Exploring stunning Taupō, New Zealand

Best small- town in New Zealand

Have you ever visited the little town of Taupo? Where the magnificent views over Australasia’s largest freshwater lake are accompanied with scenic mountain ranges on the backdrop. During colder months, these mountains are covered with snow, making the views even more spectacular.

Things to do in Taupo
Lake Taupo in Spring 2020

Taupo is located in the central North Island of New Zealand and has a population of 25,400 people. It’s well known for great trout fishing, mountain biking and nearby Tongariro National Park. Estralians have visited Taupō quite a few times and every time it keeps on surprising us. Below you’ll find a few of our favorite places to visit and activities to do when staying in Taupō.

Stroll along Lake Taupo

Taupo sits in the shores of New Zealand’s largest lake by surface (~620 km²), called Lake Taupo. Fed by more than 30 rivers and streams, the lake is aquamarine blue and crystal-clear. A stroll along the promenade should probably be one of the first things on your things to do in Taupo list as you can’t “risk” to leave the town without a picture in front of the #LOVETAUPO sign 😉

Things to do in Taupo, New Zealand

There are lots of activities happening on the lake, like the famous hole in one challenge, parasailing, donut boating, jet skiing etc. There is also an army of different restaurants, bars and pop-up coffee shops to refresh yourself.
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Visit Taupo Museum and Rose Garden

If you feel like a walk along the Lake wasn’t long enough, head across the road to Taupo Rose Garden and Museum. Located conveniently a walking distance from the lake, next to Tongariro South Domain.

Where to go in Taupo, New Zealand
Museum of Taupo

Taupo Museum is open daily from 10am to 4.30pm and there is a small fee to visit.
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Bicycle or walk along Waikato River

Taupo is well known for great mountain biking trails and walking tracks. One of our favorite trails is the River Side Trail that starts from the Control Gates Bridge and ends near Taupo Bungy.

Biking trails in Taupo, New Zealand
Mountain biking along the Waikato River

We liked that trail because we are quite new to mountain biking and didn’t want to start off with a long and steep track. Also, this trail gives a perfect opportunity to explore New Zealand longest (425 km) river, Waikato River and watch people jumping off a cliff at the end of the trail.
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Do a Bungy jump or Swing

Walking and bicycling is great, but what you really want is to get your adrenaline going❗ Go check out New Zealand’s highest cliff-top Bungy Jump in AJ Hackett, Taupo. This 47 m long jump to the cold, crystal clear Waikato River will definitely get you going. Don’t worry, you don’t actually get dipped into the water. Although you could if you’d like to, as getting dunked in is something you can request.

Best things to do in Taupo, New Zealand
Bungy Jump in Taupo

If you personally don’t feel like taking a 47m long jump or 44m swing, then feel free to just observe. You can observe folks plunging down like rocks on a string from either from the top terrace, located 10 meters from the jump off platform or take a shorth walk down to the Waikato River and watch from there.
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Walk along Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon is a geothermal park, situated 5 min drive from Taupo downtown. An easy 2km long walkway, will take you through bubbling mud craters, steam vents and colourful soils.

Geothermal wonderland in Taupo, New Zealand
Craters of The Moon

When visiting this park, we recommend to also walk up to the lookout. It is a short, steep climb, but the views from up there are 100% worth the effort.

Best things to do in Taupo, New Zealand
Craters of the Moon Lookout

PS! There is also a small fee that you need to pay to cover the site rental and costs to operate and maintain the facilities.
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Take a trip to Orakei Korako Geothermal Park

One of Estralians top recommended thing to do in Taupo is a visit to Orakei Korako also known as ‘The Hidden Valley’. This is a highly active geothermal area, situated in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The geothermal landscape has fabulous geysers, hot springs, bubbling mud pools and magnificent silica terraces.

Orakei Korako Rainbow Terrace

This place used to be much bigger, but after the artificial Lake Ohakuri was formed, the Waikato River at Orakei Korako was raised by 18m, flooding more than 250 hot springs and geysers. Although, two thirds of the original geothermal area is covered by the artificial lake, Orakei Korako is still New Zealand’s largest geyser field.

Best things to see in Taupo, New Zealand
Orakei Korako Golden Fleece

A walk along the human made walkway can take 45 min to 2 hours. Depending on how much time are you willing to take to admire this vibrant area 😉

Best things to do in Taupo, New Zealand
Orakei Korako Geyserland

To get to the geothermal area you’d need to go the Orakei Visitor Centre first to buy a ticket. After that, a small vessel will take you across whenever you want.

Best places to visit in New Zealand
Orakei Korako Emerald Terrace

Once you are ready to return, all you need to do is ring a “doorbell” and the captain will be on his way.
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Visit Huka Falls

If you would like to see turquoise waters, foam and bubbles rushing underneath you, head over to Huka Falls Bridge where the Waikato River creates a powerful scene. The bridge is 20 meters from the car park and to see the actual falls, you’d need to walk for another 100 meters along the river. That said, the bridge offers rather good views as well 🙂

Best waterfalls in New Zealand
Huka Falls Bridge on the background

At the falls, ~ 200,000 liters of water drop down a 9-meter-high rock face per second. That is enough water to fill 5 Olympic swimming pools every minute. Crazy aye?

Things to see in Taupo, New Zealand
Huka Falls

Another way to experience Huka Falls is by rushing through the river 80km/h on a jet boat. The choice is yours 😉
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Drive to Aratiatia Dam to see the Aratiatia Rapids

Another way of seeing thousands of liters of water rush by is by visiting Aratiatia Rapids. At the Aratiatia Dam, dam gates are opened several times a day to rapidly flood the steep canyon of the Aratiatia Rapids.

Things to see in Taupo, New Zealand
Aratatia Dam

If you didn’t know yet, then this is also one of the places, where the famous ‘barrel fight ’scene from the movie The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug was filmed.

Things to see in Taupo, New Zealand
Aratatia Rapids from Top Lookout

Anyways, to see the water-show, head over to Aratiatia Dam, where the dam opens three times a day in winter (10AM,12PM, 2PM) and four times a day in summer (10am,12PM, 2PM, 4PM).

Must do in Taupo, New Zealand
Aratatia Rapids after the opening of dam

You can either see the rapids from a bridge or two different lookouts. The lookouts are an easy 10-20 min walk from the Aratiatia Rapids car park. And the bridge is literally next to the car park 😉
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Check out the Beach

Taupo has beautiful clear water and on a warm summer day there’s nothing better than a dip at the lake. There are plenty of small sandy areas along the promenade from where you can get in the water.

Things to do in Taupo
Beach in front of Lake Taupo Yacht Club

That said, for the best experience, we recommend driving a bit out from the down. 21km from Taupo downtown, is a beautiful beach called Kinlock Beach.

Best beach in New Zealand
Kinlock Beach

Kinlock Beach has a long shoreline and plenty of place for everyone. You can also drive your car down to the beach as long as you respect people around you 😎😉

Things to see in Taupo
Sunset at Kinlock Beach

And if you have time to stay and admire the sunset, you might just come across a mustang galloping into the sunset. 😁🐎🌞
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Dip to Otumuheke Stream

If the weather is too cold for a beach day, then Taupo has got you covered. Among Taupo Spa Thermal Park is Otumuheke Stream hot pools where you have the opportunity to soak under a waterfall or in the natural rock pools.

Best free things to do in Taupo, New Zealand
Otumuheke Stream Pools

Estralians visited this place in spring, so you can imagine that it was quite chilly outside. Walking into the cold Waikato river was honestly quite off-putting. That said, as we moved closer to the rock pools, water temperature changed significantly and soon enough we found ourselves in a “hot bath” 😛 PS! The swimming area has toilets, changing rooms and even lockers.
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Soak in Wairakei Terraces Pools

Another great place to pamper your body and mind is at the Wairakei Thermal Pools. This place has 3 different hot thermal pools with temperatures varying from 32°C to 40°C. The water in the pools is rich in minerals and highly valued for its therapeutic and smoothing effects on the skin.

Must visit places in New Zealand
Wairakei Terraces Pools

The place is situated below magnificent silica terraces. While at the park you will feel like you are in a thermal wonderland. Almost like the Lost Spring in Coromandel Peninsula.

Things to do in Taupo
Wairakei Thermal Spa

Beside thermal pools, the spa also has massage services and a self-guided walkway that features geothermal and Maori cultural interest.
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Explore Maori Rock Carvings

Saluted as one of New Zealand’s most extraordinary contemporary Maori artworks – Ngatoroirangi Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings truly are something spectacular. Rising, over 10 meters above Lake Taupo, these carvings are made by New Zealand artist Matahi Brightwell to honour the great Ngatoroirangi.

Things to see in New Zealand
Rock carvings in Mine Bay

Matahi, along with some help from, Te Miringa Hohaia, Steve Myhre, Dave Hegglun and cousin Jono Randell, made these carvings over 4 summers. PS! To see these carvings, you can either Join a Scenic Cruise or one of the Kayak Tours. This place is not accessible by foot.
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Visit Tongariro National Park

Whether you want to ride the Sky Waka gondola, have a scenic flight over the National Park, go all in and conquer the Tongariro Alpine Crossing or explore a variety of Tongariro small walks this National Park should 110% be on your things to do in Taupo list.

Things to do in New Zealand
Emerald and Blue Lakes in Tongariro

PS! If a hike in Tongariro National park seems a bit too much or the location is too far out from town for you, then an alternative climb that Estralians recommend is Mt Tauhara.

Mt Tauhara from Rangatira Lookout

You can reach the summit of this magnificent dormant volcano by just 1 hour. To get more info about this climb we recommend reading Long White Gypsy.
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Go Skiing or Snowboarding

Couldn’t find time to visit Taupo in summer❓ and now it’s too cold to do half of the staff mentioned above? No worries at all 🤙. Did you know that, right here in North Island of New Zealand, in Mt Ruapehu, you can enjoy the longest ski season in Australasia (June to October).

Best skiing in New Zealand
Whakapapa Ski Area

Not many people know that this is actually New Zealand’s largest commercial ski fields. As a matter of fact, there’s more room to ski at Whakapapa Ski AreaTuroa Ski Area and Tukino Ski Field than at all the commercial South Island ski fields put together. So yes, although a ski trip to Queenstown could be super awesome, why not give Taupo a chance 😉
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Beer tasting at Crafty Trout Brewery

Whether sun or snow, this small Brewery is a must visit place for everyone who appreciates awesome beer and good vibes. In Crafty Trout Brewery they are using the mineral waters formed through volcanic fire and glacial ice to brew a variety of tasty beers. The small, on-site Brewery on downtown Taupo, does Brewery Tours, has a giftware shop, liquor outlet and a cool restaurant, called Bier Kafe.

Things to do in Taupo
The Brewary and Gift Shop

The Bier Kafe is located on the second floor and what makes it cool is the Austrian Alpine styled décor as well as the Austrian style food, like pretzels and sauerkraut…..yummy.

Best place to eat in Taupo
Bier Kafe small tasting rack

To accompany your meals feel free to order a beer tasting rack. These beer boards come in either 4 or 9 x 200ml glasses of your choice of beer/cider.
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Blue Spring Putaruru

Last, but most definitely not least is the dazzling Blue Spring in Putaruru. This gorgeous spring is sooooo😍😍😍 clear and colourful that it looks like something out of this world.

Things to do in Waikato
Blue Spring Putaruru

Blue Spring is around 1h drive up South from Taupo. Or if you are coming to Taupo from Tauranga or Auckland then all you need to do is a short, and well worth detour. PS! If you don’t have time for the longer 3h walk from Whites Rd, then you can also access Blue Spring from Leslie Rd.
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