town in New Zealand's North Island
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Oceania > New Zealand > North Island > Central North Island > Taupō

Taupō, also written Taupo, is a town on the northern shore of Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake, in the central North Island. It is built around the lake's outlet into the Waikato River, the country's longest river.

It is a popular tourist destination due to its lake, boating, trout fishing, geothermal attractions, waterfalls, outdoor activities and proximity to the North Island's highest mountains.

Understand Edit

Climate chart (explanation)
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Source: NIWA
Imperial conversion
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The Lake Taupo area is on a volcanic plateau. The lake, famed for its trout fishing and boating, fills the caldera of one of the largest supervolcanoes in the world, in a still active geological region. About 26,000 years ago, the lake area was a volcano that erupted in an enormous explosion that ejected about 1,200 km3 of material, spreading it over the central North Island and forming the Volcanic Plateau. The resulting depression became Lake Taupo after it filled with water draining off the surrounding hills. It last erupted around 180 CE, reportedly turning the skies over China and Rome red. The prehistoric eruption was VEI-8 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index scale, one of the largest ever. The 180 CE blast was VEI-7, still enormous.

Today, Lake Taupo is New Zealand's largest lake by area, covering 616 km². It feeds the Waikato River, New Zealand's longest, with the water to run eight hydroelectric power stations. After leaving town, the river rushes through the tourist attractions of Huka Falls and Aratiatia Rapids.

Climate Edit

Taupō has a temperate climate with distinct seasons, mild summers, cool winters, and regular rainfall. Due to its inland location and relatively high altitude (360 m above sea level), the climate is cooler than in other parts of the North Island and is more akin to the lower half of the South Island.

Get in Edit

Taupō and the Waikato River from the air

By plane Edit

  • 1 Taupo Airport (8 km (5.0 mi) south of the town centre), +64 7 378 7771. Air New Zealand Link operates daily flights from Auckland, and Sounds Air has scheduled flights from Wellington most days. The airport provides for private jets and other aircraft and is the busiest parachute drop zone in New Zealand.

By bus Edit

Intercity offers coach services to Taupō several times a day from throughout the North Island. Adventure travel networks in the form of Kiwi Experience, Stray and Contiki also visit Taupō (daily in summer).

By car Edit

Taupō is at the junction of State Highway 1 (SH 1), which runs the length of the country, and State Highway 5 (SH 5), which runs south-east to Napier and north to Rotorua and Tirau.

Approximate distances and drive times are:

  • Auckland – 275 km, 4 hr along SH 1 (alternatively, you can leave SH 1 at Pokeno, travel along SH 2 and SH 27 via Matamata and meet back up with SH 1 at Tirau, therefore avoiding Hamilton)
  • Hamilton – 153 km, 2 hr along SH 1
  • Rotorua – 81 km, 1 hr along SH 5
  • Napier – 142 km, 2 hr along SH 5 (there are two electric charging stations en route, but no petrol stations – if you're not driving an EV, check your fuel level before leaving Bay View, on Napier's outskirts)
  • Wellington – 370 km, 5 hr along SH 1

Get around Edit

The urban centre is very compact and is within easy walking distance of most hotels, motels and hostels, as are a number of the more popular activities. To explore further, there are several car rental companies and the popular "Hot Bus" shuttle, which has regular trips to the most popular tourist sites. In addition most activity operators offer a free pick up, drop off service. It is also possible to hire push bikes and motor scooters. Accommodation providers will be able to assist with all transport arrangements.

Shuttle Edit

Local tours Edit

Taxi Edit

Rental cars Edit

See Edit

The rapids in the Waikato River before the Huka Falls

There are many sights of interest in the Taupō region, most of which are free of charge, and you should set a day aside to check out some of the sights. To get around the sights transport is a must - a mountain bike at the very least for people with some fitness or perhaps a rental car or shuttle for those who prefer to relax while on holiday.

  • 1 Aratiatia Dam, Aratiatia Rd (13km north of Taupō, off SH 5). The first dam in the Waikato Hydro power scheme. The gates are opened daily at 10AM, noon, 2PM and 4PM in summer and 10AM, noon and 2PM in winter, which causes the spectacular recreation of the Aratiatia Rapids.    
  • 2 Huka Falls, Huka Falls Rd. New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction located just to the north of town on the Waikato river. New Zealand’s largest river is forced between a narrow split in the bedrock. Quite impressive with flows often exceeding 220,000 litres per second.    
  • 3 Kinloch. A pretty lakeside village 15 minutes drive west of Taupō.
  • Lions Walk – A walkway starting in town and heading south for about 5 miles following the lake edge. Paved in places through the efforts of local service clubs.
  • 4 Taupō Museum, Story Pl, +64 7 376-0414. Daily 10AM-4:30PM. A small museum near the centre of town behind the Great Lake Centre. Contains exhibits on the volcanic, Maori and early European history of Taupō. A Maori meeting house is recreated within the building. Exhibitions of art by local and national artists are ongoing. The "Ora" garden which won the 2004 Chelsea Flower Show can be seen in a specially created outside area.
  • 5 Waipahihi Botanical Gardens, cnr Shepherd Rd & Hyde Ave. Has vehicle and walking tracks through forest and gardens. Also boasts one of the best vantage points of the lake and mountains of the Tongariro National Park. Located in the suburbs.

Geothermal activity Edit

Being in the heart of the Taupo Volcanic Zone you don't have to travel far to encounter geothermal activity. There are several examples and, though not as heavily marketed or developed as those in nearby Rotorua, they provide a fascinating insight into the fragility of our planet.

  • The Wairakei steam field, 10 minutes north of town on Wairakei Rd, can be accessed by car and provides an insight into the tapping of the earth's heat for electricity generation. The 175-MW 6 Wairakei Power Station opened in 1958, the first geothermal plant in New Zealand and only the second commercial-scale geothermal plant in the world. Today, geothermal power stations in New Zealand produce 15 percent of the country's electricity requirements. Further north along State Highway 5 is the newer and smaller, but more prominent, 7 Ohaaki Power Station. Its 105-metre-tall natural draft cooling tower, like those typically found at nuclear power stations, stands out from the landscape for miles around.
  • 8 Craters of the Moon, Karapiti Rd, Wairakei (a few minutes drive north of town on Wairakei Rd). Summer 8:30AM-6PM, winter 8:30AM-sunset. An easy 45 min (2.75 km) walk through an active and ever-changing other-worldly geothermal wonderland. Adult $8, child (5–12) $4, family $20.
  • 9 Orakei Korako, 494 Orakei Korako Rd (off Tutukau Road, 25 minutes drive north of Taupō), +64 7 378-3131. "The Hidden Valley" of Orakei Korako contains geysers, boiling mud pools, hot springs, large silica terraces and the majestic Ruatapu Caves. Adult $36, child (6–16) $15, family $92.

Do Edit

A sailing school on Lake Taupo

There is no shortage of activities on offer in Taupō, be it an adrenaline rush or the more sedate. There is something for everyone, from the ever popular bungy, to Taupō being internationally known as a mecca for skydiving, to jet boating, trout fishing, scenic flights, and simple pleasures such as the AC Baths and the one and only Starlight Cinema. Lake Taupo is widely considered to be the rainbow trout capital of the world and the lake's tributaries contain some fine brown trout.

  • Golf: Wairakei GC is north near Craters of the Moon.
  • 1 Taupō Bungy, 202 Spa Rd, +64 7 377 1135, toll-free: 0800 888 408. Daily except 25 Dec. This is at Hell's Gate section of the Waikato River. The location is quite scenic and utilises a custom-built cantilever platform protruding from a cliff face over the river. There is a cafe and several good vantage points. They are endorsed by the New Zealand Safety Standards Authority. Solo $169, tandem $338.

Jet boating Edit

With New Zealand's largest river, the Waikato, flowing from Lake Taupo, there is little wonder that jet boating is available and there are three operators providing trips on various sections of the river. Jet boating is a very New Zealand activity and well worth the effort.

  • 2 Huka Falls Jet, Karetoto Rd, Wairakei (north end of road, next to Prawn Park), +64 7 374 8572, toll-free: 0800 485 253, fax: +64 7 374 8573, . Minimum height 100cm (3ft 3.5in). Adult $125, child (15 and under) $79.
  • 3 Rapids Jet, Nga Awa Purua Rd, Aratiatia, +64 7 374 8066, toll-free: 0800 727 437, . Office hours, summer 9AM-5PM, winter 10AM-4PM. Minimum height 100 cm (3 ft 3½ in), life & spray jackets are provided. Adult $110, child (5-15) $60.
  • 4 NZ River Jet, Tutukau Rd, Mihi (just off SH5, 34 km north of Taupō), +64 7 333 7111.

Skydiving Edit

Taupō's natural scenery with its lake, forests and volcanic backdrop make for an excellent skydive location. Taupō is New Zealand's skydive Mecca, as people flock here to do a jump at the cheapest prices in the country. There are two companies operating from Taupo Airport: Taupo Tandem Skydiving and Skydive Taupo. Each company offers tandem skydives from both 12,000 and 15,000 feet and also provide various DVD and photo options to capture the moment. Taupo Tandem can also cater for experienced solo jumpers and a skydive school operates over the summer months which offers training to beginners.

Cruising and sailing Edit

With a surface area of 616 km², Lake Taupo is the focal point for the town and its people and to truly appreciate it you really need to head out on it. There are many hidden bays and some spectacular views to be had from on the water. Well worth a look are the large Maori rock carvings that can only be accessed by water. Options available range from large powered charter boats to kayaks.

Chartered trout fishing Edit

Fly fishing Edit

Scenic flights Edit

With the natural beauty of Taupō and its surrounds a scenic flight is well worth considering. There are a number of companies offering flights ranging from 15 minutes to several hours over the town, lake, mountains and volcanic areas. Both helicopter and fixed wing flights are available.

Tramping and walking Edit

There are many opportunities to walk in and around Taupō. Forest, mountains, guided walks and unguided.

  • Awhina Wilderness Experience, . Daily. Half or full day guided walks on Mt Titiraupenga.
  • Mount Tauhara. The mountain sitting on the eastern edge of town can be climbed fairly easily, taking 1½–2 hours (get directions from your accommodation). The views from the top on a clear day are remarkable, so take your camera.

Adventure packages Edit

Swimming & sauna Edit

  • 7 AC Baths, 26 AC Baths Rd (cnr Spa Rd), +64 7 376-0350, fax: +64 7 376 0359, . Daily 6AM-9PM. Adults $8.00, seniors (60+) and students (16-17) $5.00, children (5-15) $4.00, family $20.00.
  • 8 Spa Thermal Park, Spa Rd. Daily 7AM–8PM. From the end of the road, walk down to the hot-water Otumuheke Stream, where it flows into the Waikato River. There are hotter natural pools further up the stream from the confluence. There are toilets and changing rooms. You can also walk downstream along the Waikato River to Huka Falls. Free.
  • 9 Taupo Hot Springs Spa (DeBretts), 76 Napier Rd, +64 7 377-6502, fax: +64 7 377 6501, . Daily 8:30AM-9:30PM.

Cinema Edit

Family & children Edit

Booking agents Edit

  • Experience Taupo, 57 Tongariro St, +64 7 377 0704. Bookings for all Taupo-based adventure tourism.
  • i-Site Taupō, Tongariro St, +64 7 376 0027.

Events Edit

Taupō hosts a number of major international and national events, including:

  • Taupo Events ( A more list of the events in Taupō.
  • Great Lake Cycle Challenge. Started in 1977 with just 30 riders, this 153-km road cycle around Lake Taupo now attracts over 10,000 entrants every year. It is also a round of the prestigious UCI Golden Bike Series. The last Saturday in November is when the event takes place.
  • Ironman New Zealand. Taupō has been home to this event since 1999. Ironman New Zealand is the oldest event outside of the world championships in Hawaii. It is held on the first Saturday in March each year.
  • Taupo Half Marathon. New Zealand's largest half marathon and also the biggest in the southern hemisphere, follows the shore of Lake Taupo for most of the course. Held in early August every year.
  • Oxfam Trailwalker. A team challenge to overcome poverty and injustice offers you a rewarding physical endeavour.

Buy Edit

  • 1 Taupō Market, Riverside Park. Sa 9AM-1PM. Seasonal fruits & veges, cakes & biscuits, apparel, lavender products, free range eggs, jewellery, bread, curios & collectables, preserves, arts & craft, books & flowers. Also car boot sale - first Saturday of every month.

Fishing Edit

Eat Edit

Budget Edit

Not your average airline food.
  • 1 McDonald's, 48 Roberts St (cnr Ruapehu St), +64 6 378 8679. 24 hours. The only McDonald's in the world on an airplane! When the Golden Arches bought the site in 1990, it came with a decommissioned Douglas DC-3, and they incorporated it into the restaurant. The plane, complete with original cockpit, seats 20 diners and is open daily 9AM-4:30PM.

Cafes Edit

Dining Edit

  • 4 Plateau, 64 Tuwharetoa St, +64 7 377-2425, . Daily noon-late.
  • 5 Ploughmans, 43-45 Charles Cres, Rainbow Point, +64 7 377-3422. Daily noon-late.
  • 6 Waterside Restaurant & Bar, 3 Tongariro St (near the lake on the corner of Tongariro St and Lake Terrace), +64 7 378-6894, . 11AM-10PM. For casual lunch or dinner. There are views of the lake and the mountains (Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu). Outdoor dining in summer and a fireplace to keep you warm in the winter. Also has a Pool Deck, a bar with three high-end pool tables. Dinner mains $20-40; lunch $12.

Drink Edit

Non-alcoholic Edit

  • Tank Juice Bar, 3 Horomatangi St (next door to Soundz Music on the corner in Taupō township), +64 7 378 1064. Fantastic, refreshing and thirst quenching juices.

Alcoholic Edit

Sleep Edit

Holiday parks Edit

Backpackers Edit

Motels Edit

Hotels Edit

Boutique accommodation and lodges Edit

Apartments Edit

  • 26 Voyager Apartments Taupo, 9 Tui St, +64 7 378 7487. 50 m from the lake-front, 1 km south of the main shopping precinct. Comprises 16 superior 4½ star rated 2 and 3 bedroom apartments, suitable for short and long term stays and 16 smaller studio studio, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments. From $139.

Stay safe Edit

Connect Edit

Internet access Edit

Accessing the Internet is simple and easy, with Internet cafes and wireless hotspots available in the city centre, motels, restaurants, bars and clubs.

Several wireless hotspots cover a large area.

Go next Edit

Taupō can be used as a base to see the surrounding country, including Turangi, Tongariro National Park, Waiouru and the western bays.

This city travel guide to Taupō is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.