Taupo is the name of both the largest lake in New Zealand and the small town that nestles on its northeast shore. With warm weather and unspoiled natural surroundings, Taupo has become a mecca for both locals and visitors wanting to experience the great outdoors and adventure tourism.
Created by a massive volcanic eruption 27,000 years ago, the lake is home to large stocks of brown and rainbow trout, making Taupo one of the country’s premier fishing locations – dozens of local operators offer trout, salmon and fly fishing trips. Skydiving is extremely popular above Lake Taupo due to the stunning views and clear skies – as well as the lake itself, it is possible to see both coasts of the North Island and south as far as the Tongariro National Park.
There’s plenty of other activities on offer for thrill-seekers in and around Taupo – bungy jumping, quad bike riding, white water rafting and kayaking to name just a few. For such a small town, there is absolutely no shortage of things to do.
Getting to Taupo is straightforward as State Highway 1 which runs the length of New Zealand runs through the township. Buses run from various points north and south, most jump-on jump-off and tour buses include it on their itinerary and it’s an easy drive in a rental car from the major population centres. Small passenger flights also arrive regularly from Auckland and Wellington.
A few kilometres out of town are the thundering Huka Falls, where Lake Taupo drains into the Waikato River. Free to enter, the sheer power of the water tumbling over the sets of waterfalls is quite a sight to behold. Jet-boating trips on the river perform spins within a few metres of the base of the roaring falls, much to the delight – and fear – of their screaming passengers!
The volcanic history of the region is still in evidence today via the many geysers and hot mud pools in the area, and several health spas and resorts have sprung up to take advantage of the abundant mineral-rich water welling up from below ground.
Best time to visit: There isn’t a bad time to visit Taupo, with plenty of activities year round. The best weather, however, is between about October and April.
How long to spend there: With so much to see and do and some great accommodation choices, it would be easy to spend a week in and around Taupo. 2-3 days should be considered an absolute minimum.