Taupo, New Zealand
Whilst most thermal areas with the possibility to bath are nicely ringfenced and pricy here you find an excellent opportunity to bath in a really purely natural hot water - it is creek with a small waterfall flowing into the Waikato river so you can "adjust" the temperature so that you go closer to the river if the waterfall is too hot for you.
The Waikato River has its source in Lake Taupo itself; from here, it is funneled through a narrow gorge before the river releases its waters through the ten-meter-drop that is Huka Falls. The falls can be admired from several lookouts; tour operators also offer speedboat tours that bring you right to the bottom of the waterfalls - you`re guaranteed to get wet !
Craters of the Moon Thermal Area features a number of impressive hydrothermal eruption craters & steam vents. Due to the constant fumes streaming out of the craters and vents, and the prevalent sulpur smell in the air, the site has a somewhat otherworldly appearance, so the name is well-chosen. The Craters can be easily reached by car from Taupo, being on the end of Karapiti Road (exit from State Highway 1/5, 4 km north of Taupo). It is not well sign-posted, Karapiti Road can easily be overlooked. The main circuit through the area takes 45 minutes to walk.
Orakei Korako is situated on the Waikato River at Lake Ohakuri. In my opinion the best thermal area on the North Island next to Wai-O-Tapu, but less crowded with tourists and in an even more beautiful location. The Hidden Valley is aptly named, as the simply ends in the valley, and from there you have to use a ferry to cross the beautiful Lake Okahuri. The area has shining white silica terraces, geysers, mud pools, hot springs, colourful mineral sediments, and beautiful country for bushwalking. One of my favourite spots in New Zeland.
Taupo in the center of the North Island is a good place to stay for several reasons. The landscape around Taupo with green rolling hills is very "typical" New Zealand and reminds me of the Shire scenes in the "Lord of the Rings" movie. The city itself is not spectacular but located at beautiful Lake Taupo, with lots of water sport activities available. There are many possible daytrip options in a reasonable distance from Taupo (especially if you are interested in volcanoes and thermal springs), which makes it a good base . I found the Taupo area more pleasant than Rotorua, which is still in easy reach from Taupo. Some suggestions for daytrips from Taupo:
- Tongariro Crossing
- Huka Falls
- Hidden Valley Thermal Area
- Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
- Craters of the Moon
- Maori cultural tours (Tamaki, Mitai, or other operators)
- Buried Village (near Rotorua)
- Zorbing (near Rotorua)
New Zealand's largest lake (606 sq km) formed by one of the world's greatest volcanic explosions is very serene these days. It's claimed to be the world's trout fishing capital. Trouts here are huge! International trout fishing tournaments are held here too!
LAKE TAUPO is also the source of the NZ longest river Waikato which flows through the Huka Falls and the Aratiatia Rapids.
The township of TAUPO (population: 19000) nestles next to the lake has scenic views stretching across the lake to the volcanic peaks of the Tongariro National Park. It's main attractions, however is the Waireki Park and thermal regions, north of the town & south of Rotorua. For details and photos on WAIREKI THERMAL VALLEY please go to my Rotorua Travelogue.
Taupo is also world-famous for its TROUT FLY FISHING - the only kind you can do on all rivers flowing into the lake in a 300m radius of the river mouths.
Lake Taupo was formed by enormous volcanic explosions, the biggest being in 186AD. It is New Zealand's largest lake, is 42 by 25 kilometres and 570 metres deep. If this Lake where emptied it would be the 'Second Largest Crater on Earth'. Lake Taupo is internationally acclaimed for its year-round trout fishing.
There are many water activities or simply take a cruise on the lake, or relax on the shore. To the south of Lake Taupo, three massive volcanoes cluster together to form Tongariro National Park. In winter, these magnificent mountains lure thousands of skiers.
Rainbow trout average 4 pounds, brown trout average 6 pounds.
Taupo (the town) rests at the northern end of Lake Taupo for which it is named. The lake is in fact a volcanic crater and the result of several volcanic eruptions many years ago. The area is a hot bed (excuse the pun!) of activity that largely revolves around the natural beauty that the area is so famous for.
You could base your self here to go to the Tongariro National Park and do the Tongariro Crossing or also as a base in winter to get to the skiing/snowboarding areas on Mt Ruapehu.
Taupo is situated about 3 hours drive south of Auckland on State Highway One.
Please see my Taupo Page for more information!
If you are brave enough the best thing to do in Taupo is to do a Sky Dive. Its an awsome expereince there are not enough words to describe my sky diving experience. Its a scary thought jumping out of a small plane from 15,000ft, but i did in a tandom no way would I jump out on my own accord! The feel of free falling is amazing you don't actually feel that you are falling that fast and the view WOW! Once the parachute opened their was just silence and the view of Taupo lake beautiful, its the only way to see the lake in full view. Landing is fun try not to fall over, but the kick you get once you've done it omg kept me going for the next few days.
Orakei Korako (the place of adorning) is a fantastic Maori-owned thermal park and cave reached by a short ferry trip across Lake Ohakuri.
In the Lonely Planet Guide it is said to be "possibly the best thermal area left in New Zealand and one of the finest in the world".
You will enjoy silica terraces, boiling pools, geysers, native bush, a geothermal cave, panoramic views, wildlife and natural beauty. There are safe boardwalks to allow close access to the geothermal activity but you do not feel as if you are in a theme-park, rather that you are exploring a wild, untamed area.
There is a cafe, toilets and a souvenir shop before the lake crossing (the ferry gos on demand - ring a bell to be brought back!). Allow plenty of time to enjoy the Hidden Valley.
Lake Taupo is the biggest lake of New Zealand and if you are in to watersports you will love it here!
There are lots of camping grounds around the lake to stay a night or more so you can enjoy the sunset as I did...:-)
Absolutely amazing falls with extremely blue and clear water!
It is on the way from Rotorua to Lake Taupo along the road.You can also have a bit of a rest there and enjoy a lunch on one of the many wooden tables.
Just about 10 kilometers north of Taupo you will find Wairakei Park, home of Huka Falls. Youi can walk the Huka Falls loop here which passes Huka Falls and will take you to some more waterfalls at the end. If you're short on time, no worries, Huka Falls are close to the carpark. A footbridge crosses the Waikato river above the falls, which looks more like a giant turquiose rapid. The lookout platform gives you the best views of the falls. If there is a chance for sunshine, just wait a bit and you will see the turquoise colours come out even more.
Huka Falls are located approximately five minutes from Lake Taupo are the spectacular Huka Falls. Huka jet boat rides operate daily, weather and river conditions permitting. Huka's waters are known for fine brown and rainbow fishing. Many international celebrities stay at the Huka Lodge here because of its beauty as well as being a peaceful and private retreat area.