The Must-Dos in Taupo: The Adventure Capital of the North Island
On the shore’s of New Zealand’s largest lake, the town of Taupo is a must-stop on any North Island road trip. The town offers many amazing outdoor pursuits, from fishing on the lake to epic mountain bike trails. Feel your heartbeat with unforgettable skydiving, jet boating, bungy jumping and white water rafting. Alternatively, relax in geothermal hot pools or with a coffee at one of the many quaint cafes. It almost feels like the possibilities are endless in this attractive small town, so get started with this list of things to do in Taupo.
1. Visit the Mighty Huka Falls
See what all the fuss is about at New Zealand’s most-visited natural attraction, Huka Falls! Check out where the Waikato River squeezes into a narrow ravine blasting around 220,000 litres (58,118 gallons) of water every second. Experience this natural wonder for yourself on either the walkway with several viewing points, on a jet boat ride with Hukafalls Jet (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), or get a birds-eye-view with an Inflite helicopter flight (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Location: Huka Falls Road, 6km (4 miles) from Taupo
2. Explore the Geothermal Parks
As mentioned, Lake Taupo is a pretty impressive volcanic feature in itself, but there is more geothermal activity to see around the town. Visit the Craters of the Moon, a geothermal walkway with steaming vents and bubbling mud pools. There’s the Wairakei Thermal Valley, or venture 30 minutes north of Taupo to find one of the most colourful attractions of the area, Orakei Korako Geothermal Park – more info on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Craters of the Moon – Karapito Road, 7km (4 miles) from Taupo. Wairakei Thermal Valley – 9km (6 miles) from Taupo. Orakei Korako – Tutukau Road, 37km (23 miles) from Taupo.
3. Raft the Tongariro River
Ok, technically this one is not in Taupo but in nearby Turangi, however, daily free pick-ups leave from Taupo! That counts for something, right? Tackling the mighty Tongariro River is a thrilling experience, especially in autumn, the high water season. Book your trip with Tongariro River Rafting. See more activities like this in the 10 Things to Do in Taupo with Kids.
Location: Turangi, approximately 45km (28 miles) from Taupo. Taupo pick-up is available with Tongariro River Rafting.
4. Sail or Kayak to the Maori Rock Carvings
Mine Bay, located on the shore of Lake Taupo, is only accessible on water. The cliffs hide an impressive 10-metre (33ft) high Maori carving. See the carvings by either joining a relaxing sailing tour with Sail Barbary (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Sail Fearless (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Alternatively, kayaking to the carvings is a great adventure with Canoe and Kayak Taupo (on Viator and Tripadvisor). See more adventures on the lake in the 5 Ways to Experience Lake Taupo.
Location: Sailing tours depart from Redoubt Street. Canoe and Kayak – 54 Spa Road, Taupo.
5. Relax in Thermal Pools
The geothermal activity around Lake Taupo gave birth to many thermal pools, which are either reasonably priced or free! Maybe it is your time to relax and treat yourself after all? Relax in the large mineral hot pools of Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort, which comes complete with waterfalls and sections for hydrotherapy (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). They also allow you to enhance the romance by booking into one of the indoor private pools. Another romantic option is the Wairakei Terraces, a selection of attractive tiered hot pools and a walkway to the geothermal terraces that are an interesting addition to your visit. If you’re on a budget, you can always head down to the Otumuheke Stream at Spa Park, a free natural hot spring running into the Waikato River. See more experiences like this in the 10 Romantic Activities in Taupo for Couples.
Location: Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort – 76 Napier-Taupo Road. Wairakei Terraces – State Highway 1, Wairakei. Otumuheke Stream – Spa Park, Spa Road.
6. Skydive Over Lake Taupo
There is one place where you can skydive over New Zealand’s largest lake! If this has been one of your dreams since you read this sentence a few seconds ago, make sure to write down “Taupo Tandem Skydiving” on your Taupo Bucket List! Check them out on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Anzac Memorial Drive, Wharewaka. Taupo accommodation pick-up is available.
7. Cruise Around the Lake
Sailing and cruising options in Taupo are plentiful. All of them will make a point to pass in front of the famous Maori carvings mentioned above, as well as showing most of the best spots of New Zealand’s biggest lake. If the weather is good enough, you’ll even have time for a dip! Cruises are available with Chris Jolly Outdoors, which can be booked on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Ferry Road.
8. Take On the Taupo Bungy
Nestled in a stunning canyon over the Waikato River, Taupo Bungy is the highest water touch bungy in the country. Jump alone, with a friend, or swing across the canyon. You have many options to test the laws of gravity! Head over to our 10 Best Adventure Activities in Taupo for more activities like this. Plus, for more bungy locations, check out 7 Epic Places to Bungy Jump in New Zealand.
Location: 202 Spa Road.
9. Hit the Taupo Bike Trails
Whatever the season and whatever your ability, there’s a bike trail for you here in Taupo! Try easy cycling on the Great Lake Walkway/Lion’s Walk, a paved walkway with expansive lake views. The Great Lake Trail offers 71km of scenic mountain biking trails on the shores of Lake Taupo. For some downhill thrills, check out the Craters Mountain Bike Park with flowing cross-country trails from grade 2 to 5. Find out more in our 10 Awesome Bike Trails Around Lake Taupo.
Location: All over Taupo – see specific locations in the link above.
10. Stretch Your Legs on the Taupo Walks
If you prefer to have your feet solidly on the ground and let’s face it, save a few cents, then you’ll love the range of walking trails on offer around Taupo. A popular option is walking from Spa Park, home to the natural hot water spring of Otumuheke Stream, to Huka Falls (2-hour return). The Opepe Reserve just outside of the town is a great example of ancient native forest. Check out more suggestions in our 13 Free or Cheap Activities in Taupo.
Location: Spa Park – Country Avenue just off Spa Road. Opepe Reserve – State Highway 5, 17km from Taupo.
11. Catch a Trout on the Great Lake
Lake Taupo offers some of the best trout fishing in New Zealand, which the locals take pride in with endless trout sculptures and decorations throughout the town. Join one of the local fishing charters departing from the Taupo Marina or, if you’re a keen fisherman (or woman) yourself, all you’ll need is your gear and a trout fishing license from the local i-SITE and you’re good to go. For more information and charter recommendations, check out the 10 Luxury Activities in Taupo.
Location: Charters depart from Taupo Marina, Redoubt Street.
12. Play Golf
Golfers, you’re in luck as Taupo just happens to have six golf courses. The Kinloch Club and the Wairakei Golf + Sanctuary are both considered some of the best golf courses in New Zealand. More fantastic options await though, at the Taupo Golf Club, the only course in New Zealand to offer two 18-hole courses, and the Wairakei Resort‘s 9-hole course is one of the most affordable courses in the area with beautiful treelined fairways.
Location: Kinloch Club – 93 Kinloch Road, Kinloch. Wairakei Golf and Sanctuary – Wairakei Drive, State Highway 5. Wairakei Resort – 640 Wairakei Drive. Taupo Golf Club – 32 Centennial Drive.
13. Indulge in the Local Eateries
Quaint cafes, international restaurants, fast food, lakeside dining, cheap eats… There’s a restaurant in Taupo to suit any taste and mood, so take the time to wander around Taupo’s streets and laneways to discover the fantastic array of eateries. Check out our recommendations in The Foodie Guide to Taupo.
Location: All over Taupo – see specific locations in the link above.
14. Visit the Museums and Art Galleries
For those days when the weather isn’t playing ball or if you want to simply culture yourself, a reliable option is to visit the Taupo Museum. See visual history displays, galleries, Maori art and relics. Alternatively, check out Lava Glass, a studio and cafe with glass blowing and a sculpture garden. For more inspiration, see our 12 Things to do in Taupo on a Rainy Day.
Location: Taupo Museum, Story Place. Lava Glass – State Highway 5, 10km from Taupo.
15. Take a Swing at the Hole-in-One
Kiwis are crazy about golf and the team at the Taupo Hole-in-One are some of the craziest! There are three holes in the raft ashore. Get your ball in the smaller one and pocket NZ$10,000! Many other prizes are up for grabs too.
Location: 61 Lake Terrace.
16. Check Out the Maccas!
“Maccas” is what we call “McDonald’s” here in New Zealand. Voted one of the 10 most unusual McDonald’s restaurants in the world, Taupo’s giant fast food restaurant will serve you in an old plane. For perhaps more serious food-related activities, check out the 7 Things to Do in Taupo for Foodies.
Location: Corner Roberts and Ruapehu Streets.
[CLOSED] Jet Boat to the Geothermal Wilderness
[Update: NZ Riverjet is no longer operating]. Join NZ Riverjet for a high-speed thrill ride to some of the most stunning geothermal landscape in New Zealand. After powering down the mighty Waikato River, you have the option to either explore the geothermal park of Orakei Korako or do a short canyoning trip down “The Squeeze” to a secluded natural hot pool.