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.
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?
Taupo is served by the state highway one road network as well as a domestic airport.
WEATHER IN TAUPO
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.
BEST TIME TO GO TO TAUPO
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.
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 IN TAUPO
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Road bridge opposite car park (with requisite coffee cart in attendance). There are toilets in the carpark.
Two short walks to viewing platforms are well signposted. Walks between 15 – 20 minutes.
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.
Free entry, no admission charges.
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.
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
Otumuheke Streamlearn more
Craters of the Moonlearn more
Orakei Korakolearn more
Taupo DeBretts Hot Springslearn more
SHOPPING, MARKETS IN TAUPO
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 – 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.
Check out Lava Glass and spend time enjoying the sculpture glass walk, for details check out Where To Eat in Taupo 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 IN TAUPO
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.
MUSEUMS, CULTURE AND HERITAGE
Maori cultural experienceslearn more
Taupo museumlearn more
Turangi visitor centrelearn more
Opepe scenic historic reservelearn more
Opotaka - home of the Hakalearn more
Te Porere Redoubtlearn more
ADVENTURES IN TAUPO
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.
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. 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…
Read more Taupo Outdoors – Natural Places – Best Bits.
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 will be needed to avoid disappointment
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.
WHERE TO STAY IN TAUPO
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.
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
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.”
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.
BEST BITS TRAVEL GUIDE