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Travel Guide

Things to do in Taupo - The Ultimate List of Activities

  • 7 minutes
In this Article

Best bits, the only guide you need for a great holiday

Find out what makes this place special. Visitors are beguiled by a volcanic zone stretching across the Central Plateau of the North Island. Nature has created a bubbling cauldron of mineral waters and deep immense crater lakes. The inky blue bodies of water are fringed by lush native bush. The glorious scenery has a stunning backdrop of the three snow-tipped peaks of Tongariro National Park. It is the stuff of holiday dreams with the picturesque landscape encouraging water sports, adventures from jet boating, rafting and kayaking or walking tours soaking up the views. The sheer variety of what nature has to offer is exhilarating. Visitors can dip their toes into warm water seeping from lakeside streams and walk among mineralised landscapes where scalding water paints the world a vivid orange. Adventure beckons on the lake from kayaking to water parasailing.

Orakei Korako Cave & Geothermal Park, New Zealand @Love Taupo
Orakei Korako Cave & Geothermal Park @Love Taupo

TAUPO ULTIMATE THINGS TO DO

  • Huka falls, enormous torrents of water forcing its way through a rocky gorge is memorising and definitely unmissable
  • Lake cruise, got to get out on the water, its Lake Taupo after all. Catch a good look at the Maori rock carvings as they rise magnificently out of the water
  • Craters of the Moon lunar landscape is extraordinary, an otherworldly experience
  • ORAKEI KORAKO steaming vents, boiling mud, a geothermal wonderland
  • Taupo adventures beckon, go bungee jumping or go para-skiing on the lake,
  • Indulge in a leisurely cafe brunch at Lava Glass
  • Take a selfie against Taupo’s graffiti street art trail

WHERE IS TAUPO?

GETTING THERE

Taupo is served by the state highway one road network as well as a domestic airport.

WEATHER

Taupo, Taupō Weather Forecast and Observations

In Taupo, the summers are a burst of glorious warm weather, the humidity is very low creating a comfortable environment. The winters are brisk, cold and often wet. It can be cloudy year round. The temperature range is from 3°C (winter mornings) to 24°C and is rarely below -2°C or above 27°C.

Huka Falls waterfall in Wairakei near Lake Taupo in New Zealand
Huka Falls waterfall in Wairakei near Lake Taupo

BEST TIME TO GO

For summer water sports January to early March is the best time to go

Year round, geothermal hot pools ensure you will feel toasty warm. Layer up in winter for brisk, crisp days with a frosty greeting early morning. Off season Taupo / Turangi is quietly inviting with the lake glittering in the bright winter light. The motels are not full and you are guaranteed the best views of the Huka Falls. The nearby ski fields of the Central Plateau Ruapehu are a magnet for winter sports (between late July to September).

LAKE TAUPO – LET’S PLAY

Taupo’s natural world star attraction is water, either massive lakes or massive waterfalls with a stunning sideshow of geothermal energy gushing and steaming over boardwalks. Lake Taupo is a crater lake from an ancient eruption 300,000 years ago. The area is volcanically active with intriguing geothermal hot spots. The lake is approximately the size of Singapore with outflows such as Huka waterfalls a visitor spectacle. Visitor towns include Taupo and Turangi offering fishing enthusiasts a chance to throw a line for dinner. The trophy is mouth watering freshwater fish, trout. The massive lake (622 square km) is an inviting place for numerous water sports and adventures rivalling its southern counterpart Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown.

Lake Taupo Sunset, New Zealand
Lake Taupo Sunset
Mine Bay's Māori Rock Carvings, New Zealand @henry magazine
Mine Bay's Māori Rock Carvings @henry magazine

MAORI ROCK CARVINGS

A magnificent artistic statement is only accessible by water. The towering carvings near Mine Bay were carefully crafted by master artisan Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell in the 1970’s. The artist portrays the story of Polynesian navigator Ngatoro-i-rangi who guided the Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes to the Taupo district hundreds of years ago.

KAYAKING

Taupo Kayaking Adventures (TKA) specialises in guided scenic tours and trips on Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest freshwater lake, rivers, streams, walking and mountain biking tracks and trails in the Great Lake Taupo Region.

Kayaking on Lake Taupo offers:

  • Beaches strewn with pumice from an ancient eruption
  • Delta estuaries where wild black swans serenely share the waterways with you
  • Kayaking to the Maori rock carving is a very special way to view the massive outdoor art up close. With guides you can spend time in natural hot pools or perhaps guide your kayak under massaging waterfalls. The only sound is the oars being dipped in the water.
New Zealand, view to Maori cave art with two tourists in kayak in front
New Zealand, view to Maori cave art with two tourists in kayak
White water rafting, New Zealand
White water rafting

2 MILE BAY SAILING & WATERSPORT CENTRE

Mellow, laid back vibe is a great setting for kayak hires, windsurfing boards, canoes, sailboats and catamarans. The lakeside coffee bar and cafe is a favourite for whiling away the day people watching and enjoying the scene of visitors coming and going. There is pizza on the go and the local music jam sessions are a hit with visitors.

FISHING AND BOATING

Sail Barbary

A classic 1920’s yacht is the perfect foil for a cruise to Maori Rock Carving rounded out with dinner onboard. You are offered fleece lined jackets for the chilly bit that wraps itself around the lake. Quiet hidden bays are explored while under the power of wind and eco-friendly electric engines.

Ernest Kemp cruises

A replica steamboat offers visitors a two hour cruise to Maori Rock Carvings. Together with an amusing commentary it is a popular alternative to the adventurous sailing under canvas option of Sail Barbary.

Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings, New Zealand @Love Taupo
Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings @Love Taupo
Fly fishing Tongariro River, Turangi, New Zealand
Fly fishing Tongariro River, Turangi

Fishing charters operate from Turangi, Taupo and lakeside settlements. Visitors can often arrange for their freshly caught trout to be gently smoked over manukau ashs or be prepared by chefs at their accommodation. A popular choice for many visitors is to simply BBQ and tuck in.

Licences, fishing gear, equipment and guiding to where the fish are running can also be arranged by local tour specialists. Taupo Troutcatcher has been operating for several decades with a wealth of experience introducing novices to the intriguing sport of fishing. Charter an entire boat for the family and give it go.

HUKA FALLS

It’s a classic for a reason. The enormous power of millions of litres of water forced through a rock canyon creates a powerful relentless water flow capturing the senses. The sheer strength of the water flow captivates viewers.  If you feel like holding tighter to the child’s hand while watching it’s likely you are not the only parent. Kids get to see nature in its splendid white watery self.

INTERESTING FACTS

Huka Falls and Lake Taupo are the beginning of New Zealand’s mighty Waikato. The powerful river waters originate from where the kids are standing right now.

Huka Falls Taupo, New Zealand
Huka Falls
Tourist adventure in Huka Falls with Huka falls river cruise in Taupo, New Zealand
Tourist adventure in Huka Falls with Huka falls river cruise in Taupo

Visitors can experience the Huka Falls from the river with Huka Falls River Cruise, a relaxed jaunt from Aratiatia Dam to Huka Falls. It is great for families as you have safe open air viewing decks and platforms to take a selfie of yourself backdropped by the spray from the Huka Falls.

TIP

FREE – Huka falls are free, no admission charges.

ARATIATIA RAPIDS DAM SLIPWAY OPENING

Enjoy a touch of drama, then you are in the right place. Anticipation builds as the dam spill is heralded by the shrill piercing shout of the public siren. The dam spill gate opening is happening. The release of millions of litres of water is dramatic due to the sudden rise in river water level. For people who have mobility issues there are viewing sites on the bridge. Check with the Aratiatia Dam site for opening times as they vary according to the season. Anticipation builds with the high volume warning buzzers.

Viewing sites

Road bridge opposite car park (with requisite coffee cart in attendance) There are toilets in the carpark.

Arataitai Dam sluice gates opened, New Zealand
Arataitai Dam sluice gates opened

Two short walks to viewing platforms are well signposted. Walks between 15 – 20 minutes.

TIP

With smaller children move to the higher lookout point to view the dam spill gate opening. The path is easier to navigate and there is a concrete platform for shorter people to stand on for an uninterrupted view.

TIP

Free entry, no admission charges

Geothermal plant, free attraction, Lake Taupo, New Zealand
Geothermal plant, free attraction

GEOTHERMAL ENERGY & STEEL PIPES

Industrial functional pipes have never looked so good when misting,billowing steam swirls around the steel snaking pipes. The power of geothermal energy is very visible.  Go for a drive to the viewing platform. There is an information plaque at the viewing platform providing plenty of facts for the scientist in all of us.

INTERESTING FACTS WAIRAKEI GEOTHERMAL FIELD

Wairakei Geothermal Field is New Zealand’s oldest and largest (by electrical generation). The field covers between 20 and 25Km2 and lies 8 km north of Taupo along State Highway 1

HOT POOLS - TO SOAK IN & WALK AROUND

SPA THERMAL PARK & GEOTHERMAL WALKS

SHOPPING, MARKETS

Taupo weekend market is a hit with visitors with its pop up stalls, fresh produce and local artists marketing their wares. Rain or shine. Friday night Taupo hosts a night market specialising in delicious takeout food.

Market Central Taupo: Farmers’ & Craft Market | Every Sunday – The largest Taupo market operates in Northcroft Reserve. The comprehensive market has artisan goods, numerous foodie caravans and live music.

Retail therapy is a sure fire hit in Taupo with boutique stores lining the pedestrian friendly wide pavements with cafes to ensure your energy levels are not flagging. As one of the premier adventure destinations of New Zealand it doesn’t matter if you forgot the swimming geer there are plenty of outdoor and sporting goods stores to supply every sporting need, as well as helpful locals to point the way to the best fishing spot, where to obtain a license and guides

Homewares are a specialty, and even local cafes have a corner dedicated to pretty items for the house. Check out our top delis for hints where to go for the perfect gift for family, friends or to spoil yourself.

@marketcentraltaupo
@marketcentraltaupo
@lavaglassnz
@lavaglassnz

TIP

LAVA GLASS

Check out Lava Glass and spend time enjoying the sculpture glass walk, for details check out Where To Eat in Taupo – Best Bits for Acacia Bay’s Lava Glass cafe. Relax in comfortable sofa chairs, browse through the well thought out menu, suitable for families and enjoy being surrounded by beautiful glass objects.

Check out the Official Taupo shopping guide for 2021 – 2022 in the Travel Pack Section.

FESTIVALS

The town is hospitality central and the slogan ‘I love Taupo’ hints at events as a key ingredient in the visitor experience

GRAFFIATO STREET ART FESTIVAL

Celebrate street art in Taupo and watch artists create new dazzling outdoor massive art over three days (October). Graffiato is forever a portfolio in the making with over 80 murals and growing. Always look behind you, in front of you and sideways to locate surprising hidden art.

Check travel pack section for map

LAKE TAUPO CYCLE CHALLENGE

Adventure buffs, polish the mountain bike, swim the lake to get yourself fit for one of New Zealand’s premier sporting events. The 160 km sees thousands of people peddling around the lake late November.

@graffiato
@graffiato

MUSEUMS, CULTURE AND HERITAGE

Tandem skydiving over Lake Taupo, North Island, New Zealand
Tandem skydiving over Lake Taupo

ADVENTURES

Taupo offers visitors plenty of adrenaline adventure choices

  • Paraglide over the lake
  • Mountain biking in a dedicated park
  • Taupo tandem skydiving
  • Jet boating & rafting
  • Rope and climbing parks

Whether rain or shine you need to get things for kids to do on holiday. Sometimes holidays with kids are about organized entertainment. Parents and family members can relax and get into the vibe of getting lost in a giant maze or petting farm animals.

Taupo excels at theme and leisure parks where the hard work of inspiring kids to have a good time is sorted. And it does not matter if it is raining, the sheer joy makes up for the drizzle. Best things to do on holiday sometimes include a theme park, you’re with the kids, relax and let others keep everyone happy. And the oldie but goodie, Taupo’s bungy jump is still going strong after 30 years of operation.

Read more 9 Taupo Leisure Parks for Families – Best Bits

TAUPO FAMILY FRIENDLY THINGS TO DO

Did you know that Taupo is a great place to find out more about New Zealand’s wildlife. Get the kids outside and enjoy the numerous short walks in the area. Perhaps the National Trout Centre’s vicinity to the Tongariro River trail where enormous trout lurk in the streams and the nearby Tongariro River invites further exploration.

Kids got a sweet tooth? Then Huka Honey Hive will be popular. Everyone is introduced to the art of beekeeping and honey flavoured ice creams. Dog lovers can meet furry, friendly locals the Siberian Husky at Dog Sledding New Zealand | Timberline Racing Huskies are sure fire success for kids who are fascinated with all things canine. The must do attraction for anyone fascinated with owls is the chance to meet  New Zealand birds of prey, the Morepork. NZ’s hunting owl is elusive in the forest. Watch the owl graciously receive visitors and hear about a story to rehabilitate the owl…

NZ owl - a ruru or morepork staring intently. Isolated with black background. , New Zealand
NZ owl - a ruru or morepork

Read more Taupo Outdoors – Natural Places – Best Bits

Dusk at Lake Taupo, New Zealand
Dusk at Lake Taupo

TAUPO ROMANCE, THINGS TO DO FOR COUPLES

Romance and your budget can ruin the best plans. Taupo is a solution with plenty to do and see that does not break the bank and the heartstrings. There are cafes where you can choose together a special memento or fun street art for a funny quirky selfie pose together.

Read more Things to do for couples

TAUPO – THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT

Nightlife in Taupo is buzzing with visitors adding to the holiday atmosphere. Definitely Taupo gets into the party mode during the busy summer months. Taupo’s main street is where the action happens with bars, pubs and cafes open to the small hours.

For couples and friends looking to relax and enjoy the evening consider:

  • Unwind in a natural hot spring under the stars
  • Think about an evening cruise on the lake
  • Join a kayaking group and enjoy the sunset as Lake Taupo glimmers under the light of the moon
  • At the many cafes and restaurants, forward bookings wil be needed to avoid disappointment
Tokaanu Wharf, Lake Taupo, North Island, New Zealand
Tokaanu Wharf, Lake Taupo
@watersidetaupo
@watersidetaupo

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK

FOODIE EXPERIENCES IN TAUPO

Relish, savour and enjoy Taupo’s food scene. The experienced cafe and restaurants offer visitors a quirky main street brewery venue or a sweet surprise at a honey hive. Pop into the deli’s for the ingredients for your impromptu beach picnic. In a hurry to get to the next attraction, Taupo is a dab hand at understanding you have places to be. Remember to check out the lakeside pizza joint as the place has spectacular views together is a perfect flat white coffee.

Read more Where To Eat in Taupo – Best Bits

TAUPO THINGS TO DO FOR FREE

Taupo is defined by its glorious lake, walks and scenery. Nature does not invoice visitors for its lakeside walks and historic reserves The iconic Huka Falls is free as it plunges into Otumuheke Stream where hot water creates a natural spa. The Waikato River walks, the beaches and neary Tokaanu give visitors a plethora of opportunities to enjoy a holiday where the best things are free.

Read more about Taupo things to do for free

Taupo gateway to the Lake on a clear morning dawn, New Zealand
Taupo gateway to the Lake
@HiltonLakeTaupo
@HiltonLakeTaupo

WHERE TO STAY

Where to stay in Taupo from luxury lodges to the many camping sites. In Taupo / Turangi visitors are spoiled for choice. For many New Zealanders Taupo offers a chance to experience camping in some of the most picturesque locations in the North Island. Camping is a classic summer holiday experience. The freshwater lakes, opportunities to catch trout for the BBQ, the chance to check out the bright lights of Taupo or take a quiet stroll along the Tongariro River are joys that build memories. For overseas visitors you will meet and greet locals as they form temporary camping fraternities. Tips about where to go and what to see from the locals is invaluable. Go camping and meet some locals.

Read more 7 Taupo places to go camping, travel guide, things to do: Best Bits

TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION

Find out what makes this place special. Taupo, especially in summer, is crowded. Wall to wall motels with cleverly designed architecture compete for the best vantage point for lake views. The town is supported by tourism with slick professionalism and one of the country’s biggest visitor centres.  In peak summer season it is strongly advised to plan your trip to Taupo by booking well in advance. While the town has sometimes the hectic gaiety of a tourist town it is very easy to slip into the natural spaces of the Taupo region and truly get in touch with what brings visitors to Taupo. Peak season is summer with 2019 witnessing over 2 million visitors to the area.

Off season Taupo / Turangi is quietly inviting with the lake glittering in the bright winter light. The motels are not full and you are guaranteed the best views of the Huka Falls

HUKA FALLS

Official information plaques at Huka Falls describe, ‘Water surging through this narrow gut is flowing from Lake Taupo. This is Waikato… New Zealand’s Longest River, at the start of its 425-kilometer journey to the sea south of Auckland. Here the river is confined by hard geothermally-altered rock. Over time, it has carved a channel about 15 meters wide and 10 meters deep through the underlying softer sedimentary layers. The water churns along this channel towards Huka Falls at a rate much faster than the river’s average flow of 400 cubic meters per second. Hour by hour, the rushing Waikato water continues to erode this gut.”

Panoramic view over Huka Falls and the pool beneath. Taupo, New Zealand
Huka Falls

INTERESTING FACT

KA MATE MAORI HAKA (WAR DANCE) AND RUGBY ALL BLACKS TRADITIONAL PRE-GAME CHALLENGE. Opotaka was set aside as a Māori Reserve in 1981 due to its significance to local Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Ngāti Hikairo people. The site has been restored in recent years, and is now managed by Heritage New Zealand. The Origins of Ka Mate

BEST BITS TRAVEL GUIDE.

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