Originating in the mountains of Tongariro National Park and spilling down towards Lake Taupo, the Tongariro River forms the upper section of the greater Waikato River. Famously known for its world-class trout fishing, you can also find whitewater rafting and kayaking through operators based in Turangi. The crowds here can be notably thinner than in Lake Taupo or Rotorua, and the riverfront scenery is some of the best you’ll find on the North Island’s central plateau.
Drift peacefully along a tree-lined riverbank and swim in the numerous pools, or crank up the adrenaline as you go bouncing down the occasional rapids and falls. It’s even possible to go rafting in winter when the mountain peaks are covered in snow, and the slopes of Mt. Ruapehu and the Lake Taupo shoreline are both just an hour away. Or, for those who prefer to stay on shore, the land bordering the Tongariro River is covered in dozens of trails, where mountain bikers, hikers, and riverfront joggers can enjoy the fresh mountain air.
Fishing licenses are required for the Tongariro River and cost $90/adult for the season of $38/week. For kayaking, there are 60 rapids classified Grade 3 or 4, and while accessing the river is very easy, trained guides and professional outfits make the overall experience much easier.