Lake Taupo is a very large body of water in the central region of the North Island. It is the largest lake in New Zealand as per surface area, and seems to go on for days!
It is drained by the Waikato River, which is also the longest river in New Zealand, which makes this area very vital to the North Island.
Its major town is Taupo (original name we know), and there is a ton more information available online.
The Tongariro NP is New Zealand's first National Park and a World Heritage site with active and extinct volcanoes, spectacular scenery, as well we high cultural and religious significance for the Maori people. I was unlucky with the weather, but the mountains looked amazing even in a cloudy, depressing day.
(For LOTR fans: Tongariro NP became Mordor in the film and Mt. Ngauruhoe stood in for Mt Doom)
The Huka Falls are the largest falls on the Waikato River which is one of New Zealand's longest rivers and it drains Lake Taupo - the largest freshwater lake in all of Australasia.
The name Huka is the Maori word for 'foam', plenty of that when they are running at their fastest!
DON'T MISS THESE FALLS, we thought they were really impressive, a sight to see!
The Waikato River, normally up to 100 metres wide, abruptly narrows to just 15 metres as it crosses a hard volcanic ledge. This of course causes a huge volume of water to collide together, forming the spectacular powerful falls and rapids.
Every second up to 220,000 litres of water gushes through the gorge and shoots out over 8 metres beyond to a beautful blue/green pool.
The water then bursts out of its rapids, and back into the Waikato River.
We did the easy riverside walk, there were more great views along here of the falls and rapids and of people enjoying the Huka Jet boat ride. Probably about a 30 minute walk.
Huka Falls is located in Wairakei Park. This is only a short 5 minute drive north of Lake Taupo.
One of our day trips was to have a look at lake Ohakukri. This lake forms the reservoir for the Ohakuri hydro electric power station and is the largest artificial lake of the Waikato river system.
Perhaps a shame that the making of this lake drowned two thirds of the Orakei Korako geothermal area, including two of the world's largest geysers, Minginui Geyser and Orakei Korako Geyser.
We stopped at the lakes edge, and viewed the thermal activity on the other side. We didn't take the boat across, weather wasn't good, so decided against it, plus we had already been to quite a few areas.
If you do take the boat, it takes you across Lake Ohakuri to the thermal area of Orakei Korako where hot springs, geysers, caves, mud pools and terraces make up the region. It really did look quite good from what we could see!
What you should see...............
There are 23 active natural geysers and evidently has the greatest number of active geysers of any geothermal field in New Zealand, with the most variable and most interesting changes.
There is a vast number of boiling hot springs to view at Orakei Korako as well as mud pools and there are extensive bush walks to enjoy through areas of native flora and fauna.
The thermal Ruatapu Cave (sacred hole)....... The cave extends 120 ft down to a hot pool at the bottom named “Waiwhakaata”, which means "pool of mirrors".
Perhaps we can return on a nice day to see this, I hope so!
On our wanders around Taupo, we came across a Plane at McDonald's.
Buy your Macca's, then head into the plane to eat it! Probably an experience that children would love, certainly different!
Think Planes & food must be a "New Zealand" thing, this was the second one we saw on our travels.
Mount 'Roo-a -pe-hoo", [ this is how you pronounce it] in Maori translation relates to its volcanic history. Rua = pit and pehu = to explode.
At 2 797 metres, Mt Ruapehu is the highest mountain in the North Island, and is an active Volcano.
Mt Ruapehu's eight named glaciers are the only glaciers in the North Island and the sacred Crater Lake (on top of the mountain) is one of only three in the world surrounded by snow and ice.
Whakapapa Village is New Zealand's highest settlement with permanent residents and is one of the gateways into New Zealand's first National Park. We saw a big Chateau ...."Chateau Tongariro which was built in 1929, reminded us of the Chateau's in Canada.
There is cheaper accommodation including camping areas. We couldn't do much here because of the weather, this was a shame.
Taupo airport is the nearest airport.
These waterfalls are located in the Tongariro National park.
Tawhai Falls is a tiny 5m waterfall that is reached by walking through beech and brown tussock grasslands. The falls tumble over the edge of an ancient lava flow and are situated at the lower elevations of Tongariro National Park.
It was only a short 20min walk to them, and because of all the recent rain, they were quite impressive!
We didn't see it, but people paddle over these falls, that would be quite a sight!
The craters of the moon area is still active and in expansion: the steam vents and craters are constantly forming and/or changing.
There was a set boardwalk that we did, taking you amongst all the craters, steam vents and mud pools. Along the walk there was plenty of interesting information on what we were viewing. The walk is very easy and is about 2.75 km long. The path goes clockwise, follow the path, do not leave it! Close to the end there is a possible extra loop called the Ridge lookout loop; the view from the ridge is nice and you will give you a good picture of the area.
Allow approximately 45 minutes to complete the loop and an additional 20 minutes for the upper lookout (this section is steep and stepped in places but the view is well worth the effort )
8.30am - 6pm
December - 6th April (end of daylight saving)
8.30am - approx 5.30pm
During the winter months - dependent on daylight
ADMISSION...Adults $6.00 per person
....................Children (5 years to 12 years) $2.50 per child
Family Price (2 Adults and maximum of 4 children 12years and under) $14.50
We really enjoyed this area, it was cheap and just as good as display as a lot dearer ones in Rotorua. It didn't seem as touristy, maybe that has changed?
Visit the Rapids, then visit the Power station to see how the energy is harnessed. We found it to be very interesting.
The power station was built in 1958, the first of its type in the world.
The Wairakei power station is due to be phased out from 2011, replaced by the Te Mihi geothermal power station. The use of steam from the field has had a number of visible effects on the local environment. Visible geothermal activity has increased (due to changes in the water table / water pressure allowing more steam to be created underground, upsurging at places like Craters of the Moon), while there has also been some land subsidence and reduction in steam volumes from the field after some decades of use. So far, total electrical production has been sustained or increased
The hot geothermal fluid that is extracted is originally cold rainwater that had percolated downwards and been heated by hot rock; pumping back the warm water that emerges from the exhaust of the generator system thus reduces the heat drawn from the ground.
Also, the Waikato river water is already too high in arsenic content to be safe to drink without special treatment, and so reinjection of the facility's water does not exacerbate this problem.
Located 10ks north of Taupo, the Spill gates from the Dam are opened, and a wall of water rushes through a narrow gorge at 90,000 litres per second.
The gates are shut a half hour later, and it turns back into a placid stream.
At Aratiatia, the Waikato river falls naturally 28metres in one kilometre. This natural drop has been harnessed for Hydro electric power, the headwaters are diverted to a power station. There are excellent view points on high rocks to see the turbulent water rushing down.
The gates are opened 3-4 times daily. 10am, 12, 2 and in summer, 4pm.
There is a scenic walking trail between Huka Falls and the Rapids, following the Waikato river, takes approx 4 hours return.
The Maori carvings as shown on the pic were made in the 1980s by some artists, you can only view them from a ship or boat. They present traditional Maori heroes and deities, even though some should not have been portrayed according to Maori faith. The island that can be seen in Lake Taupo is the burial place and very sacred to Maori, thus it cannot and should not be accessed!
Also, it is said that the spirits such as Taniwha are deep under the lake.
Ships and sailing tours to the carvings last about 2 hours, they cost about 30 dollars and
you can purchase tickets at Taupo harbor.
Tongariro Crossing - one-day walk - is a part of the Northern Circuit which is classed as one of the NZ´s Great Walks. The walk takes 6-7 hours (depending on your condition :-)), there is one steep spot only, but it is really a steep one, during the walk you pass by Mt. Ngauruhoe (if you feel fit for it you can also climb it but it takes 2-3 hours extra), from the distance there is Mt. Tongariro to be seen, another beautiful spot is Red Crater and of course the lakes - three small but certainly deep torquise lakes in the middle of the mountains. A lunch break by such a unique spot is just a must. And by descending to Ketahi Hut you get more and more absolutely fantastic views.....
One of the most famous activities of the Taupo Region is the amazing one day trek known as the Tongariro Crossing.
A popular and sometimes crowded track, the point to point walk generally used, normally takes around 7 hours to complete. I took 10 hours, probably the maximum, give daylight time during the summer months. Good close locations to start the day from are either National Park (actually the name of a village) or Whakapapa, on Mt Ruapehu where there is good accommodation. You can get transported by bus to the startpoint not far away. However there are also shuttle buses running from Taupo and Turangi, of course that means a longer journey. All operators who drop you off, will also collect you from the finish point and return you to your accommodation.
It's really difficult to use your own vehicle as you then need to arrange a way to get back to it.
This walk is quite testing at times, however no special experience is needed. A reasonable level of fitness is recommended, and warm and waterproof clothing along with food and water are essential. The weather can change in a very short time making it potentially life threatening. Each year visitors are helicoptered off the mountain, so be sure to be well prepared. The terrain is rugged and barren being a volcanic region and also of reasonably high altitude with respect to temperature and chill factor.
You can see my complete photographic account of this trek here on my National Park page. Be sure to scroll down and view the Tips as well as the Travelogues, in order to view the photographs.
You can walk here for 1.5 hours thru a thermally active area. There used to be a lot of hot vents here, but they're not working anymore since a waterpump is active nearby. Instead the ground gets heated up to 120 degrees Celsius in some places and there are huge craters that have steam coming out.
The Huka Falls are absolutely blue. This is because the water is so clear, it reflects the colour of the sky. The Huka Falls provide for 15% of New Zealands power. The Maori call it Hukanui Falls, meaning Great Body of Spray. You can cross a bridge above the Huka Falls, definetely worth it.
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