The Tongariro River, which runs through the center of the North Island, is primarily popular as a fishing river. Rainbow and brown trout often return to the river to spawn during winter, and the river has a number of natural pools and swimming holes, many of which are safe for swimming and good places to fish for resting trout. Because of this, anglers can pull in a good haul between April and November.
The Tongariro is also an exciting white-water rafting and kayaking spot, with a number of Taupo-based tours heading to the river’s Class III and IV rapids (for experienced rafters). For a more relaxed experience, try one of the many hiking or mountain biking trails that run alongside the river. And the Tongariro National Trout Centre on State Highway 1 educates visitors about the trout that live in the area.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Tongariro River is ideal for adventure seekers, outdoor adventurers, and fisherfolk.
In summer, be sure to pack sunscreen and sturdy walking shoes. In winter, pack waterproof rain gear, warm layers, and, depending on where you’re driving, chains for your car tires in case of ice on the road.
Fishing requires an advance-purchase license from the Department of Conservation and adherence to the rules applicable to certain sections of the river.
Know when a swimming hole is unsafe: don’t swim in fast-moving water, and avoid the water if it smells musty or you can see black, slimy mat-like growths on the riverbed.
Dogs must be kept on leash at all times to help protect the endangered whio (blue ducks) who live along the river.
How to Get There
The Tongariro River has plenty of access points, most of them south of Turangi (at the southern end of Lake Taupo) along State Highway 1. Hikers can access the Tongariro River Trail from Taupahi Reserve, just outside Turangi, and white-water rafters can get to the river below Rangipo Dam, Tree Trunk Gorge, and Poutu Intake.
When to Get There
The river is gorgeous year-round. Trout fishing is best in winter (between July and September). Trout runs are particularly common after heavy rains, so be prepared to leave as soon as the weather clears. Hikers, mountain bikers, and kayakers aim to visit in summer, when warm and dry weather is more likely.
Stretch Your Legs Along the Tongariro River
The Tongariro River Trail, the main walk that runs along the river, is a great entry-level track for families and beginner mountain bikers. The trail loops from Taupahi Reserve, just outside of Turangi, for approximately 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) alongside the river and through native bush. There are other tracks nearby, like the Tree Trunk Gorge Track, but none gets as close to the river.