Taupo is one of my favourite spots on New Zealand’s North Island.
I’m fortunate to have visited this bustling lakeside town three times now and each time, I’ve come away promising to return. There’s just something about New Zealand’s lakes that feels so healing for me.
Most recently, I decided to visit after completing the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk (there’s another lake!), and Taupo provided the perfect place to recover, unwind, and start getting back to reality.
I loved it so much, in fact, that I returned four months later to spend another couple of days hanging out beside the crystal-clear waters of Lake Taupo.
What I Love About Taupo
So what do you need to know about Taupo?
Well, I casually mentioned above that Taupo is a lakeside town, but that’s kind of underselling Lake Taupo to you, because this body of water — the largest lake in New Zealand — is the same size as Singapore. It blew my mind when I learned just how vast it is, and I suddenly understood why everybody refers to it as the inland sea of New Zealand. On a windy day, when visibility is low, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were standing on a coastline, looking out to sea.
In reality, Lake Taupo is the crater of a vast supervolcano, formed after one of the most violent eruptions of the past 5,000 years. After blowing all that it had into the atmosphere, the volcano promptly died out and the extinct crater filled itself with water. These days, the lake is fed from a constant stream of water from the nearby snow-capped mountains.
And while Lake Taupo is now far more sedate than it was in the past, evidence of the area’s geothermal activity surrounds the town. You’ve got geysers, hot springs, and funky colours scattered across the landscape, and as you stand beside the waterfront, you’ll be unable to take your eyes off the trio of volcanoes in the distance.
Mount Tongariro, Mount Ngauruhoe, and Mount Ruapehu are all visible from Taupo, and they make for particularly impressive views across the lake. And speaking of Mount Tongariro — you can’t forget the Tongariro Crossing, which has been heralded as New Zealand’s best one-day hike. After having completed it way back in 2013, I can’t disagree with the assessment.
If there’s one thing Taupo is most famous for, however, it’s its adventure activities. Whether it’s jet boating, bungy jumping, parasailing, or skydiving, there’s something for all adrenaline lovers, and tourists arrive in town every day, searching for their next fix.
If, like me, you tend to hit the skip button when it comes to adventure travel, you’ve still got the small-town vibe of Taupo to soak up, plus the dozens of beautiful nature trails and the lake to sit beside with fish and chips in hand. One of my favourite activities in Taupo is walking out to the magnificent Huka Falls and marvelling at the sheer power this natural phenomenon generates.
In this post, I’m going to be sharing all of my favourite things to do in in Taupo.
And so, pretending we’re currently standing at New Zealand’s highest water-touch bungee jump, located in Taupo, of course, it’s time to jump in.
(A note for my many American readers: prices in this post are listed in New Zealand Dollars — at the time of writing, 100 NZD is around 70 USD.)
Walk Out to Huka Falls
I can’t write about Taupo without mentioning Huka Falls.
This powerful waterfall is the most visited natural attraction in the entirety of New Zealand, and for good reason: it’s seriously impressive! What it lacks in height, standing at just 11 metres tall, it makes up for in strength, as a whopping 220,000 litres of water barrels over it each and every second. If you, like me, struggle to conceptualise that amount of water, let me tell you that it’s enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in just 11 seconds.
The absolute best way to experience the falls is from the bridge crossing over them, along with the many nearby viewpoints scattered along the water’s edge. And while you can drive out to the falls, I recommend walking instead.
It takes an hour to complete the trek from Spa Park to the falls, along the Huka Falls Trail, and it’s such a lovely trail, weaving alongside the native forest, and I loved hearing the roar of the water getting louder with each step. If you only have time to do one thing in Taupo, this should be it.
Jet Boating All the Way to Huka Falls
If you’re one of the longest of long-time readers of Never Ending Footsteps, you may recall my fraught relationship with jet boats. Back in 2013, I decided to jump aboard the Huka Falls Jet without so much of an inclination of what jet boats even were. The result? Well, I published a photo essay of the resulting trauma for all to see and giggle at.
But I’ve come a long way…
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