A favourite in the heart of all Kiwis thanks to its cascading falls, stunning mountain backdrop and of course, New Zealand's largest lake at expansive 616km2, in our next road trip stop we're exploring the great Lake Taupo!
Taupo has long been one of NZ's adventure hot spots, especially when it comes to watersports and geothermal activities, thanks to its unique landscape and geographic features.
For those who prefer a more relaxing holiday, Taupo boasts everything from natural hot pools and boat cruises, to trout fishing and beehive collecting. If you're looking for an action-packed few days, you're in the right place for mountain biking, paragliding, skydiving and bungy jumping.
No matter your style, there really is a little something for everyone - so much so, that this top five was particularly hard to narrow down. Without further ado, here are our carefully curated top five picks for the Taupo region.
1. Doughboats, Lake Taupo
- Location: 21 Redoubt Street, Taupo
- Suitable for: a group looking for a memorable experience on the lake, or a bit of an exiting and novelty adventure with the kids
Something a little different and not to be missed are the new to Lake Taupo Doughboats. They're exactly what you'd imagine - a doughnut shaped boat that can fit up to six people on board, complete with a sunshade canopy, bluetooth speakers to create the atmosphere and an electric engine to complete the eco-friendly experience.
The best part? You get to drive! The boats themselves are safe and super easy to operate, so as long as you're over 18 you can be elected to be the designated driver on board. The boats run from very first thing in the morning, all the way into the night, so you can pick between an amazing start to the day or a sunset cruise (the nighttime boats are lit and glow on the lake!
If that wasn't enough, they even go out of their way to organise pizzas to be ready on your arrival to take out on the boat if you'd like to have a snack along the way, otherwise you're welcome to bring your own picnic on board. The same goes for drinks too, as long as you're not the driver you're allowed to bring a drink on board.
This is a real treat that adults and kids alike will enjoy - definitely book this in advance though, they sell out fast.
2. Rangitira Point Track, Totara Bay
- Location: Acacia Bay Road,
- Suitable for: a fun day out with a light walk for your daily exercise and a unique spot for the older kids to swim in
When you head to Lake Taupo, typically you might get your daily does of swimming in the main lake beach front and centre of the Taupo township, or perhaps a 10-minute drive down the road to Acacia Bay. However, if you're looking for something a little different to spice up your swim, we'd highly recommend following the DOC maintained bushwalk, Rangitira Point Track.
The 3km easy walking track weaves along the edge of the lake, through stunning native bush - you can even bring the dog along! The walk itself is all under shade, so it's perfect for a hot summer's day, but the best part is found at the end of the track.
If you follow the track all the way, you'll end up at Whakamoenga Point where you can explore the flat volcanic rocks that line the edge of the water, perfect for sunbathing, picnics and even jumping off and straight into the water. The kids will love it.
If you have inflatables or kayaks, this is a great spot to visit as you can launch them straight off the rocks and into the water. Once you're done enjoying the water, you'll be treated with amazing views of the lake facing back towards Taupo and Mount Tuhara. This is one of the best kept swimming spots in Taupo, so if you enjoy cooling off on a hot day, we highly recommend the walk!
3. Geothermal Hot Pools, Taupo
- Location: Wairakei Terraces or Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort
- Suitable for: a dip in naturally heated waters - if you're a group of adults, we'd recommend Wairakei Terraces, and if you're a family with kids, head to DeBretts Spa Resort.
It wouldn't be a trip to the mid-North Island without a visit to the local geothermal hot-spots, and what better way to do that than to immerse yourself in naturally heated hot pools?
We've divided this one into two locations, one for families and one for adult groups as they both offer different draw cards, but are equally great.
We'll start with Wairakei Terraces. To paint a picture, this geothermal thermal health spa has its roots entrenched in Maori history and healing, and looks like something straight out of the natural history books. There are three hot pools, each a different temperature depending on your preference, that are staggered in terraces and flow into one another.
It feels like you're nestled within a native forest, and the geothermal water is drawn from 1.5 kilometres underground, filled with natural minerals that have been known the possess healing properties. As the resort puts itself; "These mineral enriched pools, soft and silky to the touch and striking blue in colour, provide the perfect setting for complete rest and relaxation." It's important to note that you have to be over 14 years to enter, so this one is perfect for adult groups looking to relax and unwind away from the kids.
DeBretts, on the other hand, is made for families and is something out of a childhood dream, boasting towering hydro slides and child-friendly warm-water playground. These extra touches swill keep the kids entertained for hours, and while they're busy catapulting down twisting slides, there are fresh waterholes and spas for adults to relax in. The best part is, you can pick up a family all day pass for $79, which is a bargain considering you get action packed entertainment for the kids and a relaxing experience for the adults in one fell swoop - highly recommend!
4. Ngatoroirangi Maori Rock Carvings, Mine Bay
- Location: Mine Bay, Lake Taupo
- Suitable for: a sight to marvel at with family and friends on the lake.
Described as one of New Zealand's most extraordinary contemporary Maori artworks, the 14-metre tall carving is embedded in rock above the deep waters of Lake Taupo, and you can only access it via boat, jet ski or kayak.
So how did a giant carving appear above the lake? Sculpted over the course of four years and completed in 1980, Matahi led a team of four artists, Jono Randell, Te Miringa Hohaia, Dave Hegglun and Steve Myhre, to create a spectacular carving of the carver's ancestor, Ngatoroirangi on the rock face. To get the job done, the carvers marked out the artwork using chalk, string lines and spray paint, then sculpted it by hand.
This is well worth the trip to the far side of the lake, and if you don't have a kayak or boat of your own, don't worry - there are a number of scenic cruises that offer a return trip out to Mine Bay. Some of our favourites include the Ernest Kemp Scenic Cruise, a steam boat that chugs through the water offering a historic experience, or if you're after something a little more hands-on and in the elements, we'd suggest the scenic sailing tour 'Kindred Spirit'.
No matter which way you arrive there, definitely put this one on the to-do list!
5. Foot Golf, Taupo Golf Club
- Location: 32 Centennial Drive, Tuahara, Taupo
- Suitable for: both a family and friends activity, this is a good active day out for a very minimal cost, and a lot of fun too!
Don't own golf clubs but willing to kick a ball? You're the perfect candidate for one of the most fun sports Taupo has to offer - foot golf! Alongside the 18 hole and undeniably beautiful Taupo golf course are giant holes (about 1m wide!) set up for foot golf!
Once you arrive at the golf club, you'll be able to pick your own soccer ball, set up a competition with your friends and make your way around the course, one kick at a time! There are even set pars for each whole if you're feeling particularly competitive - but anyone, of any age can play for a bit of fun in the sun.
This can take anywhere between 2 - 5 hours to complete the course depending on how many holes you play, how slowly you make your way around the course and how accurate your kicking is, but for $19 for an adult and $14 for a child, it's a reasonably priced day out and about.
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