18 amazing things to do in Tūrangi

Are you looking for amazing things to do in Tūrangi on your next New Zealand adventure? Join us as we uncover incredible hidden gems and fan favourites on this rundown of the best activities in the area.

Tūrangi may not be as well known as tourist hotspots like Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington, Queenstown and Aoraki/Mount Cook.

In fact, if you’re a traveller from outside of New Zealand, you might not even have heard of this tiny town.

But this gorgeous area, located near Taupō, is an ideal getaway for city slickers who need a break.

You’ll find it near the Kaimanawa Mountains on the banks of the Tongariro River and Lake Taupō. It is also located conveniently close to Tongariro National Park and Mount Ruapehu.

Boasting everything from thermal pools to breathtaking river trails and fishing spots, it’s a nature lover’s dream!

Whether you’re visiting Tūrangi for the first time or simply want to refresh your itinerary for a return trip, we’ve got you covered.

On this list of things to do in Tūrangi, we’ve included something for practically every type of traveller.

We’re confident we’ll have you counting down the days until your adventure!

The best things to do in Tūrangi

In no particular order, let’s dive in and explore the best of Tūrangi.

1. Visit the place where the ka mate haka was born

First up on our list of the best things to do in Tūrangi, we have the iconic ka mate haka!

If you didn’t know, the intimidating haka was born just minutes from Tūrangi in the small village of Opotaka.

This area is still incredibly historical and holds the remnants of the old Māori settlement from years past.

Head along to the Opotaka Historic Reserve to visit the historic Māori pā site (fortified village) and to learn about this world-famous war dance.

We’ll level with you and say that you won’t be able to watch the All Blacks performing the haka here. But the amazing views of Mount Tongariro and Lake Rotoaira, and the fascinating artefacts make the trip worth it.

If you’re not sure what a Māori haka looks like, this is just one of many…

Te Ponanga Saddle Road, Otukou 3382

2. Explore the Tongariro River Trail

The Tongariro River Trail is a popular choice for bikers and hikers so it certainly deserves a spot on our list of things to do in Tūrangi!

The trail runs for around 15km along the Tongariro River, making it one of the most aesthetic walks in the area.

It is classed as a grade 2 walking and cycling track. This means facilities are usually basic, and the tracks can be slightly rough – it’s targeted at a slightly more adventurous type of traveller.

Overall, it is a suitable walk for anyone who leads a moderately active lifestyle, but if you don’t want to go full-whack with the entire loop, you can easily cut part of the walk out by heading to Major Jones Bridge.

And hey – the many entrance points across the trail make it incredibly easy to dip in and out.

1 Tahawai Street, Tūrangi 3334

A narrow bridge seen at a far distance above the rocky  Tongariro River with tress surrounding the banks.
The Tongariro River Trail. Photo: Department of Conversation.

3. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

If hiking around volcanic areas and sweeping mountainous landscapes sounds glorious, then you’ll love the Tongariro Crossing.

This track is just a 25-minute drive from Tūrangi, making it a fantastic starting point for the nearly-20km hike around the area.

A bucketlist walk for many, it’s incredibly remote. You’ll be able to explore the craters, dramatic peaks, and otherworldly vistas in relative peace…

Well, alongside other tourists of course.

Plus, did we mention that this is one of the famous settings for the Lord of the Rings trilogy?

Yep – you’ll spot Mordor and Mount Doom making an appearance here.

Just be warned that the full walk takes a full day and can be quite draining. As the track is not a loop, you’ll need to organise transport in advance too.

So, try and start early to avoid the worst of the afternoon heat and pack plenty of sustenance!

A backpacker standing on the edge of a small green lake in the middle of a mountain ranges.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Photo: Camilla Rutherford.

4. Visit Lake Rotopounamu

New Zealand is known for its breathtaking views and outstanding natural beauty – and Tūrangi is no exception to that rule.

A visit to Lake Rotopounamu should be all Tūrangi itineraries because it has a striking green hue that looks incredible in photos. It’s one of the best short walks in the area.

Although you can park at the designated car park off State Highway 47 for a quick photo, we recommend doing the long walk here. It takes approximately 2 hours and takes you through the surrounding beaches and stunning forestry around the lake.

Trust us, it’s well worth pulling on your hiking boots for.

Plus, the parking spot is only 8km from central Tūrangi, making it an easy activity to slot into a chilled afternoon.

Tourists with backpacks walking along the white sandy coast of Lake Rotopounamu with trees up ahead.

5. Go river rafting

National Park is a really popular spot for white water rafting (which is why we had to include it on our list of things to do in Tūrangi!).

The rapids on the Tongariro River are Grade 3 and 4, making them suitable for most ages and skill levels.

Just make sure you’re fully prepped and able to confidently swim if you want to take on Grade 4 stretches of the river.

Whatever trip you choose, you’ll pass gorgeous scenery, river gorges, and beautiful patches of NZ countryside.

Talk about getting your money’s worth!

If you want to go with a safe and reliable company, we highly recommend Tongariro River Rafting which has worked with over 200,000 customers.

Tourists with paddles, helmets, and life jackets in a raft navigating through turbulent white water rapids.
White water rafting is a fun way to enjoy nature in NZ. Photo: Charles Brewer.

5. Explore the Kaimanawa Forest Park

If you’re planning a trip to Tūrangi, then you need to include a trip to Kaimanawa Forest Park on your itinerary.

Not only is it a fantastic place for mountain biking (if you’re at grade 4/advanced levels), but it’s perfect for hiking.

There’s an excellent walking track here that takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete that takes you past two stunning gorges – it’s called the Tree Trunk Gorge track.

If you’d prefer a shorter walk, the Kaimanawa Forest Loop Walk is just 1.1km and can be done in 20 minutes flat.

Whether you spend time marvelling at the red beech trees or appreciating the local wildlife, this park is a must-visit spot.

A man crossing the narrow swing bridge with safety handrails and net on the sides and trees on the surroundings.
The 40m swing bridge over the Pillars of Hercules gorge, departing from the Urchin Campsite in the Kaimanawa Forest Park. Photo: Benhi Dixon.

7. Try out trout fishing

We appreciate that fishing isn’t for everyone but when trout is this abundant, we recommend you pick up a Taupō fishing licence and hit the lake or river to try out your angling skills!

And hey – Tūrangi is the trout capital of the world, after all!

On the shore of Tūrangi, Lake Taupō is the most popular place to visit for rainbow trout fishing, as is the Tongariro River.

If you’re new to the area, you’ll want to keep a keen eye out for designated fishing spots (that should be marked).

To fish in this area, you need to have a Taupō District fishing license. This can be purchased online in advance, or from many shops in the area. Choose a 24-hour, 1-week or season-long licence – whatever suits the amount of time you’ll be in the area.

Whatever you do, don’t skip this step!

Trout fishing on the Ngongotaha River - a man holding a trout in his hand, with a clear river behind him.
Photo: Peta Salton, NZTT member.

8. Walk through the Tongariro National Trout Centre

Next on our list of the best things to do in Tūrangi, we have the Tongariro National Trout Centre.

Now, we’ve already said that Tūrangi is known for its trout, and this museum really drives the point home.

Inside this wildlife conservation area, you’ll find various trout species and get to learn all about their behaviours and hatching habits.

It also explains the importance of environmental conservation and tells you all about the area’s freshwater fishing history.

Best of all though, you’ll have the opportunity to try your hand at fly fishing there, under the watchful eye of an experienced fisherman or woman. They’ll even cook what you catch for you.

We recommend spending a couple of hours here, but you can whizz around in one if you just want to hit the highlights.

257 State Highway 1, Rangipo 3382

A corridor inside the Tongariro National Trout Centre with a long aquarium on the left side and a handrail on the left, leading to more aquariums down the hallway.
Photo: Tongariro National Trout Centre.

Head up Mount Ruapehu

9. Tramp/hike Mt Ruapehu

Feeling up to a serious physical challenge?

You might want to add a trek around (or up) Mount Ruapehu to your list of things to do in Tūrangi.

Although this area is more popular with skiers during New Zealand’s winter months, it’s also a popular spot for hikers.

The mountain itself is tucked away inside Tongariro National Park, with the Crater Climb taking approximately 7 hours to conquer.

Before you go, you’ll need to be aware that this hike is only for expert climbers who have plenty of difficult trekking trails under their belt.

If you’re even remotely unsure, tackle the route with an experienced guide and don’t be afraid to turn back at any point.

Otherwise, enjoy the immense views and volcanic features you’ll encounter along the way.

⚠️ Māori tikanga (protocol): Local iwi (tribes) consider mountains in Tongariro National Park to be sacred. For this reason, many people prefer not to climb Mount Ruapehu.

If you are set on doing it, do not go right to the summit; it is more respectful to stand a few metres to the side.

10. Ski, snowboard and toboggan

During the winter season, Mt Ruapehu springs into life at Turoa and Whakapapa ski fields.

Hire snow gear locally or up the mountain and head to the slopes to enjoy a day of wintery fun.

Lessons are available if you’ve never skied or boarded before, or you can simply ride the Sky Waka gondola or a chairlift up the mountain for scenic views.

Did you know? Whakapapa is the closest ski field to Tūrangi (and it’s our favourite), but you might like to pop over to Turoa if you’re planning a number of days on the mountain.

A tourist beneath the cable cars looking at the snow covered surroundings of Mt. Ruapehu.
Ski and snowboard at Turoa.

11. Marvel at Taranaki Falls

Who doesn’t love a gorgeous waterfall? We certainly do!

Taranaki Falls is another gem that’s right inside Tongariro National Park. It cascades an impressive 20 metres over a cliffside, splashing into the pool below.

You’ll reach these falls by walking the 6km Taranaki Falls Track. It takes around 2 hours to complete at a decent pace.

Along the way, you’ll find tussock, shrublands, and plenty of beech forest that houses local flora and fauna.

But the surrounding area is also ideal for short hikes and exploring Tūrangi’s volcanic landscape.

If you have a keen eye for wildlife spotting, you might even spot a few native New Zealand animals like skylarks and warblers.

Waters coming out at the top of the rocky cliffs of Taranaki Falls.
Photo: Sitoo.

Get up close to geothermal activity

12. Thermal walk

If you’re visiting New Zealand to soak in hot springs and explore mud pools, then Tūrangi has got you covered.

The Tokaanu Thermal Walk is one of the most famous geothermal areas in the National Park area.

Not only does it take just 20 minutes to complete (which is perfect for short trips), but the surroundings are truly beautiful.

You’ll see the pools themselves, but you’ll also find native bush and towering trees protecting and shading the area.

The walk is just 6km from Tūrangi and it only takes a few minutes on State Highway 41 if you’re driving here.

Just be warned that the bubbling mud pools on the Thermal Walk are way too hot to swim or soak in – for that, you’ll want to head to the neighbouring pools.

The shallow Tokaanu Thermal Pools with steam coming out and a visible lake floor containing mud and fallen branches.
Photo: Tokaanu Thermal Pools.

13. Thermal Pools

The Tokaanau Thermal Pools have private and communal natural mineral pools.

They’re open every day (apart from Christmas Day) and offer a super affordable hot pool experience.

These aren’t the fanciest pools around by any means, but they’re the perfect place to unwind after a busy day.

Mangaroa Street, Tokaanu 3381

Tourist swimming in the private Tokaanau Thermal Pools in front of a structure surrounded by wooden fence, trees beyond them, and a glimpse of a beautiful sunset sky.
The Tokaanau Thermal Pools are the perfect place to relax after a day on the mountain, trail or river.

14. Play a round of mini golf

Tūrangi is home to a fun mini golf course – Adventure Mini Golf.

It’s a fairly challenging 18-hole course, modelled off natural features found in the Central Plateau. Volcanoes, rivers, military tanks – you’ll find a range of quirky holes to play here.

If you’re looking for affordable entertainment for an hour or two, this is a great choice located right in the middle of town.

19 Ohuanga Road, Tūrangi 3334

A white golf ball resting inside the hole of a manicured green course with a pole.

15. Go horse riding

Korohe Horse Treks is situated just out to Tūrangi, heading in the direction of Taupō.

With a focus on the well-being of their horses, this whānau shows guests the region’s beautiful scenery by horseback.

Though they have a number of rides available, we recommend booking one that includes swimming your horse in the river. It’s an experience seldom offered on treks and a great opportunity to do something special.

29 Keepa Road, Tūrangi 3382

Tourists including a kid riding horses and crossing a river which is a bit deep.
Photo: Korohe Horse Treks.

16. Visit a nearby village

Lake Taupō is home to several smaller towns, each of them with its own charm.

While in the area, we recommend paying a visit to Kuratau, Pukawa, Omori, Motuoapa and Waitetoko Beach, for example.

Depending on the one you choose, you might find a playground, access to Lake Taupō, a scenic reserve or place to eat.

It’s also possible to rent a bach (holiday home) in many of these little towns – perfect if you’re looking for a relaxed vacation.

Or, if you’re looking for something more, make the 45-minute drive to Taupō where you’ll find amazing attractions including the Huka Falls and Aratiatia Rapids, along with lots of free things to do.

While in Taupō, also be sure to check out one of the wonderful hot pools and stop by McDonald’s to eat in a real aeroplane!

Two persons riding a mountain bike beside a calm river.
We love nearby Taupō. Photo: Fraser Clements.

17. Spend a day by Lake Taupō

Lake Taupō is one of the most famous natural locations in the North Island, and you’ll find it right on the shores of Tūrangi.

As the biggest lake in New Zealand, Lake Taupō is a great spot to swim, kayak, SUP, waterski and fish.

There’s even a hole-in-one golf challenge if you head as far around as Taupō.

If you’d prefer to stay dry, the shore of Lake Taupō is a great place to enjoy a picnic or fish and chips as the sun sets.

18. Visit the Lost Lagoon of Kuratau

Perhaps the best-kept secret in the region, the Lost Lagoon of Kuratau is absolutely stunning.

With crystal clear water and a beautiful bush setting, this lagoon is tucked away from the rest of the world – but it’s only a 10-minute walk from the car park!

Though the pool is relatively small, there’s plenty of room for those that want to swim (though we will warn you, it’s glacial cold year-round). It is also deep enough to jump from the cliff on the side (but always check to ensure water levels are high enough).

Where can you find this secret spot? Though it’s near Kuratau, it’s not actually in town. You’ll find it about a 15-minute drive from Tūrangi.

We’ll let one of our NZTT members share her tried-and-tested instructions to get there…

From Turangi take SH41 heading towards Kuratau then take SH32 Western Bay road. If you pass Kuratau school you’ve missed the turn-off.

Turn right onto Kuratau hydro road. there’s a bend in the road with a gate on the right hand side (this gate is sometimes closed for maintenance so you’ll be unable to access the lagoon). Go through the gate, down an unsealed track – you should see the hydro pipes. Keep left when the track splits; you’ll then come to a dead end where you will park.

If you find yourself at the hydro station, you’ve gone too far – back up approximately 100 metres.

Just to the right is a path that will take you through the trees; 10 minutes and you should arrive at the lagoon

Bev Cochrane, NZTT member

⚠️ Caution: This lagoon is included in a catchment that is used by a working power station. Control gates operate above the lagoon, and as such, there is a risk in visiting and swimming here should they be opened. Read the signs when you arrive to ensure you are comfortable visiting.

The clear calm waters of the Lost Lagoon of Kuratau surrounded by rocks and trees.
Photo: Bev Cochrane, NZTT member.

There you have it: the ultimate list of things to do in Tūrangi!

As you can see, there are several fascinating things you can get up to in Tūrangi.

So, pop on those hiking boots, grab your camera and get to it.

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