The best outdoor things to do in Taupo, New Zealand
Located in the central North Island, you just cannot get around Taupo by including at least a short visit during your New Zealand road trip. After being here for the first time some 15 years ago, I decided that during my most recent New Zealand adventure it was about time to head back to this amazing place. I ended up staying for almost a week, not just because I injured my ankle during a hike but also because there simply was a lot to see and do in and around Taupo.
Taupo is a small city on the shores of Lake Taupo, the largest freshwater lake in New Zealand. The lake inside the caldera of the Taupo Crater and the whole area is in fact quite volcanic, with hot pools everywhere. The city itself has about 30.000 people and offers all you may ask for to enjoy a few days in the region. Here is a list of my favorite outdoor things to do in Taupo.
1. See the Huka Falls
One of Taupo’s main attractions are the Huka Falls. They are located just a few kilometers outside of town and very well worth a visit. In fact, it’s the most visited natural attraction in New Zealand and they are the largest falls on the Waikato River, one of the biggest rivers in the country. The river is normally some 100 meters wide but at Huka Falls, the river is forced through a 20 meter wide gorge instead. Every second up to 220.000 liters of water runs through the falls, making it a truly spectacular sight. The Huka Falls are a short drive away from the Taupo town centre, yet I decided to walk over from the place I was staying at. If you’re interested in walking, it’s about a 5 kilometer walk from downtown or 3 kilometer walk from the parking at the Spa Park parking lot.
2. Strolling along the waterfront
Lake Taupo is the largest freshwater lake in Australasia and is a great place for an afternoon stroll on a sunny day. The Great Lake Walkway is a 10 kilometer hike from the boat harbour to Five Mile Bay. Make sure to get your picture taken at the #lovetaupo sign. In good weather you will have great views of the Tongariro National Park volcanoes in the distance.
3. Bungy jumping
Even though I did not do my bungy jump in Taupo (I saved that for my visit to Queenstown, where I jumped from the Kawarau Bridge, the first official bungy site in the world) this is a truly scenic place to do so. It’s the North Island’s most popular bungy at 47 meters high above the Waikato River. If you don’t feel like jumping yourself, there’s various spots you can view the jumpers from. When walking to Huka Falls from the town centre, you will automatically pass the bungy site.
4. See the world’s coolest McDonalds
Even though I am not a big fan of McDonalds, I am a big aviation fan and so I loved checking out the decommissioned DC3 as a part of the store. Inside you will find seats and you can see the cockpit as well. As the sign makes you believe, this plane is indeed the coolest McDonalds in the world.
5. Hike the Tongariro Crossing
For those who are not staying in Tongariro National Park or including this in their visit to New Zealand, you can also hike the famous Tongariro Crossing from Taupo. A shuttle will pick you up very early in the morning (around 05.30 am) and drop you off at the trailhead at Mangatepopo. You then have all day to include this iconic hike, before you are taken back to Taupo. The Tongariro Crossing is the most amazing dayhike in New Zealand but should only be done if you are fit and an experienced hiker, it’s not for the faint hearted. Having said that and being fortunate to having done this hike twice, it’s indeed on of New Zealand’s top hikes!
Reading tip: the best hikes in New Zealand
6. See the Craters of the Moon
This geothermical complex is situated a few kilometers north of town and is a great add-on to your visit to the Huka Falls. Admission is 8 NZD and it will give you acces to the park and its walkway. The walk is some 3 kilometers and takes you across a field with boiling mud and steaming vents. The walkway is super easy and generally flat, optionally you can add the higher terrace overlooking the complex. This trail is a little steep but nothing very strenuous.
Other great things to do in Taupo
This is my list of favorite outdoor things to do in Taupo. Of course there are many more options, such as jetboating, swimming, cycling, fishing and bathing in the Spa Park Hot Stream. Taupo offers plenty to see and do and should definitely be included in your trip to New Zealand’s North Island. I made a short movie of my visit to Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon, just to give you can idea what it’s like. Enjoy! And please don’t forget to scroll further down for tips on how to get to Taupo, where to stay and where to grab a bit.
How to get to Taupo, New Zealand
As I bought my own car upon arrival in New Zealand, I drove from Auckland. It’s about a 3.5 hour drive from Auckland and a 4.5 hour drive from Wellington in case you are coming from the south. Rotorua is just about an hours drive away. If you don’t have a car, then you can easily make it to Taupo by bus. Intercity has plenty of connections all over New Zealand. There are plenty of backpackers buses too but I don’t have any experience with them. In Taupo itself you can easily get around the town center with the Taupo Connector. Those wishing to fly can catch a daily service with Air New Zealand from Auckland.
Where to stay in Taupo
Taupo has plenty of accommodations. As I was traveling on a budget, I stayed at YHA Taupo Finlay Jack’s Hostel. The first nights I stayed in a dormitory which was okay, however the last few nights I camped in their backyard and there were always parties going on, so I ended up not getting a whole lot of sleep because of the noise. If you are looking for a more quiet hostel, I can definitely recommend going to Haka Lodge Taupo. My friend who came to visit me later during my trip stayed here and enjoyed it a lot. I stayed in Taupo early January which is the middle of the high season, so there wasn’t a whole lot of accommodation left (hence the camping in the garden). If you are going to visit Taupo in high season, I definitely recommend booking ahead. All Taupo accommodation options can be found here.
I hope you found this blog with the best things to do in Taupo useful. Feel free to add any other options below in the comments for fellow travellers checking out this blog! Also make sure to check out Lucy’s blog who went Skydiving in Taupo.
Want to read more New Zealand articles? You may also enjoy the following posts:
– Hiking in Whangarei and how I got lost on the trail
– Is Cape Reinga worth it?
– All you need to know about Tongariro National Park
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Thanks for sharing!