Taupō is a popular spot on the New Zealand tourist trail. There isn’t much to do in the town itself, but Taupō sits on the shore of a massive lake. Lake Taupō was formed by one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history. Unsurprisingly, therefore, things to do around Taupō include water-based activities and geothermal sightseeing. Here’s a list of my top ten:
1) Take a cruise out to see the Maori Rock Carvings
If you only do one thing in Taupō, see the Māori Rock Carvings. Right on the edge of the water, the only way to view this breathtaking work of art is by boat. The carvings look ancient, but even knowing they were made in the ’70s, they seem magical. There are a few different companies that will take you to them; which you choose depends on whether you want to go by kayak, steamboat or yacht. It was winter when my partner and I went, so the best option for us was the Ernest Kemp, a cute, little steamboat that served complimentary wine and hot drinks.
2) See the Huka Falls from a jet boat
The Huka Falls are heart-stoppingly powerful. The only thing better than viewing them from the bridge that crosses them is going right up to the base of them in a jet boat. It’s one of the best jet boat rides in New Zealand. Experience the thrill of speeding and spinning along the mighty Waikato River. My partner still talks about his Hukafalls Jet adventure!
3) Walk around the Craters of the Moon
The Craters of Moon are a collection of mud pools and steam vents. The landscape they inhabit is eerily beautiful – never mind the moon – it feels like walking on the surface of another planet! It’s cheap to enter and takes about an hour to explore, but you’ll probably want to take it a bit slower than that. I first encountered this place as a child and was utterly enchanted. The smell and feel of the steam wafting across your path make for quite a unique experience.
4) Visit the Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park
The Hidden Valley of Orakei Korako is a geothermal wonderland accessible only by boat. If you want to wander amongst geysers, mud pools and hot pools that look like they’ve been tie-dyed all sorts of psychedelic colours – not to mention New Zealand’s only geothermal cave and some stunning silica terraces – this is the place. The visitor centre is a twenty-five-minute drive from Taupō. Alternatively, you can get there by shuttle, by jet boat, or even by floatplane! The latter option is fairly expensive, of course.
5) Relax in a geothermal spa pool
There are lots of natural hot pools to bathe in around Taupō. I recommend the Otumuheke Stream at Spa Thermal Park, or an evening at the DeBretts Hot Springs. The latter is adjacent to an excellent campground, just FYI. One thing to remember when soaking in a geothermal spring is never put your head beneath the water. My little sister ignored warnings not to do this and ended up with a fever so violent she was hallucinating!
6) Go bungy jumping
Forget the South Island – Taupō is home to New Zealand’s highest bungy jump. It’s a beautiful spot in which to take the plunge, right over the turquoise waters of the Waikato River. You can even opt to touch the water! If you’re not quite brave enough to bungy, you could try the equally thrilling Cliffhanger swing instead. This is what I’d do, if I’m honest.
7) Experience white water rafting
Fancy some extreme paddling? White water rafting involves battling a series of foaming river rapids in a small, inflatable boat. It’s incredibly fun, if a little cold. Around Taupō, you’ll find different grades of rafting experiences for children and adults alike, all set within beautiful scenery. It’s a must-try activity in New Zealand.
8) Ski down the side of a volcano
On the southern shore of Lake Taupō looms the Tongariro National Park. This breathtaking area contains three snow-capped volcanoes, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. There are three ski fields located on Mount Ruapehu. If you’ve never been skiing before, it’s generally recommended you choose the Whakapapa Ski Area, as it has some excellent beginner slops. The Turoa Ski area is higher up, though, so the season lasts slightly longer.
9) Go skydiving
Taupō is a fantastic place to try skydiving, as you’ve got the vast expanse of blue lake to look down on, as well as the snow-capped volcanoes of the Tongariro National Park.
10) Fish for your supper at the Huka Prawn Park
If you fancy doing something a bit different, or if you just love prawns, spend an afternoon at New Zealand’s only prawn park! Feed baby prawns, have fun in a paddleboat, and try your luck at prawn fishing. If you catch any, you can either put them on ice and take them home, or you can have the on-site restaurant cook them then and there. Yum! Make sure you take a towel with you.
List compiled by Abigail Simpson