Top 5 Things to do in Taupo, New Zealand

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Taupo, a small New Zealand city known for its giant lake and great trout fishing, makes a great weekend getaway on New Zealand's North Island.

The town, popular with tourists during the summer months, is situated right on the northern shore of Lake Taupo. Though it may not look like much to the naked eye, Taupo can surprise you if you let it.

Top 5 Things to do in Taupo

5. See Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo, covering a surface area of 238 square miles, is New Zealand's largest lake by surface area. But this freshwater lake is not actually a lake at all. It's actually a volcanic caldera, created by a supervolcanic eruption more then 26,000 years ago. Even though the volcano's last eruption was in the year 210, it is still considered dormant, as opposed to extinct.

Today, the lake draws tourists and fishermen, who come to catch brown and rainbow trout in Lake Taupo's waters. Even if you're not a fisherman, it's worth it to just take a stroll along Lake Taupo's shore. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the southern end, where the tops of the volcanoes in Tongariro National Park can be seen.

4. Marvel at Huka Falls

Huka Falls

Huka Falls is actually just one tumbling waterfall through a narrow gorge on the Waikato River. But don't let that convince you that it's not impressive – because it is.

Upstream from Huka Falls, the Waikato River runs slower and about 100 meters wide, then is suddenly forced through a gorge only 15 meters wide. The water flowing through this channel (which you can stand above on a bridge just upriver from the Falls) moves at a furious, churning pace.

As you watch (and listen to) the frothy turqouise water thunder through this small canyon, it's easy to see why the Waikato River has been harnessed for hydroelectric power. 11 power stations along the river generate about 65% of the North Island's power. They can actually manipulate how fast the water flows, depending on the electricity demand at certain times of day.

Huka Falls

As far as waterfalls go, Huka Falls certainly isn’t the highest or loudest to be found in New Zealand. But standing on the footbridge and watching that foamy, blue-green water roaring beneath your feet? Yeah, that’s pretty cool. And, if you want to get really up-close-and-personal with Huka Falls, book a seat on the Huka Falls Jet, a jetboat that zips down the Waikato River and takes you within feet of the thundering water.

3. Visit Craters of the Moon

Taupo Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon is Taupo’s main geothermal park. The city of Taupo is located on NZ’s “Thermal Highway,” and (as previously mentioned) there is a lot of volcanic activity that goes on in the region. Taupo doesn’t boast the diversity of geothermal wonders that nearby Rotorua does, but Craters of the Moon is still worth a visit if you're in town.

Entry to Craters of the Moon is only about $5, and there is a wooden pathway that loops around the park and leads up to a lookout point. You are advised to stay on this boardwalk, as certain active areas are not safe. But don't worry – you'll still get to poke your head into some eerily steaming craters along the way.

The area looks like a normal plain and forest, except for the fact that it is pockmarked with hundreds of smoking craters. Smoke drifts up randomly everywhere you turn, and you can expect to find a distinct smell of sulfur on the air.

2. Go bungee jumping

Taupo Bungy

No trip to New Zealand could possibly be complete without a bungee jump – it was invented here, after all! While Queenstown on the South Island boasts the greatest variety of bungee options, Taupo Bungy is also a worthwhile spot for a daring dive.

The location of Taupo Bungy is stunning – you leap off a ledge hanging high above the blue-green waters of the Waikato River. And, unlike at some other sites, you are able to do a water touch here if you want. At 47 meters, it's the highest water-touch bungee in New Zealand. Basing careful calculations on your weight and height, the jump operators can adjust your bungee cord to allow you to dip your hands into the water, or submerge your body entirely.

Taupo Bungy
I did a water touch here!

Even if you've jumped elsewhere, it's worth doing it again in Taupo. Plus, the price is one of the most affordable in New Zealand.

They also have recently added a canyon swing, called the Cliff Hanger, which would also be perfect for any adrenaline junkie.

1. Just relax

Taupo isn't the adventure hub that Queenstown is, nor a metropolitan center like Auckland. It's quieter, smaller, and much more conducive to a relaxing weekend getaway.

Grab lunch at a cafe, take a stroll around town, and head down to the fishing boat harbor. Grab a picnic bench near the lakeshore, and watch people play the “Hole in one challenge,” where the challenge is to drive a golf ball onto a tiny island floating out in the lake.

If you're into aerial sightseeing, book a seat on a floatplane or helicopter and check out the area from above.

But whatever you decide to do, just remember to take your time, and enjoy yourself in Taupo. It really is a great little town.

IF YOU GO

Where to stay in Taupo: The Gables Lakefront Motel is the highest-rated hotel in Taupo on TripAdvisor, followed by The Cottage Mews Motel Taupo. Check out all the best Taupo hotels here.

Tours to take in Taupo:

Have you visited Taupo before? If so, what were some of your favorite activities to do there?

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Things to do in Taupo, New Zealand

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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38 Comments on “Top 5 Things to do in Taupo, New Zealand

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  1. What a great post. Thank you. We will be heading to New Zealand this oct/nov for anywhere upto a year.
    We’ve never been and enjoy reading great posts like this one to keep us pumped up. Thank you.

      Glad you enjoyed the post! If you’re looking for more tips about living and traveling in NZ, have a poke around the site — I’ve written a ton about New Zealand! I’m sure you’ll like it there. It’s such a fantastic country. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me!

    I didn’t know that bungy jumping was invented in NZ! But it sorta makes sense… aren’t they also the people who came up with that hamster ball for human thing? The thing where they put a person inside this gigantic transparent ball and roll it down a hill — know what i”m talking about?

    Great post! I’m a big fan of NZ and just wanted to point out to those that haven’t been that yes, that really is the color of the water a Huka Falls!!

    Cheers!
    J.

      Yes! Huka Falls really is that unbelievably blue! No photo enhancements necessary.

    When I went to NZ although I would have liked to see the whole country I wasn’t that bothered that I just saw a tiny bit of Christchurch and enjoyed Queenstown. I loved the adventure sports in Queenstown, well maybe loved isn’t the best way to describe it as if you watch my bungy video you’ll hear the scream of bloody murder that came from my mouth.

    Anyway, reading others experiences and seeing photos has really given me the desire to travel NZ extensively. Hooray for the WHV!!

      New Zealand really does have so much to offer. And it’s incredibly easy to get around, too! I would love love LOVE to go back sometime on a working holiday visa, and hopefully I’ll be able to make it happen one of these days. And hopefully you can, too!

    Lake Taupo is really pretty. I was there during autumn.. and the colors of the trees together with the blue sky and the water… was like in a fairy tale.

      I can imagine! I’ve only ever been there in the winter and spring, but it was still really pretty. I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be with fall-colored leaves!

    I have fond memories of Taupo. It’s a great place to visit!

      I’ve been there twice (though never for more than a day or two at a time), and each time I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Taupo. If ever I convince my dad to go to NZ, I have a feeling he’d spend a lot of time fishing there!

    Taupo looks stunning, and very geologically interesting! The steaming ground is too cool. And that waterfall–so beautiful. New Zealand is toward the very top of my list for places to visit, and this makes me want to go even more!

      If you want truly geologically stunning, you need to check out Rotorua! (But that’s for another post. 😉 ) In my opinion, New Zealand should be at the top of everyone’s list!

    I thought I did a great white water rafting thing around there also. Not entirely sure. Think it was the spot with the biggest free fall in the world. And…. beer. Should we forget the excellent pubs around there? 😉

      Well, I wouldn’t put it past the Waikato to have some awesome rafting! So that’s totally possible. It’s also a popular spot for skydiving.

      As for the beer – come on, it’s New Zealand! Of COURSE there are excellent pubs! Though, as a non-drinker, I wouldn’t know very much about them…

    Skydiving is a big deal in Taupo, I think the cheapest in NZ and the most popular. Picturesque, with the lake in front, and Tongariro in behind. I found the Taupo bungy to be the most bland, and would suggest the AJ Hackett ones in QT instead. The staff and overall experience were much better, worth the extra $$.

      Yeah, I’ve heard good things about the skydiving in Taupo, as well. But I was too poor to try it last time. As for the AJ Hackett bungy sites in Queenstown – I agree that they’re pretty awesome. I’ve also jumped off the Kawarau Bridge with them, and it was a good experience. Next time, I want to try one of their more epic jumps in Q-town! If you really like bungy jumping, it’s definitely worth the extra money for a Hackett jump. But, if you’re a bit unsure about it, Taupo is a great place to start.

        I did the Kawarau Bridge and the Nevis in QT. Skydiving was OK in Taupo, but I really wanted to do that @ Fox Glacier instead. Unfortunately the weather there is really unpredictable (or, predictably rainy) so it was a no go for me.

        I still say for someone new to bungy, do your first with AJ Hackett, the staff make the difference for your experience, especially if you’re standing there all alone on the edge, perhaps crapping your pants…

          I’d love to do the Nevis… if I could get up the guts to jump! I’ve heard skydiving in the Bay of Islands is pretty awesome, too. Though, I’d take QT as well, I think. Anywhere that has mountains is A-OK with me!

          I think my Taupo Bungy experience was made better by the fact that my friend and I had a connection to the guy who helped us jump (we used one of his friend/family passes). So, for me, the staff was great! But I agree that the AJ Hackett guys are awesome, too.

    Gorgeous pictures! I think New Zealand has some of the bluest waters in the world!

      It DOES have some of the bluest waters I’ve seen! And such different, vibrant hues of blue, too, like at Huka Falls. An ex-boyfriend of mine was convinced that the New Zealanders must put Kool-Aid in their water to get it to look like that. Haha.

    We had a fun time around the Lake Taupo. Did Aratiatia dam, Crater of the Moon, and Huka falls. Also watched gorgeous sunset at Lake Taupo. Our time there was limited, but given any length of time, I don’t think I will do the bungee… too scary!!!

    Great post 🙂

      Glad to hear you had fun in Taupo, too! I think it’s an easy town to enjoy yourself in. Even if you’re too scared to jump off a cliff! 😉

    Great list of things to do around Lake Taupo. Huka Falls has always been one of my favorites and I have visited it many, many times over the years. There is something about the thunder of water going over the falls that captures you. I believe in the early days there were people who attempted going over in barrels and such like much as they did at Niagara Falls. Not for me – I just like gazing at it!

      Yikes, I can’t imagine actually being IN that water, barrel or not! But you’re right – there’s something about Huka Falls that keeps you coming back! For me, I think it’s the crazy color of the water. It’s unreal.

    Nice one! Lake Taupo is stunning. I stayed there for a few nights and used it as a base for snowboarding on Mt Ruapehu, another active vulcano. They even had emergency notices in the toilet stalls on what to do when there’s an eruption!

      Taupo is a great little town! It’s up there as one of my favorites in New Zealand, in fact. And it’s definitely a great jumping-off point for skiing/snowboarding!

    We were there in winter so our favourite thing to do was snowboarding. We also loved the quirky independent cinema with couches and an old car for seats, and homemade cookies in the interval!

      I didn’t know Taupo had a cinema like that! Are you sure you’re not thinking of Cinema Paradiso in Wanaka?

    Taupo is a great beautiful town!
    i visited taupo with my family, we fall in love with this beautiful paradise on earth. so relaxing and very attractive places to visit like Huka Falls, Prawn Farming, Crater of the Moon, Huka falls and the lake itself . it was so great to stay for 5 days beside the lake.

    i wish if i could make another trip in my life again with my family.

      It’s a great little town to relax in, for sure. Glad to hear you and your family enjoyed it so much!

    […] secret that this is my favorite city in the world. The North Island is also home to fun cities like Taupo (a mecca for fishermen), unique stops like Rotorua (full of geothermal wonders), and wine-centric […]

    Lake Taupo is gorgeous! I think the Maori carvings in Mine Bay should be in the top 5 though.

      I’ll have to check them out next time!

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