a sight I would love to have seen and what a lovely way to see everything. You certainly will have ended up with better pictures than the speed boaters! I can only imagine the thrill of being that close to the waterfall. Thank you so much for sharing with me on #CountryKids

  • Wow those falls look stunning and the river cruise sounds like the perfect way to see them – I quite like the idea of being snuggled up in a blanket, drinking hot chocolate and admiring the beautiful scenery along the river.

  • Ah, it looks stunning. We went to South Island rather than north and yes the jet boating is fantastic although we didn’t get any waterfalls. Beautiful photos as always – it really is a stunning country

  • What a stunning place! So it was a good thing that you decided to take on a new experience!!
    Wow, the waterfall is amazing, great photos as always 😀

    Happy to have you on #MondayEscapes!

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  • What a stunning place Maria. I am glad you enjoyed your river cruise:) I have yet to visit New Zealand, it is on my very long wish list!

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