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, while chilly with brisk winds is quietly inviting with the lake itself, the motels not full of visitors vying for the best views of Huka Falls and the locals as always, welcoming guests.
Best time to visit
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.
Taupo is served by state highway one road network as well as a domestic airport.
Taupo, Taupō Weather Forecast and Observation
LAKE TAUPO HIGHLIGHTS: GUIDE TO BEST THINGS TO DO
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.
Huka Falls @Wairakei
GEOTHERMAL ENERGY & STEEL PIPES
Massive steel pipes form their own roading system complete with jets of billowing steam adding to the sense of mystery and power of geothermal energy. Go for a drive to the viewing platform. There is an information plaque and an impressive fountain of superheated steam and water from the geyser near the start of the drive to the power station.
Wairakei Geothermal Power Station Visitor Centre is open weekdays only.
3352 State Highway 1,
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
Wairakei geothermal field @Ed Kruger
SPA THERMAL PARK & GEOTHERMAL WALKS
Otumuheke Stream hot pools are located in the Spa hermal Park and are free. It is also the start of the Huka picturesque walking trail to the Huka Falls. Nearby is the Rotary ride mountain bike trail for enthusiasts who have hired / carried their bikes on holiday. Otumuheke stream is glorious with natural rock pools and even a warm waterfall. The walk passes the deep green Waikato River. The walk is a snapshot of native lowland bush, the majesty of the Waikato River and pockets of farmland.
There are several access points to the Otumuheke Stream. Follow clearly marked signs. The hot stream waters as they meet the very cool Waikato River create a medley of warm, cool and surprisingly hot water. It is as though the shower temperature control is faulty. It is popular and expected to be shared with other visitors. If you plan to swim or even dip your toes in the pools and want to walk the Huka Falls walkway organise the swim after the walk. Relax in the natural waters and enjoy. There are signs warning swimmers of the swift currents of the Waikato River and kids will need supervision.
TIP: The Spa Park car park is open daylight hours only
TIP: Get someone to pick you up at either end of the walk, hopefully with you soaking in the pool as they arrive with transport.
Otumuheke Stream @Stuff
CRATERS OF THE MOON
Volcanic activity, the power of earth’s energy is very evident at the lunar landscape of Craters of the Moon. Stunted vegetation, silica licked earth and boiling mud make for a great place to take kids. The area is wheelchair accessible meaning children in buggies can be easily transported without parents arms getting tired carrying toddlers. Watch for steam pouring from vents in the earth and observe the buckling of the boardwalks as unexpected steam makes its appearance.
Craters of the moon groundcover
Can’t get enough of geothermal marvells, the boiling mud pools, the geyser fountains then either join a River cruise or drive to Orakei Korako and enjoy a day exploring one of Taupo’s lesser known natural thermal attractions. Orakei Korako is home to the most active geysers publicly accessible. There are up to twenty geysers on display. The boiling streams of water coat the slopes with vibrant silica. The area is home to large geothermal caves, native bush with bird song and a picturesque lake with steaming hot vents.
TIP: The lake is dotted with steaming quiet streams where a natural foot massage is just the perfect way to relax.
TIP: Orakei Korako allows dogs to view the geothermal activity
Orakei Korako lake
ARATIATIA RAPIDS DAM SLIPWAY OPENING
The sense of anticipation builds as the crowds gather for the dam spill gate opening. It is a free attraction. 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.
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.
Aratiatia Dam Taupo @Javier Medina
TAUPO DEBRETTS THERMAL POOLS
Ahhhhhh… the bliss of sliding down into the natural mineral pools of the Taupo DeBretts hot springs. With two huge mineral pools set amongst beautiful landscaped resort surroundings, it’s the perfect spot to relax and soothe tired, aching muscles.
Taupo is one of New Zealand’s most active thermal regions, and Taupo DeBretts enjoys a prime location at a natural ‘hot spot’ – a geothermal spring known as Onekeneke. For more than a century, people have flocked here to enjoy its famous relaxation and medicinal benefits. At Taupo DeBretts, we cool the way-too-hot volcanic waters down to a far more inviting temperature range of 38 to 41°C (100.4 to 105.8°F), all the while preserving the abundance of health-enriching mineral components. Check Taupo DeBretts Hot Springs, Pools and Water Park for up to date details.
MAORI CULTURAL EXPERIENCES
A day where we meet the original inhabitants of the area. Kai Waho is the total Kiwi experience, authentic in its Maori cultural roots, hand stitched for individuals. It’s meaningful travel that offers a much deeper experience than a simple walk in the bush, a day in the outdoors, a fish or a hunt. Guests are invited to discover pre-European cooking methods. Guests are active participants in foraging for food and every guest has a set task towards the preparation of a Maori feast. The location is Tamau Pa, 700 metres above sea level on the rim of the Taupo basin, is a base for Kai Waho (outdoor cuisine) accessible only by air, or an exhilarating four-wheel-drive off-road trek. Here is Tuwharetoa tribal land, stunning subalpine forest, remote, rich in culture, abundant in food and exclusively yours to explore with the careful guidance of the Kai Waho team, led by Tom Loughlin – host, chef, gatherer, and caretaker, kaitaiki, for this special part of New Zealand.
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.
OPOTAKA – HOME OF THE HAKA
For rugby fans, schoolchildren who have practiced the haka dance at school or visitors who have listened or witnessed the collective power of a challenge and response the Ka Mate story starts in Taupo. The war dance (haka) originated in Opotaka, located on the edge of Lake Rotoaira. The strategic location of a lake, swamp on either side was ideal for a fortified pa (village) site. The “first Haka was created by Chief Te Rauparaha as he was protected from his enemies by Chief Te Whareangi and his wife back in the 1820’s. Visit this historic site and the remains of the village while enjoying stunning views of Mt Tongariro and Lake Rotoaira.” A taste of New Zealand rugby history. It doesn’t get any better for a perfect selfie location.
Opotaka is located on SH47 between Turangi and National Park.
Opotaka Historic Reserve @NZ Pocket Guide
TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION
Official information plaques at Huka Falls describes, ‘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.”
TAUPO VISITOR EXPERIENCES
- 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
Unique journeys, personal adventures.