If you’ve ever looked at New Zealand on Google Earth, or even had a quick glance at an atlas (those things still exist right?), you’d see a huge blue splodge right in the middle of the North Island.
That’s Lake Taupo. By surface area, it’s our largest. As President Trump would say, “hewge.” What if we told you it also happens to be the caldera of a massive volcano? Talk about tip of the ice-berg!
No need to be alarmed though; this beast hasn’t stirred for around 26,500 years. Which is actually not that long ago as far as volcanoes go, but long enough that it’s not a concern in our lifetimes (sorry future generations)!
So for now, we flock to Taupo for the numerous activities on offer, as well as to take in the gorgeous surrounding countryside. Without further ado, here’s our guide to the great Lake Taupo.
1. Nature’s Canvas
Once you’ve seen it, you’ll agree the regular old canvas pales in comparison.
One of the more popular things to do in Taupo is pay a visit to the incredible Maori rock carving on the bank of Mine Bay. Only accessible by boat, you’ll look up from the water to see the 14 meter face of Ngatoroirangi etched into the cliff-face.
Ngatoroirangi was the ancestor of carver Matahi Brightwell, who completed the work in 1980, after 4 years of careful and difficult work. For more about the history of the Mine Bay carving, check out this page.
There are regular boat tours to take you to the carving that depart just a 5 minute walk from the town center, but we’d suggest either hitching a ride on a sailboat, or by hiring a kayak and getting your paddle on (weather permitting)!
2. Tee Off
How’s your golf swing?
Taupo hosts the ultimate test for getting a hole in one, and you’ll be rewarded handsomely for doing so.
Head to Hole in 1, down on the waterfront. This tiny business has become something of an international icon thank to its challenging offer, and ingenious business model. Punters can either pay per ball, or for a set number of balls, before teeing off from the shore to a pontoon floating just over 100 meters away.
If you can make it in the red hole, that’s $10,000 in your pocket. If you sink your ball in the white or blue holes (a slightly easier feat), there are an array of awesome activity and accommodation based prizes. As of writing this, only 972 people have ever sank a ball in any of the holes (and this has been going since 1993)!
If you’d like a spot on the Hall of Fame, take a swing at the Hole in 1! Pun definitely intended.
3. Take the Plunge
You might be able to keep your cool on the green, but can you keep it when you’re falling from the skies?
Our friends at Skydive Taupo can, and they’ll happily leap out of a plane with you – just to see how cool, calm and collected you are when your life flashes before your eyes.
Joking, it’s nothing quite that sinister. But it is a hell of a lot of fun, and worth plucking up the courage for. The first thing you’ll say when you land is “when can I go again?”
Choose between the 12,000 ft and 15,000 ft drop, depending on how much free-fall time you want. It’s around 60 seconds for the former, 45 seconds for the latter. To be honest, it feels like 10 seconds in the moment!
You can also pay extra to have someone jump with you and record the whole thing! Just don’t expect to look as awesome and casual as this guy the first time around…
On a clear day, it also serves as the perfect way to take in the stunning Waikato region sprawled out below. When that parachute deploys, relax and savour those wonderful few minutes of slow descent!
4. Huka Falls
Whenever we feature the Huka Falls on our social media pages, the feedback is usually pretty positive – and for good reason!
The falls are popular with visitors, thanks to the striking blue hue of the water – oh and the fact it’s a torrent of water flowing at a rate of 220,000 litres per second.
A visitor bridge arches right over the gargling, spitting, spraying monster in the canyon below. Step out and listen to the roar!
Jumping in the falls is an incredibly dangerous move and strictly forbidden, so do not jump in – if you want to be, you know, alive.
5. Huka Falls Jet
If you want to see the falls from the bottom (without the risk of death), take a spin on the Huka Falls Jet.
Are you knowledgeable on the topic of Queenstown (or read our Queenstown guide)? You may notice some similarities between the Huka Falls Jet and the Shotover Jet. That’s because a driver and a boat from Shotover were sent up to Taupo to start a new operation. The business launched in 1990, and has been booming ever since.
Let’s be clear, this isn’t a casual sightseeing boat trip. This is an activity for the thrill-seekers; those with the fainter hearts should wait on land.
The drivers are trained to bring the jet as close as possible to the sides of the river, pull off 360 degree spins, and other maneuvers of the sort.
So while you do get a great alternative view of the falls – hold on to your hats, ladies and gents.
6. Hot Springs
After you’ve had the heart racing on the Huka Falls Jet, it’s time to de-stress. Head to the Taupo DeBretts Hot Springs, where you can lie back and let the heart beat easy again.
The natural hot spring in Taupo has been a tourist hot spot for a long time, and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. There’s not a lot in this world that beats a super relaxing soak in nature’s bathtub.
7. Where to Stay
There’s only one place you should stay in Taupo, and that’s at our fabulous Haka Lodge.
Our Taupo accommodation is the latest to join our batch of lodges, and since its opening has been the recipient of rave reviews. Come and see for yourself why that’s the case!