Lake Taupo is Australasia’s largest lake, and a trout fishing paradise. It also boasts its own geothermal site, the world-class Wairakei International Golf Course, and plenty of adventure activities – bungy jumping, jet boating and skydiving, among them.
The Waikato River is Lake Taupo’s only water outlet and the longest river in New Zealand. Visit two of the best vantage points along the Waikato for some seriously fast-moving water. The Huka Falls are the country’s most visited natural attraction, and can be reached by car, foot, bike, jet-boat, riverboat or helicopter. The Aratiatia Rapids are a unique experience - watch as the dam opens (three times daily at 10am, 12pm & 2pm) and the churning waters rise.
Ngati Tuwharetoa are the iwi of the Taupo District, their traditional lands encompassing Lake Taupo, the Waikato River, geothermal taonga and the central North Island mountains Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, Tauhara and Tongariro.
Taupo is surrounded by geothermal activity, being part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Geysers, boiling mud and drifting steam give an other-worldly feel, while the thermal springs in the area are great for soaking in. For an easy and free walk with geothermal activity and a whiff of sulphur, walk amongst the mud pools and steaming vents at Craters of the Moon.
For a free family jaunt, take your swimming togs and head to Spa Park: follow the path down to the edge of the river and soak in the natural hot pools under the bridge - magic! De Bretts Hot Springs is a popular resort and pool complex to visit - children love the hydroslide and warm water playground; adults can watch from the landscaped outdoor pools, or choose private pools and spa treatments.
If you prefer your hot spring experience without the sound of small children, Wairakei Terraces has pools in a beautiful setting with water flowing down silica terraces, and the option of spa treatments, walkway and Maori cultural experience.
Orakei Korako is a superb spot to see geysers, hot springs, colourful silica terraces and walk through caves and native bush. It’s a 25 minute drive north of Taupo, and the entry price includes the short ferry trip from the visitor centre and cafe, across the lake to the geothermal field.
Biking round Taupo
There are wonderful mountain biking tracks around Taupo. Try the trails through pine and eucalyptus at Craters of the Moon bike park, grades 1-5. Or take the Rotary Ride from Taupo to Huka Falls and Aratiatia Dam, 30 kms return. If you’re riding with small children, try the Great Lake Walkway, a flat, paved track from the township out to 5 Mile Bay.
For those who can cope with a bit of hill, there is a beautiful track through native bush from Kinloch to Whakaipo Bay, open to walkers and mountain bikers. It’s part of The Great Lake Trail, which covers over 70kms of single track on the western shore of the lake, and offers amazing views of the lake and distant, snow-capped mountains. At the southern end of the lake there are more fantastic mountain biking tracks - try the 42nd Traverse if you’re brave enough!
Every November, thousands of cyclists flock to Taupo for the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. There are many different event categories, but the most famous is the 160km lap of the lake.
There are loads of cafes and restaurants around Taupo. Eruption Cafe, 15/19 Tamamutu Street, is popular and cycle friendly. The Storehouse Cafe, 14 Runanga St, is very popular; it’s licenced, and sells classic homeware and clothing too.
What to do in Taupo
Go trout fishing
Try sailing, kayaking or paraponting on NZ’s biggest lake
Relax in hot pools
Get the heart racing with a bungy jump
Visit the mighty Huka falls
Explore the geothermal sites
Go skiing on a volcano
Hike or mountain bike through native bush trails