Craving the outdoors on your New Zealand North Island road trip? Be sure to pack your schedule with some of the best things to do in Taupo!
Like many of New Zealand’s top tourist towns, Taupo is a nature lovers’ paradise. In Taupo, the landscapes are painted with a pallet of spectacular colours. Hot springs and geysers dot the land under clouds of sulphurous steam. Rapids and waterfalls burble and crash down rock faces into the surrounding woodlands. The beauty of the natural attractions in Taupo knows no end.
Ready to experience Taupo to its fullest? Start planning your trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Taupo, New Zealand…
What to see & do in Taupo
Wondering where to go in Taupo? Your first mission should be adding Lake Taupo to your itinerary.
Don’t let the modern-day serenity of the beautiful Lake Taupo mislead you. This great lake was formed some 22,600 years ago during the eruption of a super-volcano. The caldera stretches over a massive 616 square kilometres—the size of a small country! After the eruption, it soon filled with water to become the largest lake in New Zealand.
If you’re a water lover and you’re wondering what to do in Taupo, you’re spoiled for choice. From kayaking to swimming and pretty boat cruises, you have dozens of options to choose from.
The best way to experience Lake Taupo is by boat. Hire your own motorboat or sailboat from the Taupo harbour, or hop onto on of the many boat tours to get from place to place.
Cruising on the water, you’ll see the lake from a whole new perspective. (And you’ll get to see the famous Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay. More about that later.)
If you love fishing, be sure to add a fishing trip to your Taupo travel plans. The waters of Lake Taupo teem with fresh water trout. In fact, the town of Turangi, located on the banks of the lake, has more trout than anywhere else in the world!
The forests on the banks of Lake Taupo also hide some of the best hikes & walks in Taupo. Venturing beyond the lake’s shorelines presents hikers and bikers with a fantastic opportunity to commune with nature.
While travelling around the Taupo area, make sure you pay a visit to the powerful Huka Falls. It’s one of the most popular Taupo tourist attractions and a place you shouldn’t miss.
There’s a quick hike that’ll take you through the trees to Huka Falls in around an hour. Over 22,000 litres of water from the Waikato River crash off the cliff edge every second of the day. Huka Falls is only eight metres high, but the sheer volume of water creates a cacophony of sound as its spray and foam thrashes into a misty halo.
You can get up close to the water via a number of platforms or the pedestrian bridge that overlooks the falls. A powerful jet boat also offers a dashing run through the thrashing waters all the way to the bottom of the Huka Falls. Get close enough and you’ll get a bit wet. But, hey, it’s all in a day’s fun!
Tongariro National Park
Wondering what to see in Taupo? Carve out some time for a hike around the otherworldly splendour of Tongariro National Park.
The stark beauty of Tongariro National Park is painted with nature’s brightest colours. Against a backdrop of glacial icecaps, mountain springs play among steam vents.
The barren landscape of Tongariro National Park offers some of the most beautiful natural scenery on North Island. The park is scattered with volcanic craters, lava formations, and emerald green lakes. In between its splendid natural attractions, a barrage of outdoor activities await.
If you’re up for a strenuous day hike near Taupo, take on Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It’s one of the most popular hikes in New Zealand and among the top destinations on North Island for nature lovers.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike will take you 19.5 kilometers across lunar-like landscapes. The climb along Tongariro Alpine Crossing is taxing, but the views across the alpine valleys from the apex are quite spectacular.
In an active geothermal wonderland like Taupo, spending time at natural mineral-rich bath or spa is a must for your itinerary. Among the most popular thermal pools in Taupo, the Wairakei Terraces are something special. It’s the ideal place to relax and live in the moment on your trip to Taupo.
Located 7 kilometres north of Taupo, these pretty steaming terraces are filled with mineral-laden waters. The Wairakei Terraces have been used for hundreds of years by the indigenous Maori people, who believe the waters have profound healing powers.
Not far from the terraces, you’ll also find the Wairakei Thermal Valley. The small tourist park offers a handful of nature trails to explore its geothermal wonders and native wildlife.
Craters of the Moon
Travelling around New Zealand’s North Island, you’ll encounter some of the weirdest places on earth. And among the top Taupo attractions, none is odder than Craters of the Moon.
This unique area is relatively new among the best things to see in Taupo. It emerged in the 1950s when craters filled with steaming mud appeared due to a reduction in the underground water pressure.
On the 40-minute Craters of the Moon Geothermal Walk, you’ll watch sulphurous steam emerge from the ground and hang above bubbling mud pools and craters filled with colourful water.
The trails leading to the platforms are well-maintained. It makes for easy access and comfortable views of the craters, mud pools, and surrounding native forest.
Want to add an adrenaline rush to your Taupo trip? Speed along the Waikato River on a high-octane jet boat ride.
On a Waikato River jet boat ride, you’ll reach gut-wrenching speeds as the boat blasts you along the river. Take the time to enjoy the scenic views of New Zealand’s longest river and its surroundings—while trying not to unseat your lunch.
The banks of the Waikato River host a wide variety of indigenous birds and wildlife. On your tour, professional guides will share insightful stories of Maori tribal wars and about the animals that inhabit the banks of the river.
Located 30 minutes north of Taupo, Orakei Korako may be a little out of the way. But as one of the best day trips from Taupo it’s certainly worth a visit!
This active geothermal park boasts the most active geysers in New Zealand. 23 of them, to be exact. The park is also dotted with hot springs, vibrantly coloured pools, and stunning silica terraces. Witness this ever-changing landscape and understand the power of nature.
The Orakei Korako Geothermal Park & Cave is on the Waikato River. You’ll need to take a short ferry ride across Lake Ohakuri to get to Orakei Korako.
The park is crisscrossed with tracks. You can take your own unguided tour through the park, including one of only two thermal caves in the world. Don’t miss out on this truly remarkable Taupo sightseeing adventure!
Aratiatia Rapids Scenic Reserve
Need another escape to nature for your Taupo travels? Head to the Aratiatia Rapids Scenic Reserve.
Located less than 15 minutes from the town centre, this lovely scenic area is a nature lovers’ paradise The reserve, huddled around the Aratiatia Rapids, is packed full of hiking and mountain biking trails. It’s a great place to see as much of the local New Zealand plant & animal life as you can.
Nestled along the banks of the mighty Waikato River, the reserve host several tracks that climb up onto the clifftops and lead to spectacular views of the surrounding landscapes. Once waters rushed down the Aratiatia Rapids in the gorge, but a hydro-electric dam & power station put an end to that.
These days, one of the park’s highlights is the thrice-daily opening of the dam gates. When the gates open, the water rushes down a gorge forming fast-running rapids. You can watch the spectacle safely from the pedestrian bridge above.
Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings
New Zealand’s most extraordinary Maori artwork hangs imposingly over Mine Bay. To see them, you’ll have to leave dry land and head out into the tranquil waters of Lake Taupo.
The Mine Bay Maori rock carvings tower 14 metres above Mine Bay. Carved in the 1970s, the traditional Maori artwork depicts Ngatoroirangi, a legendary Maori navigator who led his people to the Taupo area over a millennium ago.
Fortunately, there are many ways to get to the Mine Bay Maori rock carvings. Hire a kayak and get to the area on your own steam. Or you can take a romantic sail in the sunset, a motorized boat, or a family-friendly pirate-themed yacht.
Alternatively, you can charter a boat to Mine Bay. However you decide to visit, make sure that you don’t miss this top Taupo point of interest.
Going take the plunge and jump headfirst from a dizzying height on your trip to New Zealand? You may as well do it in Taupo!
The 47-metre plunge down toward the waters of the Waikato River lays claim to the highest water-touch bungee jump in New Zealand. It’s no wonder that Taupo Bungy remains one of the best tourist attractions in Taupo!
If you’d rather not jump, the high-speed swing at Taupo Bungy may be more to your taste. The swing reaches velocities of 70 kilometres an hour as it carves its way through the air and over the river.
Taupo DeBretts Hot Springs
Need to unwind on your North Island adventure? Pencil in some time at the Taupo DeBretts Hot Springs.
At Taupo DeBretts, the natural spa waters are heated by geothermal activity so warm they must be cooled before entering the hot pools. You can choose to relax in the two enormous mineral pools complete with waterfalls and hydrotherapy spots. For a more intimate experience, you can even book your own private pool!
If cold water is your preference, have some fun on the massive hydro-slides, the quickest route into the freshwater pools.
When you’re done, be sure to book a personal pampering spa experience. From full-body massages to facials and volcanic hot stone treatment or mud wraps, Taupo DeBretts Hot Springs offers all the relaxation you could dream of.
When you’re done chillin’ out at this fantastic spa resort, stop over at Savour Café for some delicious food & drink. You can also rent out a spot in the pavilion & BBQ area for a private picnic.
If you’re an adventurer, truly, one of the best things to do in Taupo is to experience the adrenaline rush from white-water rafting down the Tongariro River.
The river, originating on the southern shores of Lake Taupo, runs through a beautiful canyon and features as many as 60 rapids. As one of the best outdoor activities in Taupo, a Tongariro River white-water rafting trip is one you don’t want to miss!
Not interested in high-octane hijinks? Grab a walking stick or your bike and meander along the Tongariro River Trail.
The 15-kilometre-long Tongariro River Trail follows the twisty riverbanks through farmland and native bush. Thanks to its flat terrain, the track is family-friendly and perfect for easy-peasy mountain biking.
Huka Prawn Park
The only attraction of its kind in New Zealand, the family-friendly Huka Prawn Park is one of the most surprising attractions in Taupo—and probably way more fun than it sounds!
At Huka Prawn Park, there’s a wide array of activities to keep the entire family joyous. Start with a guided tour through the hatchery and nursery. On the tour, you and the kids will get to see the prawns in action and even feed them by hand.
Other activities at Huka Prawn Park include paddling your way on the Boating Lake on a paddleboard or pedal boat, tackling water gauntlets, enjoying a family water cannon battle, or relaxing in the geothermal footbaths.
Another Taupo’s most interesting family-friendly activities, the Lava Glass Studio, Gallery & Sculpture Garden is a fantastic educational & cultural experience.
At the Lava Glass complex, you’ll get to witness the unique art of glassblowing firsthand at the hands of master glassblower Lynden Over. The studio & gallery will walk you through the entire process and show you stunning examples of the artist’s work, inspired by the landscapes of New Zealand.
For many visitors, the highlight of any visit to the studio is the Lava Glass Sculpture Garden. Featuring over 600 glass sculptures, this quizzical garden is so impressive it’s been recognized by the New Zealand Gardens Trust as a national Garden of Significance.
The studio is open 7 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm.
Best hotels in Taupo for sightseeing
Taupo is small & compact. Choosing your Taupo accommodation shouldn’t be too difficult. There’s a great selection of hotels & lodgings through Taupo Town. Wherever you decide to stay, you won’t be far from the top points of interest in Taupo.
- The Village Resort offers lakeside accommodations that are surprisingly easy on the budget. All the rooms feature an outdoor balcony or patio. You’ll also enjoy extras like an outdoor pool, hot tub, and garden.
- Millennium Hotel & Resort Manuels Taupo is a fantastic mid-range hotel on the shores of Lake Taupo. You’ll love the amenities here, including a sauna, gym, and tennis court. The mountain & lake views from the rooms are spectacular.
- Sacred Waters Taupo tops the list of luxury accommodations in Taupo. The apartments are spacious and well-equipped. Relaxing on the balcony with a nightcap might be one of your favourite experiences in Taupo. Sacred Waters is a short walk from the town centre.