7 must-do experiences in Lake Taupō

About 3.5 hours’ drive south of Auckland lies the hugely magnificent inland sea of Lake Taupō, one of the North Island’s most popular tourist destinations. Roughly the size of Singapore and boasting an embarrassing array of natural splendour, Taupō is an adventurer’s paradise with plenty of options for water pursuits, hiking and mountain biking. If it’s a chilled-out vibe you’re seeking, there’s also the hot springs that Taupō is famous for to enjoy, plus many vantage points for strolling by the lake or taking in a stunning sunset.

With so many experiences to choose from, pulling together your lake-side holiday plan could be tricky. However, we’ve got you covered with our list of seven must-do Taupō experiences.

1.  Take your pick of water sports           

With its clean, refreshing waters giving way to the rushing power of the great Waikato River, there are plenty of opportunities to embark on a marine adventure at Taupō.  From relaxing scenic boat cruises to kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, water skiing, wake boarding or white-water rafting, there’s something for everyone on the lake and its surrounds.

2. Relax in natural hot springs

Lake Taupō was created from a series of hugely impactful volcanic eruptions occuring over the last 26,000 years and the area surrounding the lake still experiences ongoing geothermal activity, including in the form of numerous hot springs and geothermal pools. Be sure to take advantage of the hot, mineral rich water when visiting Taupō; free access to hot springs is available at Otumuheke  Stream in Spa Thermal Park, or for a resort-style dip, head to Taupo Debretts, AC Baths or Wairakei Terraces and Thermal Health Spa.

3. Visit the Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon in Wairakei Park is a geothermal phenomenon comprising of steam vents, geysers and bubbling hot mud pools. Appearing in the 1950s and attributable to the reduction of underground water levels caused by a nearby geothermal power station, visitors can wander through this other-worldly cauldron on specially constructed wooden walkways and catch a glimpse into the region’s fascinating geological composition.

4.  Experience the majesty of Huka Falls

New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato flows through Lake Taupō and continues from the lake’s north-eastern edge to create the spectacular, free-running beauty of Huka Falls.  Visitors can access this popular tourist destination with a 10 minute drive north from the centre of Taupō. Hikers can also make their way to the falls with a comfortable 90 minute walk from Spa Thermal Park and be treated to spectacular river views along the way. For an up-close-and-personal experience, book in a jetboat ride up the Waikato to experience the thundering force of the falls from its base.

5. Test your golf skills with the Taupo Hole in One Challenge

The Lake Taupō Hole In One Challenge has been operating since 1993 and is a favourite activity for locals and visitors alike.  With NZD10,000 prize money up for grabs for punters who nail a hole-in-one on the Red flag (102 meters from the shoreline), extra golf balls on offer for anyone who manages to hit the pontoon and stunning lake views to take in, it’s easy to understand why the Hole In One Challenge is consistently rated as one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist activities.   

6. Mountain bike through Craters Mountain Bike Park

With over 50km of bike trails ranging from entry level (suitable for the kids) to technical cross-country tracks, Craters Mountain Bike Park is located on the northern outskirts of Taupō and provides plenty of options for short rides through to full-day biking adventures. The trails weave through the pine and eucalyptus bush of Wairakei Forrest with uphill trails treating riders to spectacular views of Lake Taupō and the Waikato River.

7. Kayak to the Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings

The Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings, which  depict Ngātoroirangi, an important historical figure for the local Maori tribe of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, is one of the most spectacular examples of contemporary Māori artwork in New Zealand.  Created over a four-year period beginning in 1976 by Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell, one of the last traditional marae-taught carvers in New Zealand, the extraordinary artwork can be experienced in its full glory with a kayak across to the western edges of Lake Taupō.

To get started on your Lake Taupō adventure, check out Virgin  Australia's range of great value fares to Auckland and  hire a car with one of Virgin Australia's car hire partners and enjoy the drive south to the Taupō region. If it's a tailored Lake Taupo holiday package you're after, Virgin Australia Holidays has you covered with a range of packages to suit all budgets.


Words by Rebecca Walker. Image courtesy of Maryann Turner - Published 12 April 2019
Quick Facts 
Population 1.415 million
Area 1,086 km2
Time Zone GMT +12
Languages English (official)
Currency New Zealand dollar (NZD)
Electricity 220 – 240v 50Hz
Share this article 
facebook Twitter Pinterest Google
Related Articles 
See and do
The best après ski in New Zealand
Go from a day on the mountain to a night in a pumping après ski bar, and find out why there’s nothing like winter in New Zealand.
Read more
See and do
The best New Zealand ski resorts for beginners
Hit the slopes this winter at one of these incredible resorts.
Read more
Travel tips
In pictures: Holiday season round the world
A festive look at the ways we celebrate holiday season around the world.
Read more