© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

How the Locals Relax in Taupo

© NZPocketGuide.com

303 Days on the Road

In between the likes of skydiving, kayaking and jetboating in Taupo, we are happy to have some downtime. Who are better at the art of “downtime” than locals? Luckily for us, Robin has a friend, Casey, who lives in Taupo who is keen to show us some of his favourite activities to unwind. Today, we are golfing and bathing in some mineral hot pools – but not at the same time! (Although, that should definitely be invented). First up, we are hitting Taupo’s cheapest 9-hole golf course!

Our morning brings us back to the Wairakei area once again, an area just a few kilometres out of Taupo where you can find the famous Huka Falls, the Hukafalls Jet and Prawn Park, and as we discovered yesterday, the Craters MTB Park and Huka Honey Hive. Well apparently, the area also has a great golf course and some relaxing hot pools too!

The Wairakei Resort Golf Course

We park up at the fancy-as-hell Wairakei Resort, but we don’t need to be intimidated by the large buildings of luxury, because the Wairakei Resort Golf Course is not only a public golf course but a round only costs NZ$15 plus NZ$8 if you want to hire clubs. (Let’s be honest, no one is backpacking around New Zealand we a set of clubs, right?…. Right?!) We start sweating when Casey takes out his own set of golf clubs that he picked up at a garage sale. Oh man, we know who the winner is of this round already…

After venturing through a tunnel, we arrive at a beautiful green of primly maintained grass and holes lined with a mix of native and exotic trees. We grab our clubs and scorecard and the game is on!

A course for all golfing abilities

Although we have had our fair share of mini golf around New Zealand, when it comes to the real thing we are really are beginners. Luckily, the Wairakei Resort Golf Course is quite forgiving, with most of the holes taking us in straight lines with each hole being barriered by some sort of trees to bounce off if things get a little crazy… Which they do… Quite a lot. Nevertheless, our golf balls are still covering quite a lot of distance on this par 34 course of 1941 metres. The longest hole we tackle is 366 metres.

The much-needed golf coaching

When we have played golf previously, back on Day 188 in Cromwell, we tried to figure things out ourselves, having fun in the process. This time, by going with someone who has done this before, we actually learn how this sport is actually supposed to be played, as well as learning the all-important etiquette. However, more important than that, golfing in the Wairakei Resort Golf Course is the ideal downtime activity. We’re surrounded by greener than green scenery and going at our own pace – so slow that fantails often dance around us.

Teeing off at the Wairakei Resort Golf Course

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Forgetting about the score and onward to the hot pools!

Although by the end of it we don’t even want to talk about the scoring, (by “we” we mean Laura who is writing this post), we’ve had a relaxing round of golf in a cool little spot. Now we are ready to end to move onto the second downtime destination on our Itinerary, the Wairakei Terraces and Thermal Health Spa.

A wander around the Wairakei Terraces

Just a couple of hundred metres down the road from the golf course, we rock up to the Wairakei hot pools where we are given a map to check out the mini geothermal park before dipping in the pools. The walk takes us on a circuit surrounded by native bush before opening up in various different areas of Maori carvings and geothermal features. The star of it all is the Wairakei Terraces, a set of silica terraces stepping their way down on a journey to eventually feed into the hot pools we will be bathing in soon. At the top of the terraces is a raging geyser constantly spurting out boiling water and billowing out a huge cloud of steam. There are different viewpoints around the terraces, that loop us back around to the hot pools. Now, we can get changed into our togs (Kiwi speak for swimwear), and dip into the pools!

Relaxing in mineral hot pools

Lying far at the bottom of the Wairakei Terraces, the pools are designed to replicate the shape of the terraces, each terrace having a different temperature ranging from around 34 to 44 degrees Celsius. The bottom pool lies somewhere in between but gets warmer the closer we get to this magnificent silica-covered waterfall.

With lots of ledges to sit on, there is plenty of opportunity to feel the cooler air on your body when the pools start getting the best of you. The pools are all super close together, making it easy to just hop from one temperature to the next. We find a good spot under the shade of the trees in the more comfortable temperature of 30-something degrees where we spend the most time “having a yarn” as they say in New Zealand.

A quick coffee at Victoria’s

By the time we look like a prune, have got through an entire bottle of water each, and our stomachs start to rumble, we decide it’s time to finally leave the pools and head back into Taupo for a quick snack. We pop into Victoria’s Cafe just before closing for coffee/hot chocolate/peach iced tea, as well as moist savoury muffins all-round. Victoria herself even comes over to see if we want to take some end-of-the-day muffins with us, as she explains that she often gives some cakes she doesn’t sell to hungry-looking backpackers. Nice!

We leave the cafe with our goody bag and say goodbye to Casey, who we will be seeing later in the week for a hike in Turangi. Until then, we go back to our accommodation at Haka Lodge and prepare for a couple more days of fun including parasailing and jetboating on the rapids! Check-in with us tomorrow to see how that goes!

Plenty of photo ops and places to unwind in the Wairakei Hot Pools

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