Taupo, also written Taupō, 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.
The Lake Taupo area is situated on a volcanic plateau. The lake, famed for its trout fishing and boating, fills the caldera of one of the largest super-volcanoes 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 cubic kilometres 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.
Today, Lake Taupo is New Zealand's largest lake by area, covering 616 square kilometres. 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.
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Similar to the rest of New Zealand, Taupo 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 in Taupo is cooler than in other parts of the North Island and is more akin to the lower half of the South Island.
Taupo Airport is 8 km south of the town centre. 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.
Intercity and Nakedbus offer coach services to Taupo several times a day from throughout the North Island. Adventure travel networks in the form of Kiwi Experience, Stray and Contiki also visit Taupo (daily in summer).
Taupo is located centrally lies on the junction of State Highway 1 and State Highway 5, making it accessible from most places in the North island.
Until recently, Taupo was a congestion spot over the Christmas/New Year period and on public holidays as two highways worth of inter-city traffic mixed with local traffic on the lake front. In October 2010, an eastern bypass of Taupo opened to take the two highways around the outside of the town rather than through it, easing the holiday congestion somewhat.
Approximate distances and drive times are:
- Auckland – 275 km / 4 hrs along State Highway 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 hrs along State Highway 1
- Rotorua – 81 km / 1 hr along State Highway 5
- Napier – 142 km / 2 hrs along State Highway 5 (there are no petrol stations en route, so check your petrol level before leaving Bay View, on Napier's outskirts)
- Wellington – 370 km / 5 hrs along State Highway 1
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.
- Mountain Shuttle. Runs a shuttle for the Tongariro Crossing from a car park at the finish (Ketetahi) to the start. $30.
- Turangi Alpine Shuttles. Shuttle from Turangi at the south of Lake Taupo.
- Taupo Taxis, Gascoigne St, +64 7 378 5100
- Top Cabs, Tuwharetoa St, +64 7 378 9250
- London Taxi Cab, 0800 855 466. Tours only.
- Avis Rent A Car, 61 Spa Rd & Taupo Airport, ☎ .
- Backpackers Car Rentals, +64 7 376 9209
- Custom Rentals, +64 7 378 0440
- First Choice Rental Cars / Rent A Dent, +64 7 378 2740
- Hertz Rental Cars, +64 7 378 8056
- Pegasus Rental Cars, +64 7 377 0666
There are many sights of interest in the Taupo 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 Taupo, off SH 5). The first dam in the Waikato Hydro power scheme. The gates are opened daily at 10:00, 12:00, 14:00 and 16:00 in summer and 10:00, 12:00 and 14:00 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 Taupo.
- Lake Taupo Museum and Art Gallery, Story Pl, ☎ . A small museum located near the centre of town behind the Great Lake Centre on Story Place. Contains exhibits on the Maori, volcanic and early European history of Taupo. A Maori meeting house is also recreated within the building and exhibitions of art by local and New Zealand artists are ongoing. The "Ora" garden which won the 2004 Chelsea Flower Show has recently been added in a specially created outside area.
- 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.
- Waipahihi Botanical Reserve – Located in the suburbs has both 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.
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.
Ten minutes north of town on Wairakei Road, the Wairakei steam field can be accessed by car and provides an insight into the tapping of the earth's heat for electricity generation. The 175MW 4 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, 5 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.
- 6 Craters of the Moon, Karapiti Rd, Wairakei (a few minutes drive north of town on Wairakei Rd – the old State Highway 1). Summer 08:30–18:00, winter 08:30–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.
- 7 Orakei Korako, 494 Orakei Korako Road (off Tutukau Road, 25 minutes drive north of Taupo), ☎ . "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.
- 8 Volcanic Activity Centre, Karetoto Rd, Wairakei, ☎ . Weekdays 09:00-17:00, weekends & holidays 10:00-16:00. Karetoto Road. Just north of town in the Wairakei Tourist Park is the Volcanic Activity Centre which provides an insight into the Taupo Volcanic Zone. There are many interactive displays and educational tours through to university level can be arranged.
There is no shortage of activities on offer in Taupo, be it an adrenaline rush or the more sedate - there is something for everyone! From the ever popular bungy, to Taupo 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!
Taupo Bungy operates not far from the town centre at the 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.
- 1 Taupo Bungy, 202 Spa Rd, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 888 408. Daily except 25 Dec. Solo $169, tandem $338.
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), ☎ , toll-free: 0800 485 253, fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Minimum height 100cm (3ft 3.5in). Adult $125, child (15 and under) $79.
- 3 Rapids Jet, Nga Awa Purua Rd, Aratiatia, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 727 437, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Office hours, summer 9AM-5PM, winter 10AM-4PM. Minimum height 100cm (3ft 3.5in), life & spray jackets are provided. Adult $110, child (5-15) $60.
- 4 NZ River Jet, Tutukau Rd, Mihi (just off SH5, 34km north of Taupo), ☎ .
Taupo's natural scenery with its lake, forests and volcanic backdrop make for an excellent skydive location. Taupo 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.
- Taupo Tandem Skydiving, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 2 7593483 (NZ only), fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Skydive Taupo, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 373 335 (NZ only), fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a surface area of 616 square km, 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.
- The Barbary, Berth 10, Redoubt St, Taupo Boat Harbour, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. The Barbary is a 1926 racing yacht with an interesting history. It is quite popular and a good option for a sunny day.
- Chris Jolly Outdoors, Ferry Rd, Taupo Boat Harbour, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ernest Kemp Cruises, 65 Redoubt St, Taupo Boat Harbour, ☎ .
- Fish Cruise Taupo (Taupo Launchmens Association), 65 Redoubt St, Taupo Boat Harbour, ☎ .
- The Junk, Taupo Boat Harbour, ☎ .
- Two Mile Bay Sailing Centre, ☎ .
Chartered & fly fishing
Lake Taupo is widely considered to be the rainbow trout capital of the world and the lake's tributaries contain some fine brown trout. There are numerous charter and guiding companies that offer both lake and river fishing expeditions. The easiest way to find and book such trips is via local fishing stores and booking centres.
Chartered trout fishing
- Trout Catching, ☎ , (mobile), fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Chartered trout fishing service. $85 per hour - 2hr minimum.
- Taupo Lake Adventures, 75B Kaimanawa St, ☎ , (mobile), fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Chartered trout fishing & sightseeing.
- Windsor Charters, ☎ (boat), (after hours), e-mail: email@example.com. Trout fishing, scenic tours.
- Lake Taupo Charter Boats NZ, ☎ , fax: . Fishing & cruising.
- Fish Lake Taupo Charters (Shoreline Safaris), 29 Tamatea Rd, ☎ , (AH), fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Trout fishing & sightseeing.
- White Striker Charters, 15 Matua Rd, File Mile Bay, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Chartered trout fishing. $100-$135 per hour - 2 hours minimum.
- Taupo Trout Fishing, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Professional guiding services by Andrew Christmas.
- Mark Aspinall Fly Fishing Guides, ☎ , (Mobile), e-mail: email@example.com.
- Free Time Fishing Adventures, ☎ . Guided fly fishing & casting lessons.
- NZ Fly Fish, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Fly fishing specialists.
- Fly & Gun Shop, 27 Gascoigne Street, +64 7 378 4449
- Taupo Rod & Tackle, 7 Tongariro Street, +64 7 378 5337. 
- Greenstone Fishing, 147 Tongariro Street, +64 7 378 3714.
With the natural beauty of Taupo 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.
- Taupo Air Services, Taupo Airport, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Taupo's Floatplane, Taupo Boat Harbour, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Clark & Jolly Helicopters, Taupo Airport, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Mountain Air, National Park, toll-free: 0800 922 812, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many opportunities to walk in and around Taupo. Forest, mountains, guided walks and unguided.
- Awhina Wilderness Experience, e-mail: email@example.com. Open 7 days, half day/full day guided walks on Mt Titiraupenga.
- Mount Tauhara. The mountain sitting on the eastern edge of town can be climbed fairly easily, taking 1.5–2 hours (get directions from your accommodation). The views from the top on a clear day are remarkable, so take your camera.
Swimming & sauna
- 5 AC Baths, 26 AC Baths Rd (cnr Spa Rd), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 06:00-21:00. Adults $8.00, seniors (60+) and students (16-17) $5.00, children (5-15) $4.00, family $20.00.
- 6 Taupo Hot Springs Spa (DeBretts), 76 Napier Taupo Road, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Daily 08:30-21:30.
- 7 Taupo Thermal Park, County Ave (From the Taupo Bungy, follow Spa Rd and turn left after 200 m). Find the bridge with the hot river that merges with the cold river. free of charge.
- Starlight Cinema Centre, Starlight Arcade, Horomatangi St, ☎ , (Info Line), fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. All cinemas air conditioned & wheelchair accessible.
Family & children
- 8 Mind Junction (fomerly Taupo Puzzle World), cnr SH 5 and Palmer Mill Rd (12.5 km north of Taupo), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Daily 10:00-16:00.
- Lilliput Farm (Fun & Animal Park), 136 Link Rd, Oruanui (10 km from Taupo - SH1 to Hamilton, Link Rd is first on the left, 4 km from the Wairakei turn off), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Weekdays 10AM-2PM, weekends & public holidays 10AM-4PM. Adults $12, children 2-15 yrs $6, family pass (2 adults + 2 children) $30.
- Taupo Horse Treks, Karapiti Rd, Wairakei Forest. Daily. Bookings essential.
- Experience Taupo, 57 Tongariro St, ☎ . Bookings for all Taupo-based adventure tourism.
- I-Site Taupo, Tongariro St, ☎ .
Over recent years the event industry in Taupo has been thriving. A combination of attractive venues and a supportive community have been key to this growth. Taupo now hosts a number of major international and national events, including:
- Taupo Events (EventFinder.co.nz). Taupo has a lot more events than just these, although these are main events - they aren't the only ones. This is a list of all of the current events happening right now, tomorrow and next week!
- Great Lake Cycle Challenge. Started in 1977 with just 30 riders, this 153km 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. Taupo 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. The world's greatest team challenge to overcome poverty and injustice offers you a rewarding physical endeavour, a fun experience to share with friends and colleagues and the chance to do something amazing for yourself and others.
- 1 Riverside Market (Taupos Local Marketplace), Riverside Park, ☎ (Sue). Sa 10:00-13:00. Seasonal Fruits & Veges, Cakes & Biscuits, Apparel, Lavender Products, Free Range Eggs, Jewellery, Fresh Baked Bread, Curios & Collectables, Preserves, Arts & Craft, Books & Flowers. Also Car Boot Sale - First Saturday of every month.
- 1 McDonald's, 48 Roberts St (cnr Ruapehu St), ☎ . 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.
- BodyFuel Cafe, 67 Tongariro St (on SH1 opposite Information Centre), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Daily 7:30AM-5:30PM.
- Eruption Cafe, Shop 15 Suncourt Plaza, 19 Tamamutu St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 7AM-4PM; Sa, Su 8AM-3PM.
- Replete, 45 Heu Heu St, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 7:45AM-5PM; Sa, Su 8:30AM-late afternoon.
- 2 Plateau, 64 Tuwharetoa St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 12:00 to late.
- 3 Ploughmans, 43-45 Charles Cres, Rainbow Point, ☎ . Daily 12:00 to late.
- 4 Waterside Restaurant & Bar, 3 Tongariro St (near the lake on the corner of Tongariro St and Lake Terrace), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 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, which is open from 4-10pm. Dinner mains $20–40; lunch: $12.
- Tank Juice Bar, 3 Horomatangi St (next door to Soundz Music on the corner), ☎ . Situated in Taupo township - fantastic, refreshing and thirst quenching juices.
- Dbar, 22 Tuwharetoa St, ☎ . Bar and gaming lounge.
- 1 Finn MacCuals Irish Pub, 10 Tuwharetoa St, ☎ .
- 2 Mulligan's Public House, 15 Tongariro St, ☎ . Daily 16:00-late. Irish/backpackers bar.
- 3 Pitch Sports Bar, 38-40 Tuwharetoa St, ☎ .
- 4 Plateau, 64 Tuwharetoa St, ☎ . 11:30-late.
- Tomi's, 18 Tuwharetoa St, ☎ . Bar/restaurant.
- 1 All Seasons Kiwi Holiday Park, 16 Rangatira St, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 777 272, fax: . $24-160.
- 2 De Bretts Spa Resort, 76 Napier-Taupo Rd (SH 5), ☎ , fax: .
- 3 Great Lake Taupo Holiday Park, 406 Acacia Bay Rd, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 473 280, fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. $24-199.
- 4 Lake Taupo Holiday Resort, 41 Centennial Dr, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 332 121, fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Lake Taupo Holiday Resort is a destination in itself with a spectacular tropical style pool with swim-up bar plus café, and being geothermally heated it will keep you lovely and warm year round. Located 5 minutes from Taupo city centre and sprawled across 8 hectares of park land, the resort is a hidden oasis surrounded by nature and offers comfortable, clean accommodation ranging from motels, cabins and sites for your campervan, RV, tent or boat.
- 5 Berkenhoff Lodge, 75 Scannell St (cnr Duncan St), ☎ . $26-$72 per person.
- 6 Finns Global Backpackers, 8 Tuwharetoa St (cnr Tongariro St), ☎ , toll-free: 0800 4645 6225 (from NZ only), fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 7 Rainbow Lodge Backpackers Retreat, 99 Titiraupenga St (cnr Scannel Street), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
- 8 Silver Fern Lodge, 118 Tamamutu St (cnr Kaimanawa St), ☎ .
- 9 Taupo Urban Retreat, 65 Heuheu St, ☎ , toll-free: 0508 666 237, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 10 Tiki Lodge, 104 Tuwharetoa St, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 845 456.
- 11 YHA Taupo (Finlay Jack's Backpackers), 20 Taniwha Street, ☎ . beds from $27, single room from $45.
- 12 Chevron Motel, 102 Tamamutu St, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 243 876, fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- Motel Taupo, 50 Wharewaka Rd, ☎ .
- 13 The Cove, 213 Lake Terrace (opp Napier Taupo Rd), ☎ .
- 14 Hilton Lake Taupo Hotel, 80-100 Napier-Taupo Road, ☎ .
- 15 Huka Falls Resort, 56 Huka Falls Rd, Rangitira Park (entrance of The Boulevard), ☎ .
- Mainstay Lakeland Resort, 282 Lake Terrace, ☎ .
- 16 Millennium Hotel & Resort Manuels, 243 Lake Terrace, Waipahihi, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 555 511.
- 17 Quality Inn Lake Taupo, 100-102 Lake Terrace (cnr Huia St), ☎ .
- 18 Suncourt Hotel, 14 Northcroft St (cnr Kaimanawa St), ☎ , toll-free: 0800 786 268.
- 19 Wairakei Resort, Wairakei Dr, Wairakei, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 737 678.
- Acacia Waters, 27 Te Urunga Pl, Acacia Bay, ☎ .
- Aultmore Hollow, 615 River Rd, Broadlands, ☎ .
- Chalet Eiger, Acacia Bay, ☎ .
- 20 Huka Lodge, 271 Huka Falls Rd, ☎ . $695-$4620 per person per night.
- 21 Lake Taupo Lodge, 41 Mapara Rd, Acacia Bay, ☎ .
- 22 The Pillars, 7 Deborah Rise, Bowman Park, ☎ .
- The Point Villas, Rangatira Point, ☎ .
- 23 Tauhara Sunrise Lodge, 38 Mapara Rd, Acacia Bay, ☎ . Two suites and a cottage.
- 24 Te Moenga Lodge, 60 Te Moenga Park, Acacia Bay, ☎ .
- 25 Voyager Apartments Taupo, 9 Tui St, ☎ . Fifty metres from the lake-front, one km south of the main shopping precinct. Comprises 16 superior 4.5 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.
Accessing the Internet is simple and easy, with Internet cafes and wireless hotspots available in the city centre, motels, restaurants, bars and clubs.
Available wireless hotspots
Wireless hotspots available within numerous areas or that cover a large area.