While you’re here, you won’t want to miss –
Smack bang in the center of the North Island, is the distinctive craggy shape of Lake Taupo. This fresh water lake was born out of an eruption 2,000 years ago, that was such a cataclysmic event, it was recorded in Europe and China as turning the sky red.
Taupo’s flooded crater is the largest lake in Australasia – and a tourist hot spot when it comes to providing a wide range of water activities and relaxing lakeside pursuits.
The Lake Taupo region is also a literal hot spot due its numerous geothermal fields, many of which have been harnessed to provide geothermal energy. With all the steam blowing, mud pools bubbling and geysers gushing, visiting Lake Taupo is certainly a unique and exciting experience.
Wairakei Thermal Tourist Park
You’ll know for sure you’re in the volcanic zone, when you see the white plumes of steam rising just north of Taupo township. This is Wairakei Thermal Tourist Park, the largest geothermal field in New Zealand.
It definitely has some steamy attractions worth visiting, including the Craters of the Moon, a 45 minute walk that loops around scalding craters, plopping mud pools and colorful rock formations. The bizarre and unearthly landscape here gives you a good idea of what the area could have looked like at the time of the volcanic eruption.
The Wairakei Natural Thermal Valley is also interesting as it has guided steam-field and historical tours. If you’re interested in the local culture, you’ll enjoy the traditional concert, hangi (food cooked in an earthen pit) and Māori village tour.
Just down the road, the tranquil waters of Lake Taupo lap against shores of pumice and native bush. On a clear sunny day, the views across the lake towards Mount Tongariro, with its snow-capped peaks, are simply stunning. It’s a peaceful place where you can relax with a lakeside stroll, swim at many of the lovely beach spots, or head out onto the lake via a scenic cruise.
Several charter companies offer lake cruises, but make sure you go on one that goes to the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings, which are only accessible by boat.
The carvings of the famous Maori chief Ngatoroirangi – over 32 feet high – are a popular visitor attraction. Although the chief lived over 1,000 years ago, the carvings were created quite recently, in the 1970s, to protect the lake from the volcanic rumblings underneath.
If you like fishing, then you’ll be more interested in what swims beneath the surface of Lake Taupo. Famous for its excellent trout fishing, the region has an abundance of rainbow and brown trout in the lake and surrounding rivers.
Catch a trout and most local restaurants will be glad to cook it for you. Just give them a bit of advance warning, rather than show up with your fish in hand.
Strangely enough, you won’t find trout on the menu at the restaurants around town. That would take the fun out of catching them yourself. What you will find though are plenty of places where you can sample some great Kiwi fare.
Plateau is just one of the award-winning contemporary restaurants in the area, with dishes featuring the best local ingredients and a selection of New Zealand craft beers. Fine dining is also possible with eateries like Bistro Lago, created by acclaimed New Zealand chef Simon Gault, with a European style menu, as well as sumptuous decor and stunning lake views.
Plunge Into Hot Pools
As well as restaurants, Taupo has myriad cafes, souvenir and boutique shops that beg to be sampled and explored. After shopping, have a soak in one of the local hot pools to cure any aches and pains.
For a free natural hot pool, head to Otumuheke Stream Spa Park on the outskirts of town. Here the Waikato River and an underground hot spring mingle to create pockets of cold and warm water – you just have to choose your spot carefully for the right temperature.
Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort, offers a relaxing soak in native bush surroundings. There are two hot thermal pools and 12 private pools as well as a Spa providing beauty treatments. With so much relaxation on offer, you’ll float back to your accommodation on a cloud. Why not treat yourself?
As a central destination to see a variety of attractions in neighboring Rotorua and Ruapehu, a stay at Lake Taupo is a great choice. It’s a place you can enjoy in any season and any weather – and simply not to be missed.