Taupo is located in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand and is mainly known for its large lake; lake Taupo and the activities around it. Taupo is often visited during a trip through the North Island because of its central location. This is also where most people stay for the Tongariro Crossing.
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Must see & do
Lake Taupo is the same size as Singapore and this gives plenty of room for activities! You can swim, fish, paddle board and go out on the water with a boat. There is also a golf tee where you hit the balls towards the water, aiming for a little island. Visit the special Mine Bay Rock Carvings, these are petroglyphs that can only be seen from the water or air. Take a Sunset tour where you can admire the sunset from the water.
The Huka Falls is an 11-meter-high waterfall near Taupo. This is a very impressive waterfall and easy to reach. A parking lot is about a minute’s walk from the waterfall and buses go there. Via the Huka Falls Trail, you walk from Lake Taupo to the waterfall. Although it is a walk of about an hour, it is still an easy walking route. It is a nice trip because the entire trail runs along the river.
There are many adrenaline activities around Taupo, such as skydiving, bungee jumping and jet boating. Did you know that the bungee jump in Taupo is the highest in New Zealand where you can touch the water? You can also raft on the Kaituna river, where you go down a 7 meter high waterfall. For the beginning adrenaline junkies, the Rock n Ropes park in Taupo is a nice place.
Taupo is a great place to cycle, whether it is a relaxing bike ride or an intensive, long one. The Great Lake Trail is a popular cycling route that runs along the coast of Lake Taupo. This route takes you past lush forests, wetlands, waterfalls, beaches and panoramic views of the lake and Tongariro National Park. It is also nice to walk this route.
Huka Honey Hive
If you drive from Rotorua to Taupo you will pass the Huka Honey Hive. Here you can taste honey for free, view beehives and learn all about bees through the interactive information panels. In their store you can also buy all kinds of bee / honey products such as alcohol, body lotion, candles, earrings and much more!
Taupo is very centrally located on the North Island of New Zealand and is therefore very easy to reach. Taupo is approximately three and a half hours from Auckland and the Coromandel by car, five hours from Wellington and Rotorua is only an hour away. The nearest international airport is Auckland, but Taupo and Rotorua both have domestic airports.
The Waitomo Caves are about 2 hours from Taupo and are a highlight for many travellers. The caves are a labyrinth of passageways, sinkholes and underground rivers. You can also see glow worms in the caves. You can visit these caves by means of a walking or boat tour. Are you adventurous? Then take a different approach: climb, swim, tube, zipline, abseil and raft through the caves. In other words: there is something for everyone! Book your tour easily here.
If you are a Lord of the Rings or Hobbit fan, you have to go to Matamata, this is where you will find the Hobbiton movie set. Here you can walk through the Shire and see famous spots from the movie, such as Bag End (Bilbo Baggin’s house). After a tour you can have a drink at the Green Dragon Inn. Find out more about the Lord of the Rings filming locations in New Zealand.
Ruapehu is about an hour and a half drive from Taupo. In Ruapehu you will find two national parks that are full of craters, unbelievably beautiful lakes, strange rock formations and alpine meadows. The highest peaks of the North Island can be found here, namely Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe. Mount Tongariro is known for the Tongariro Crossing, this is a tough day hike that leads you through the most beautiful landscapes. Mount Ngauruhoe is known as Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings movies. There are also many cycle paths and hiking routes in this area. You can also canoe on the Whanganui River and you can even ski here in winter.
Napier is approximately 2 hours from Taupo. In 1931, a massive earthquake destroyed the entire center of Napier. They then decided to rebuild the center in the same way, in the style of the 1930s and that is still the case. It is known as the most complete collection of Art Deco buildings in the world. It’s like a movie set and the best way to see it all is to just walk around town. Napier is located on the water and has a nice promenade, many wineries, nice restaurants, cafes and boutiques. Well worth it a visit. Read here what else you can discover in Hawke’s Bay.
Rotorua is known for geothermal activities, Maori culture and outdoor sports. You can see (and smell) geothermal activities all around Rotorua. In Wai-O-Tapu you see and learn all about it. You can also enjoy these activities through natural hot springs. If you are interested in Maori culture, surrounding villages offer cultural evenings where you can enjoy an evening full of singing, dancing, food and much more. For adrenaline activities you can also go to Rotorua. Read more about Rotorua here.
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Natural hot spring Taupo
There are many natural water sources near Taupo and on the way to Rotorua, but my favorite is Spa Park. Spa Park is located in Taupo along the Waikato River (towards the Huka Falls). You can drive here by car or go on foot from Taupo. This place is located where the river meets the Otumuheke Stream. The Stream provides the hot water and the river the cold, which means that you can make it as hot or cold as you want. So there is an ideal temperature for everyone 🙂 Read here about other hot springs in New Zealand.
If you like graffiti art, Taupo is the place for you. Just on the street you see a lot of artworks, but especially the small alleys are full of them. Taupo even has an annual graffiti festival, Graffiato, which is the only graffiti festival in New Zealand. The best artists come from far every year. The works of art they make at this festival can be admired in the city for a year.
Pub quiz at Mulligan’s
Every Tuesday night at 9pm the local Irish pub has a pub quiz. Go there with a team or join others in the pub. This quiz is completely free and you can even win nice prizes with it (even if I have never succeeded). This is a popular activity for the locals and it was always busy. Mulligan’s also organises other free events such as pool (billiards) and darts tournaments.