The top 10 things to do in Taupō

The town of Taupō is one of the best bases when it comes to exploring the North Island.

Located on the shore of Lake Taupō, and close to Tongariro National Park – it’s in the perfect holiday destination. Plus, with a beautiful backdrop (including scenic mountain views) and plenty of activities, it’s great for travellers.

Whether you are looking for a bit of adventure, an adrenaline rush or simply to relax, Taupō has it all.

We love this place, and we’re sure you will too!

Some businesses are experiencing staffing challenges post-COVID. If you want to guarantee a space at a restaurant or attraction, we suggest pre-booking.

A mother and his child enjoying the hot springs of Spa Park in Taupo.
The Spa Park in Taupō.

10 of the Best Things to Do in Taupō

To help you make the most out of your stay, we’ve found the ABSOLUTE best things to do here!

Each one has been handpicked for you. Whether it’s natural beauty, convenience or cultural factors, each of them is worth your time.

Without further ado, let’s go through the top things to do in Taupō!

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1. Check out Lake Taupō

The beautiful Lake Taupō is the largest lake in New Zealand. It’s no wonder, given it was created by the forces of a super-volcano eruption.

It’s a haven for tourists and adventure travellers who want to get involved with the outdoor activities on offer.

For keen fishermen, Lake Taupō is especially popular, with large stocks of rainbow and brown trout to catch.

If fishing isn’t your thing, the large blue waters of the lake are perfect for taking a swim, kayaking, or taking a scenic cruise. The cruises also head out to the Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings.

If you don’t fancy heading out onto the lake, there is the famous ‘Hole in One’ Challenge.

This challenge requires you to hit golf balls out 102m onto a floating pontoon within Lake Taupō. If you manage to put it, you win the ultimate prize of $10,000 in cash!

Plus, you’ll get to stay dry whilst taking on the challenge.

2. Marvel at the Huka Falls

Visiting the thundering Huka Falls is one of our favourite Taupō activities, and it also happens to be free!

As New Zealand’s longest river plunges over the ledge, an insane 220,000 litres of water blasts down the falls every second. The word Huka means “foam” in Maori, and once you see these beautiful falls you’ll understand why!

There are two ways to visit Huka Falls – you can either hike to them or get up close with a jet boat ride.

There is a beautiful hiking trail from the town of Taupō to Huka Falls, which is easy and takes around an hour. Or, you can drive nice and close and just walk the last 5 minutes.

Whatever you choose, you can view the falls from above via the footbridge and viewing platforms.

If this doesn’t sound exciting enough for you, you can choose to take a jet boat through the gorge and right up to Huka Falls’ base. It’s an adrenaline rush amongst breathtaking beauty.

Seven kilometres upstream, you can also find the Huka-Aratiatia Dam Car Park, which is one of the best campsites in Taupō, with great walking trails along the Waikato River.

3. Take a Scenic Float Plane or Helicopter Ride

Taking a scenic helicopter or plane ride is a real bucket list addition to your Taupō itinerary.

No matter whether you decide to go in a helicopter or floatplane, you will have stunning views of Lake Taupō, volcanic landscapes, and sparkling rivers.

There are plenty of packages you can choose from, so if you want to keep the cost down you can keep it local.

However, if you don’t mind spending the cash it’s possible to go on flights over Tongariro National Park, the Mount Tarawera fault line, and even as far as White Island.

This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one we recommend you don’t miss!

4. Take on an Adventure Activity in Taupō

If you’re an adventurous traveller, you’ll have plenty of options in Taupō.

There are a variety of adventure activities located in and around town, and they vary in cost and of course adrenaline rush!

Lake Taupō and the Waikato River are the settings for many of these, with opportunities to go parasailing and white water rafting.

If you’re a real thrill seeker, then we recommend Taupō Bungy. It’s New Zealand’s highest water-touch bungee experience, as it plunges you headfirst down to Waikato River, from an impressive 47m.

If you’re keen for a rush (but aren’t quite up to a bungy), they also have an extreme swing, which reaches speeds of 70kpm. We can assure you – it’s a whole heap of fun!

If you want an even better view of the lake, say from around 15,000ft high, why not go skydiving!?

There are also over a dozen mountain bike trails in the area if you’re looking for something a bit more mellow.

Finally, Rock n’ Ropes is a popular Taupō attraction for adventure-seekers. They have a high wire ropes course, plus their terrifying ‘Rock Drop’. On this challenge, participants take the ultimate leap of faith as they jump from a 5-storey tower (with no ropes or harnesses), down to a giant airbag waiting to catch them!

A shirtless man spreading his arms while diving on a bungy jump.
Photo: Mead Norton.

5. Visit the Aratiatia Scenic Reserve

If you’re looking something free to do in Taupō, then heading to the Aratiatia Scenic Reserve is a perfect choice.

This lush forest is full of walking trails and mountain biking trails, so has something for everyone.

However, the highlight of visiting the reserve is watching the Aratiatia Dam gates open.

The gates open three times a day and are an incredible sight.

Once they open, the dry gorge is turned into a series of rapids with water flowing at an impressive 90,000 litres per second.

If you want the best view, there is a pedestrian bridge located right over the dam gates.

Or even better, hop on board New Zealand’s only commercial white water jet boat and ride the freshly formed rapids. What a thrill!

630 Aratiatia Road, Rotokawa 3377

Two women enjoying the speedboat ride while holding on to the rail.

6.  Explore the Tongariro National Park – Tramping and Skiing

The Tongariro National Park is one of the top places to visit when in Taupō.

It became New Zealand’s first national park in 1984 and is a place you don’t want to miss with its looming mountains, beautiful scenery and great hikes.

The National Park is easily accessible from Taupō with regular shuttle buses making the 1-hour journey.

The drive itself is easy though, so if you have a car, you’ll definitely want to self-drive.

Of course, one of the most popular things to do within Tongariro National Park is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

It’s arguably the best day hike in New Zealand, and at a length of 19.5km, it’s pretty challenging. To truly enjoy the scenery, you want to give yourself at least 7-8 hours to complete it.

Mount Ruapehu is another popular attraction. It’s possible to hike right up the mountain ridge to the crater lake, though most choose to ski and snowboard on the mountain during the winter season. You’ll want to hit either Whakapapa or Turoa if skiing is your thing.

If you don’t fancy the exertion, you can also take a scenic chair-lift up to 2,020m above sea level and just soak in the scenery.

At the top, you will enjoy beautiful views of Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe.

Whakapapa Village, State Highway 48, Mount Ruapehu

Couples leaning at the fence of a glass lodge while looking at the snow-capped Mt. Ruapehu.
Mount Ruapehu offers skiing, snow boarding, sightseeing and more. Photo credit: Miles Holden.

7. Hike Up Mt Tauhara

Mount Tauhara is a dormant volcano that reaches 1,088m (3,570 ft) above sea level.

The start of the hike is a 15-minute drive outside of Taupō and is incredibly rewarding.

The trail is around 2.5km in total and is pretty challenging and steep in places. It’s also important to wear sturdy footwear on this hike, as the trail isn’t particularly well-maintained – so expect some scrambling!

It’s worth the effort though as from the top of Mt Tauhara, you will enjoy a panoramic view of Lake Taupō, the Central North Island and Mt. Tongariro.

The views are honestly something else, making it an experience you don’t want to miss whilst in Taupō.

8. Walk Around Craters of the Moon

Whilst visiting this incredible town, we recommend checking out Craters of the Moon.

It was unexpectedly created in the 1950s when a nearby geothermal power station lowered underground water pressure. This led to superheated water rising to the surface, and escaping through any vent it could find.

Today, it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area.

It follows a great walking trail made up of wooden boardwalks. These have been constructed throughout the reserve, to allow people to get up close to this unique scenery. However, they are regularly moved as new vents emerge!

To get the best view of Craters of the Moon, you want to walk up the viewing platform. From here you’ll get a panoramic view of this geothermal valley, with its vents, steam and bubbling mud.

171 Karapiti Road, Wairakei, Taupō 3377

A father and his kid walking on a wooden walkway that leads to a steaming ground.

9. Visit Orakei Korako

If you only have the time to visit one geothermal spot in New Zealand, then make it this one!

Orakei Korako is known as the ‘hidden valley’ and is a truly unique spot. It can only be accessed by a short ferry trip across Lake Ohakuri, making it all the more special.

Here you can admire geysers, bubbling mud pools, hot springs and silica terraces coated in strange and colourful algae.

However, that’s not all that’s on offer at Orakei Korako.

You can also walk to the platform that overlooks Ruatapu Cave – the only geothermal cave in New Zealand, and one of two located in the entire world.

Although you can’t enter the cave, it’s still a unique sight to see!

494 Orākei Kōrako Road, Taupō 3083

Shades of blue, white, yellow and brown at the Orakei Korako geothermal nature park.

10. Bathe at the Wairakei Terraces

The Wairakei Terraces are a series of thermal mineral pools.

Previously used by local Māori tribes for centuries, today, they are one of the top tourist attractions in Taupō.

These pools are located under a white silica terrace, with a waterfall that replenishes the beautiful aqua waters.

They are the perfect place to relax for a couple of hours and just slow down during your travels. In fact, after a couple of days hiking around Taupō’s scenic surroundings, these waters are perfect for soothing those tired and achy muscles.

671 Wairakei Drive, Wairakei, Taupō 3384

Did you know? You can also pair a visit to Wairakei Terraces, with a cultural tour to help you discover more about Māori heritage in the region.

Couples having a sweet talk in the hot springs of Wairakei Terraces.

As you can see, Taupō offers so much to see and do.

With beautiful scenery and plenty of activities to get your blood pumping, what’s not to love?

Whether you want to hike up dormant volcanoes, take a leisurely cruise on Lake Taupō or test your adrenaline with a terrifying bungy jump – this place truly has it all.

Have you been to Taupō before?

If you have, we’d love to head about your favourite experiences in the comments below!

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