Top 10 Things to do in & around Taupo

If you're in, or planning to visit New Zealand, chances are you've heard of the great adventure-capital in the South Island; Queenstown. 
Well folks, i'm here to tell you about the North Island's next best thing; T A U P O 

If you love the outdoors then you'll love Taupo. From free walks & world-class hikes, to the pricey adrenalin activties to get the blood pumping - there is SO.MUCH.TO.DO!

If you've not realised by now, I live for being organised and planning things. I booked my weekend away in Taupo in January, before I had event booked my flights to New Zealand. I knew I would be working, but that I would have a nice 4-days off over Easter. So, booked my accommodation in January and have been planning my activties and itinerary ever since. 

Taupo hasn't always been a haven though, it came about after a violent volcanic eruption back in 181AD - it caused such a fuck up that if affected the weather and the sky as far as Rome! After the explosion, it left a huge hole, which filled with water = LAKE TAUPO
Lake Taupo is the same size as Singapore & the largest freshwater lake in both New Zealand AND Australia! That's one pretty big puddle. 

Taupo is kinda slap-bang in the middle (ish) of the North Island, so making it pretty accessible from wherever you are! 
From Rotorua; 1hour
From Auckland; 3.5hour
From Wellington; 4.5hour

If you can't drive like me, I would recommend booking yourself onto the popular Mana Bus. The buses are so modern; free wifi, charging plugs and even sleeper beds available on night services. They run frequently with Taupo being a popular stop between Auckland & Wellington. If you book far enough in advance you might even be lucky enough to find the $1 fares! 

As a backpacker, I live for hostels when I'm travelling. My favourite site to use to compare hotels is;
Taupo has so many options for hotels, motels, hotels and camping spots - everything for different budgets and tastes. 
If you're after a nice hostel with chill vibes I'd recommend the YHA; Finlay Jacks. Great hostel and honestly the comfiest bed I have EVER slept in! Like literally wanted to bring it back on the bus with me. Was like a massive marshmallow of happiness. You can get a range of rooms from private, to shared dorms and bedrooms. 

If you're heading to Taupo, I would suggest 3-4 days to really get to explore and get to experience as many of the amazing recreational opportunities Taupo has to offer. I spent 4 days in Taupo but know I want to go back and see more! 

1. Huka Falls
Probably the most-visited New Zealand attraction! Huka Falls are the brightest blue rapids you will ever see. This is where the Waikato River is squeezed through a narrow chasm of volcanic rock just 15m wide, resulting in 200,000+ litres of water passing through per second! The roar of these rapids is just mind blowing. 
You can either walk, bike or drive to the falls. If walking from Taupo, you can follow the Huka Falls trail along the river and its about an 1-1.5h walk. There's a ton of nice viewpoints along the rapids to see from different heights and angles. There is a shop & toilets in the car park if you want to grab yourself an ice cream or hydrate y0'self. 

*If you want an even cooler view of Huka Falls you can pay to join a river cruise or try the famous Jet Boat & feel the spray on your face at the foot of the falls!

2. Aratiatia Dam
Just an extra 7km walk upriver from Huka Falls you can visit the absolutely incredible Aratiatia Dam. The dam, releases the Waikato River for hydroelectric power at a few intervals per day; 10am, 12pm, 2pm and 4pm on the dot & you can witness the changing in the riverbed as the water starts to rise. There are 3 main viewpoint points; from the bridge directly in front of the dam, a mid-level platform down stream, or a high-level platform about 10 minute walk into the trees. I watched from the mid-level viewpoint and it was incredible. I would suggest getting there about 15 minutes early to get yourself a good spot. 

For your Hobbit fans out there; the Aratiatia Dam is one of the filming locations for the Barrel Scene in the The Hobbit; the Desolation of Smaug. 
I will warm you if you walk, you do have to walk back. I walked from Taupo > Huka Falls > Aratiatia Dam and then back and did over 40,000 steps & 28km. On a very hot day, make sure you bring plenty of water! 

3. Maori Rock Carvings at Mine Bay
Take to the lake and visit these impressive rock carvings only accessible by the water. Get yourself on either a scenic cruise, sailing trip or kayaking tour. 
I went with Sail Barbary and had a great time. Climb aboard either the Barbary or Barbary II for a fun 2.5hour sail on Lake Taupo. Our skipper; Jamie said we had some good wind so could turn the engine off and just sail the whole way. I was NOT however expecting to be planking with feet on the rope and hands gripping the seat as the boat is tipped down into the water sailing along the lake. It was pretty fun and could not stop laughing (possibly out of fear i'd fall in). You sail across and towards Mine Bay and learn all about the history and meaning of the carvings. The Barbary has a BYO policy so if you fancy a picnic and a few beers on board, bring them along! 
I booked online via for a bit of discount. 

4. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing 
Described as New Zealand's best one-day hike; the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is an absolutely incredible journey. Walking, scrambling, crawling - however you want to do it, along 19.5km of absolute stunning beauty in Tongariro National Park. 
Walk amongst underneath the impressive Mt Ngauruhoe; Mt DOOM from Lord of the Rings and sit in awe as you descend into the craters of the Emerald Lakes. 
I always wondered if the pictures of the Emerald Lakes were all filter; nope - they are actually that colour. #nofilter 
This was a huge bucket-list item for me and was blessed with the perfect weather on Easter Sunday. I organised my shuttle with Tongariro Expeditions and it was honestly one of the best and rewarding things I've ever done. 

I would love to go again during winter when the whole area is covered in snow - I think it would be equally beautiful! 

Coming soon: Visit: The Tongariro Alpine Crossing - my guide to completing the hike and everything you need to know before you go! 

5. Bathe in the Otumuheke Stream
Along Spa Road in Taupo you will find the beautiful Spa Thermal Park. Here you can find a gorgeous local swimming hotspot (literally). Bathe in the warm waters and enjoy a soak under the hot waterfall at the Otumuheke Stream for FREE. Get down early for a morning swim, or enjoy a dip after a long walk along the river-tracks. 

The whole area around Taupo has some geothermal wonderlands; venture to Craters of the Moon, close to Huka Falls. for $8NZ you can walk round the park and get lost in the steam. Further afield you can find the Hidden Valley; Orakei Korako - home to New Zealand's most active geysers. It looks like the only ways to get here are by car; or as part of a large day trip while other attractions. It is definitely on my list to visit when I next pass through Taupo.

6. All the adrenalin activities
If you're feeling particularly crazy and wild and fancy hurling yourself either out of a plane or off a ledge then Taupo is the place for you. 
Home to the best value skydives in New Zealand; you can jump from 12,000 or 15,000ft out a plane over the beautiful Lake Taupo. 
Skydiving is on my bucket list and Lake Taupo is the place I want to do it; my scheduled "reckless skydiving day" on my visit to Taupo presented some shitty weather and I decided I would wait until the perfect day! 

Don't fancy a skydive? The throw yourself off a ledge into the Waikato River at Taupo Bungy - it is New Zealand's highest water-touch jump. 

You can literally fill days upon days with fun activties; parasailing, white-water rafting, jet-boating, wake-boarding, mountain biking, skiing,  fishing - you can even fish for your own prawns at Prawn Park and then have them cook them up for you! 

7. Win $10,000 getting a hole-in-one
See yourself as the next Tiger Woods? Or just a pro at crazy golf? Who cares - have a go at winning a whopping $10,000 by getting a hole-in-one on the lake golf challenge. From $1 a ball you can take a whack and see if you can make one of the three holes in the platform out in the lake. 
I spent a fair amount of time watching as grown men got extremely serious over their golf. One man was shouting, literally shouting, at a poor child because he was singing too loud while he was trying to take his shot. 
I just feel bad on the poor buggers who's job it is to swim around the lake collecting the golf balls back - no joke, you can see them swimming round with their wetsuit and snorkel collecting up all the balls. 

8. Eat in the word's coolest McDonalds 
Literally. It has been voted the world's coolest McDonalds & for very good reason - it is an aeroplane!

A prominent feature along the lake is the #LOVETAUPO sign - take a picture sitting on the sign, or wait until sunset to get a dramatic shot with the colours changing in the background. 

10. Sample the local pubs and restaurants 
As a backpacker, if you're trying to save money it is usually a case of getting your weekly shop at Woolworths, or Pak n Save if you're lucky to live near one (Taupo have one!!), living off $5 dominoes. But once in a while it ok to TREAT YO SELF and have breakfast, lunch, dinner, or fuck-it, all 3 out! The front along the lake has tons of cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants for all budgets. I sampled a few different eateries in Taupo and here are some of my favourites; 
- sit with a beer, eating your dinner, watching the sunset over the lake at Pub n Grub 
- rise early and eat a stack of waffles and bacon at Dixie Brown with your morning coffee
- join the masses who eat at Taupo's best Indian: Master of India and see why do they! 
- nothing beats a few drinks in a good Irish Bar and pub; Finn MacCuhal's 

Taupo was the first bit of exploring outside of Auckland I have done since being in New Zealand and it was the best start I could have asked for. It has given me a taste of what else there is to come, and the itch to get back out there. 

You can check out the video I have made of my time in Taupo below - NONE of my GoPro footage saved which I am beyond pissed about, but  I managed to scrape together a decent video using just my Canon camera: 

New Zealand #2 - Taupo & The Tongariro Alpine Crossing #GGoesGlobal from G Goes Global on Vimeo.

Where am I exploring next? >>> ROTORUA 

Thanks for reading & happy travels 

♡ G

Join me on Instagram @gemwills 

& follow me as I start my New Zealand Adventure! 

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