Taupo City Guide
Taupo, home to New Zealand’s oldest National Park (Tongariro NP), is located in the centre of the country’s North Island. Surrounded by stunning volcanoes, bush clad mountains and a spectacular landscape of cliffs and caves lays the largest freshwater lake in New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere, Lake Taupo. The volcanic zone creates awe-inspiring panoramic views. Cruises on the lake and the best trout fishing in the world attract fly fishing lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Taupo is rapidly growing into one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations due to the abundant choice of outdoor thrills. You can lose yourself in tandem skydiving, white water rafting and quad biking or book the highest water touch bungee jump in the region (47 m). Taupo’s dazzling nightlife including bustling cafes and restaurants awaits you after a spectacular day of fun and adventure.
Tongariro National Park is unlike any other place in the world; that's why it's a dual World Heritage site! Since it was given to New Zealand by a Maori Chief back in the 1880's, the park has been home to both fantastic Maori culture and beautiful volcanoes. The area still has spiritual importance to the Maori people today.
You can see the cultural and spiritual significance for yourself, just by heading an hour outside of town.
There are ton of different things to do inside the park - like skiing down the active volcanoes, walking around the lakes, and checking out the forests. However, the most popular thing to do inside is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing - a day-long walk that takes you to both the thermal lakes and the old lava flows, with a stop at the steaming volcano craters in between.
This trek is such an experience of natural beauty that it's one of the highest-rated treks in the entire world. However, it also goes for 18.5 km, so you'll have to be physically up to the challenge! If you really want to test yourself, go on the trek in the winter - when you'll need to battle both snow and ice to see everything.
Whether you like a physical challenge or a cultural display, there is always something going on in Taupo. That's why so many people call it the "events capital" of New Zealand!
If you're into sports, you'll love the International Ironman - the city's biggest annual event. Held at the end of February, the International Ironman attracts athletes from more than 35 different countries - making it one of the biggest Ironman competitions in the world. Events and parties connected to it go on for an entire week!
In November, Taupo hosts the world's biggest cycling event - the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. Everyone from kids to biking experts ride around the lake in various events. Count on at least 10,000 riders descending upon the city! Even if you don't like to ride, you'll be able to watch the action with a beautiful backdrop.
Taupo is also home to the world's biggest mountain biking event - the Jamis Day Night Thriller. The riders head off at 10:30 AM and pedal around Taupo's Spa Park for 12 hours!
If you want to take part in this event - but don't have the stamina to ride for 12 hours - there's also a 6-hour option you can sign up for. Either way, it's a fun experience - marked by the thousands of tents that the bikers and their friends set up, turning Spa Park into a party zone!
Taupo is home to some great food. It's also home to some great wine. In fact, there are a number of wineries in the area - including Scenic Cellars, home to New Zealand's biggest underground retail wine cellar.
If you're a coffee fan, you will love Taupo. The city is home to a couple of speciality coffee companies, so the restaurants and cafes here will offer a whole lot more than your average "cup of Joe"!
Because it's so close to the water, Taupo is home to some great seafood. In fact, Taupo is the world's trout fishing capital!
If you're looking for a great place to indulge your taste buds with some seafood, try:
Between the smoked salmon appetizer and the coconut-coated fish entree, you'll have to work hard to save room for dessert! If you're looking for gourmet, this is the place!
- The Brantry
Home to contemporary New Zealand cuisine that features the freshest fish and local produce, The Brantry is famous for its marinated prawn tails.
- Edgewater Restaurant
Here, you'll combing award-winning food with an amazing waterfront view. You'll find it inside the Millennium Hotel and Resort.
- Stage Park Diner
If you're looking for good food that's also cheap, try the Stag Park Diner. Open 24 hours, it's the perfect place to get a good cup of coffee and anything from a tasty breakfast to the catch of the day!
The dramatic scenery of Waikakei Valley and the hidden valley of Orakei Korako guarantees breathtaking treks and in the lunar landscape of Karapiti, you will wander along craters, steam vents and bubbling mud pools. Taupo’s hot springs are world famous and people come from all over the globe to experience the soothing and healing effects of these thermal mineral waters.
If you want to see what Taupo's famous trout fishing is all about, you can charter a boat and try your skills at landing the big one! Or, you can opt for a slower ride on your own private sailboat, catamaran, or canoe.
If you're looking for an adventure, rent a jet ski. That way, you can watch all of Lake Taupo's sights fly by! Or, try your hand at some water skiing.
If you want to see Lake Taupo's wildlife for yourself, jump underwater with either your scuba or snorkelling gear and get up close and personal with a variety of fish!
You can also get a bird's eye view of the lake, thanks to the area's parasailing companies.
The local rivers offer some adventures of their own. The Tongariro River is home to some great rafting, while the Waikato River is famous for its skydiving and bungy jumping.
Luckily, most of the Taupo accommodation choices come with a waterfront view. Most of the hotels and motels in town overlook the Tapuaeharuru Bay - with views of Lake Taupo in the distance.
There are also a number of luxury resorts further inland. A few of them are in the Spa Park area, so you'll have a great view that's out of the hustle and bustle. And, if you're in town for the Jamis Day Night Thriller, you'll be close to the action - without having to sleep in a tent!
If you're looking for something even more peaceful, there are a few hotel options further out, along State Highway 1 - New Zealand's longest highway. That way, you can stay "off the beaten path", but have an easy way to drive back into town.
If you want to stay right in the middle of town, there are a number of cheap hotels in Taupo along Tongariro Street.