How to Plan the Best Trip to Taupo
Located in the heart of the North Island on the edge of what the early Maori believed was a tranquil sea but is, in fact, New Zealand’s largest lake, Taupo is a town like no other. The views of the Tongariro National Park volcanoes across the water are a constant reminder of the earth’s power, which can also be experienced a little closer to the lakeside town through the lunar-like landscapes of its geothermal parks.
Taupo is also the beginning of the Waikato River‘s journey to the sea, the longest river in New Zealand earning its name among the locals as the Mighty Waikato. With hot springs, bungy jumps over the river and awe-inspiring rapids and waterfalls, the Waikato River is a diverse attraction in itself.
With this complete travel guide to Taupo, start planning a trip curated to your own unique travel style and make the most of this action-packed destination.
Common Questions About Taupo
Let’s cut to the chase; what are the most common questions travellers have about visiting Taupo?
What is Taupo Known For?
Taupo is known for being on the shores of New Zealand’s largest lake of the same name, which is also the crater of a supervolcano. It’s also known for being one the best places for trout fishing.
Where is Taupo Located?
On the eastern shores of Lake Taupo in the centre of the North Island.
What is the Weather Usually Like in Taupo?
The daily average temperature is 12°C/53.5°F, while the yearly average rainfall is 1,209mm/47.6″. It is known to get quite cold in winter to lows of 2°C/37°F. It is rare for it to snow in Taupo. Find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
How Do You Get to Taupo?
Taupo is well connected to the rest of New Zealand by road, located just off State Highway 1, 3h30mins from Auckland, 1 hour from Rotorua and 2 hours from Napier. The closest international airport is Auckland Airport with plenty of car rental options available, as well as domestic flights to Taupo Airport. Taupo is also on the main national bus route, which you can find more information about in Bus Networks in New Zealand.
When Did Taupo Last Erupt?
The Taupo volcano last erupted more than 1,800 years ago.
Can You Swim in Lake Taupo?
Yes, Lake Taupo is a popular swimming spot in summer. There are swim-only areas (i.e. no boats) found on Taupo’s main beach, the yacht club, between 4 and 5 Mile Bays, Kinloch, Pukawa, Kuratau and Whareroa.
What to Do in Taupo
Get the perfect balance of adventure, nature and relaxation in Taupo. All of your New Zealand bucket list experiences can be found here between skydiving and bungy jumping, while multiple hot pool complexes give you ways to relax. See iconic natural attractions like the mesmerising Huka Falls, as well as the largest lake in New Zealand.
The Top Experiences in Taupo
What are the must-dos? Here are some of the Taupo highlights:
- Check out the mighty Huka Falls
- Explore geothermal parks like Orakei Korako Geothermal Park
- Sail to the Maori rock carvings on Lake Taupo (more info and book tickets on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook)
- Skydive over the great lake
- Take on the Taupo Bungy or Swing
- Hit the bike trails or mountain bike parks listed in the 10 Best Bike Trails Around Lake Taupo
- Admire amazing scenery from the 8 Best Walks in Taupo
- Hit the road to nearby Tongariro National Park and other Best Day Trips from Taupo…
Rainy Day Activities
It’s not always as sunny as it looks on social media photos. Prepare for when the weather goes sour with these activities:
- Keep warm the free hot pool at Otumuheke Stream, or hot pools complex of DeBretts (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Fish for rainbow trout on Lake Taupo or on the Tongariro River
- Go white water rafting on the Tongariro River (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
And if they don’t inspire you then maybe the 12 Things to Do in Taupo on a Rainy Day will.
Things to Do at Night
And what is there to do when the sun goes down? Try these:
- Enjoy an evening cruise on the lake in summer (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Kayak at sunset with Taupo Kayaking Adventures
- Indulge in the soothing mineral waters of the Wairakei Terraces and Thermal Health Spa.
And, of course, there’s a lot more where that came from over in our 10 Things to Do in Taupo at Night.
Where to Stay in Taupo
Other than the accommodations we recommend on the righthand side of this complete travel guide to Taupo (or at the bottom, if you’re on mobile), we have compiled entire lists of places to stay based on price, what’s best for families or a couples’ getaway, as well as premium stays. What’s more, each list is compiled by real writers; not some algorithm.
Taupo for Budget Travellers
Natural attractions, galore! Taupo makes it easy to stick to your budget, as it doesn’t cost you anything to snap up a photo of the fearsome rapids of Huka Falls or Aratiatia Dam, nor does it cost much to wander around a geothermal park or hit the cycle trails. You can even afford the more pricey activities on your Taupo must-do list thanks to the savings you can make on accommodation, with backpacker hostels, holiday parks and countless motels! Start planning an affordable trip to Taupo with The Guide to Taupo on a Budget or Taupo – Guide for Backpackers.
Budget Activities in Taupo
- Check out the tumultuous Huka Falls
- Relax in the hot springs of Otumuheke Stream
- Walk the River Side Trail along the Waikato River
- Have a go at the Hole in One Challenge on the lake
- Hire a bike and hit the trails.
For more information on each activity and more, check out the 12 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Taupo.
Budget Accommodation in Taupo
Whatever your taste, needs or budget, there’s cheap accommodation to suit between the hostels, motels and holiday parks. Check out our favourites in the 10 Best Budget Accommodations in Taupo.
Taupo for Luxury Travellers
Tranquil waters of a lake contained within the caldera of a supervolcano, the beginning of New Zealand’s longest river, and a wealth of moon-like landscape formed by geothermal activity: doesn’t Taupo sound like a stunning and unique getaway to you? What’s more, it has the premium tours and luxury accommodations to match between scenic flights over volcanoes and cosying up in a boutique lodge. Let us guide you in creating the ideal luxury getaway with The Luxury Guide to Taupo.
Luxury Activities in Taupo
- Ride the Great Lake Trails on a personalised tour with Taupo Kayaking Adventures (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook)
- Indulge in the mineral hot pools and spa treatments of Taupo’s premium hot pool complexes (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- See the lake and volcanoes from above on a scenic flight
- Hit the ski slopes of Mt Ruapehu
- Play golf on some of New Zealand’s most prestigious golf courses.
For more information on each experience and more, be sure to check out the 10 Best Luxury Experiences in Taupo.
Premium Accommodation in Taupo
From lavish hotel suites to luxury boutique lodges, there’s something to suit all tastes and styles – even in a small town like Taupo. See what takes your fancy in the 11 Best Luxury Accommodations in Taupo.
Taupo for Families
From the family-friendly tours to the accommodations with warm water playgrounds and hot pools, Taupo provides the complete family holiday package! Kids can enjoy some of New Zealand’s famous adventure activities too with white water rafting, kayaking and jet boating suitable for even the younger family members. There are also ways to connect with nature through attractions like the Tongariro National Trout Centre or experience Taupo’s unique fishing side with prawn fishing. Discover more in The Guide to Taupo for Families.
Family Activities in Taupo
- Blast down the Waikato River on a jet boat tour (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and KKday)…
- … Or gently float to natural hot springs on a family-friendly kayaking tour (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Let the kids loose on the slides while you relax at Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort (see on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Tackle the choppy rapids of the Tongariro River on a family white water rafting tour (on Viator or Tripadvisor)
- Venture to Tongariro National Trout Centre.
For more information on each activity, check out the 10 Things to Do in Taupo with Kids.
Family-Friendly Accommodation in Taupo
Your family may prefer self-catering apartments, affordable motels or even being treated to a hotel room. However, the holiday parks in Taupo are something else. Known more as “holiday resorts”, these accommodations are an attraction in themselves, offering geothermally heated pools with kids’ play areas and much more to keep the whole family entertained. But we digress, check out a variety of options in the 10 Best Family Accommodations in Taupo.
Taupo for Couples
Romance in Taupo is as simple as a lakeside picnic. But if you want to enhance the romance for a special occasion or just to appreciate travelling with your loved one, you can with the array of romantic activities to experience together. Wake up with a sunrise flight over the lake, conquer your fear of heights together with the tandem bungy, relax on a sunset sailing cruise to the famous Maori Rock Carvings and conclude the day with a meal at a romantic restaurant. Doesn’t sound bad, does it? Plan your romantic retreat or honeymoon with The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Taupo.
Romantic Activities in Taupo
- Cruise Lake Taupo at sunset on Kindred Spirit (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook)
- Team up in a double kayak and paddle to the Maori Rock Carvings (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Enjoy a romantic walk along the riverside, in the botanical gardens and more
- Conquer the fear together in a tandem bungy jump or swing
- Explore the steaming and colourful landscapes of a geothermal park.
For elaboration on each experience and others, see the 10 Romantic Things to Do in Taupo for Couples.
Romantic Accommodation in Taupo
From well-presented motels, should you be on a budget, to elegant B&Bs and lodges, there’s accommodation in Taupo for any occasion. Set the tone right by booking into one of the 10 Best Romantic Accommodations in Taupo.
Taupo for Foodies
Finally, foodies will also be pleased that they added Taupo to the itinerary. Honey tours, brewery tours, prawn fishing, a community market and trout fishing with your catch being cooked up at a local restaurant… Oh, don’t get us started on the restaurants – the variety here is enough to rival some of New Zealand’s cities, except you get to dine to views of a stunning lake and enjoy a small-town ambience. Who’s complaining? Plan your food-orientated trip with The Food Guide to Taupo: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
Food Tours and Experiences in Taupo
- Catch your own trout for dinner on Lake Taupo
- Catch a prawn for dinner at the Huka Prawn Park (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Taste honey and take a honey tour at the Huka Honey Hive
- Try the local artisan goods and produce at The Taupo Market
- Take a brewery tour at the Crafty Trout Brewery.
Learn more about each experience in the 7 Best Food Experiences in Taupo.
Where to Eat in Taupo
- Victoria’s Cafe Kitchen Bar (127 Tongariro Street)
- Baked with Love (11 Gascoigne Street)
- Luna’s Gelateria (29 Tongariro Street)
- Raw Balance (45 Oruanui Street)
- SMK Southern Meat Kitchen (40 Tuwharetoa Street)
- Vine Eatery & Bar (37 Tuwharetoa Street)
- Lake Taupo Lodge (41 Mapara Road)
Accommodation in Taupo for Foodies
Whether you’re looking for accommodation with a delightful restaurant or want to self-cater using fresh produce from the local market, there are options for both in Taupo. Check out our top recommendations in the 10 Best Accommodations in Taupo for Foodies.
More About Taupo
That’s it for our complete travel guide to Taupo but by no means the end of our Taupo travel tips! Check out the following guides for more advice on what to do in the region:
- 10 Best Adventure Activities in Taupo
- 10 Best Walks Around Lake Taupo
- 10 Best Bike Trails Around Lake Taupo
- 12 Best Things to Do in Turangi
Finally, plan more of your North Island trip using the North Island in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary or North Island in One Week: Road Trip Itinerary. You’ll also find more advice for planning an epic NZ trip in The Best Travel Guide to New Zealand.