Things to Do in Taupo
Measuring more than 33 feet (10 meters) high, these mammoth Maori sculptures were chiseled into the rocks on the edge of Lake Taupo in the late 1970s. Created by master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell, the carvings depict Ngatoroirangi, who is said to have guided the Te Arawa tribes from their Polynesian homeland to New Zealand.
Just outside of Taupo, Huka Falls is one of the most visited natural attractions on New Zealand’s North Island. Waikato River’s largest falls are fed by Australasia’s biggest freshwater lake, Lake Taupo. Explore the footbridge for a bird’s-eye view of the falls or walk along the Huka Falls Trail, which follows the river.
Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand, at over 230 square miles (596 square kilometers). Formed by a prehistoric supervolcanic eruption, the lake now sits in the volcano’s dormant caldera. Walk the pristine shores of this naturaltaonga (treasure), kayak or waterski, or enjoy the trout fishing for which the lake is famous.
Running from the slopes of Mt. Ruapehu north to Lake Taupo, the Tongariro River is an extremely popular trout-fishing spot. That’s not all that this scenic alpine waterway offers, though: hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and white-water rafting are all available for visitors seeking adventure in the beautiful New Zealand wilderness.
Steaming geysers, hot springs, and mud pools bubble up from boiling-hot reservoirs below the Earth’s surface at Orakei Korako geothermal park. The area boasts silica terraces decorated with colorful swirling patterns—the result of the hot water algae—and a rare geothermal cave.
Cascades of mineral-rich water tumble into steaming bathing pools at this outdoor thermal spa. As well as a garden filled with native flora, the complex encompasses a manmade geothermal site with silica terraces, blue-and-green steam pools, a geyser, and replica Maori huts.
Several times a day, the spill gates from a dam on the Waikato River are opened and transform the otherwise calm waterway into a turbulent melee of white-water rapids. As it courses through the gorge, the raging power of the river is harnessed by a nearby power plant in order to produce hydroelectric power.
A welcome contrast to the North Island’s steam plumes, sulfuric mud pools, and rugged geothermal craters, Waipahihi Botanical Gardens are a vibrant and fragrant refuge overlooking Lake Taupo. Wander the 86 acres (35 hectares) of native and foreign flowers and trees, or picnic while enjoying views of the lake and Tongariro National Park.
Crustaceans have the starring role at this aquacultural facility and activity park, where you can feed, fish for, and eat prawns. As well as taking a tour of the prawn nursery and hatchery, you can soak your feet in geothermal waters, go stand-up paddleboarding, and follow adventure trails.
Located a short walk from where the Waikato River meets Lake Taupo, the Taupo Museum holds the history and culture of the Taupo region for visitors to learn and experience. The museum and art gallery’s many exhibits tell the stories of the local Maori tribes, the town’s early industrial years, and the volcanic origins of the lake itself.
More Things to Do in Taupo
Turangi’s Volcanic Activity Centre is an educational facility filled with stories and experiences dedicated to the history and science of New Zealand’s volcanic landscapes. Learn about the Taupo region’s geothermal and volcanic activity—from the supervolcano that created Lake Taupo to the still-active Mt. Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park.
Steam surges from the ground of this active geothermal valley, which rises up from boiling mud and colorful hot pools. As well as boasting geothermal phenomena, Wairakei Natural Thermal Valley features a camping ground with small animals such as chickens and sheep.
A pathway winds through the lunar-like landscape of this geothermal area, leading you past steaming vents and geysers, and gurgling mud pools. Previously dormant, the Craters of the Moon fizzed to life in the 1950s after underground water levels were altered by the activity of a nearby power station.
Lake Taupo is known for an array of water sports, but it’s also one of the best places for hiking on the North Island of New Zealand. For one of the prime vistas of Lake Taupo, the steep trek up Mt. Tauhara offers panoramic views of the Taupo lakeshore and the surrounding mountains of the Central Plateau.
Spilling 259 miles (417 kilometers) from Mt. Ruapehu to its terminus at the Tasman Sea, the Waikato River is the longest river in New Zealand. Located outside of Taupo, in the central part of the North Island, this river forms the lifeblood of the region’s aquatic playground. Kayakers from around the world come to play in its rapids.