Tucked into the centre of New Zealand’s North Island is a wee gem. Taupo is a hip little town, popular with Kiwis both as a summer holiday spot and a winter ski destination. And the refrain heard most from the visitors passing through is ‘if only I’d known’.
Some rush past, on their way from Rotorua to Napier, then off to Wellington and beyond. They might stop for lunch, or a break by the lake. But the same thing happens every time, as they drive into town and the huge expanse of Lake Taupo’s blue water becomes visible with the mountains sitting right at the end, a silent snowy backdrop. As people begin to explore this little town, to uncover the muralled alleyways and the hip cafés, they suddenly realise that they like it here. Taupo is a place that gets under your skin, that makes you want to stay a while, unwind a little, kick back.
If it’s adrenaline you are after there’s plenty on offer. On clear days the blue skies are full of skydivers, their parachutes floating gently back to earth. A bungy operates above the beautiful green curve of the Waikato River, filling the canyon with screams and raucous laughter. You can raft the Tongariro River at the southern end of the lake, paddling through the rapids while keeping an eye out for endangered Blue Duck. Or speed to the base of the Huka Falls on a jetboat, getting a first-hand view of these thundering falls.
If you’re outdoorsy you’ll be in paradise. Grab a bike and ride the Great Lake Trail, enjoying stunning views as you round every corner and discovering deserted hidden bays. Lace on some tramping boots and head out to the Pureora Forest Park, where you’ll walk through ancient bush that looks almost prehistoric. Climb Mt Tauhara and get the best view around, or if you prefer downhill rent some skis and shred Mt Ruapehu, an active volcano with three ski fields. Take a kayak out onto the water, slicing through the surface with your paddles, and swim underneath the incredible Maori Rock Carvings. Head out on a powerboat and try a spot of fishing, and if you get lucky enjoy your trout sashimi style right there on the boat. Or take your catch back to town and ask one of the award-winning restaurants to cook it for you with local produce, while you kick back and enjoy a glass of New Zealand wine.
Or maybe you just want to relax during your visit to Taupo. This little town is perfect for those who want to take a load off. Explore the boutique shopping and find something unique to take home with you. Tour a local craft brewery and sample the unique beer with a pretzel. Walk through an active geothermal landscape and take the perfect moody Instagram shot. Pick up a bottle of wine and go out sailing on the lake, enjoying the sunshine and the picturesque yacht views. Café hop around town or watch glass blowing artists, before losing yourself in a surreal sculpture garden filled with giant glass flowers and miniature forests. Try a delicious doughnut from a local bakery and snap a photo with #LoveTaupo. Then, at the end of it all, sink into healing mineral waters and soak all evening, recharging those tired bones.
You’ll discover why Taupo is such a special spot, loved by locals and those from further abroad. This may be a place with a cozy small-town vibe and only one set of traffic lights, but with this much to do you’ll be regretting that you only planned one night here.
We hear If only I’d known a little too often, so we’re here to tell you that maybe you need a little more time, a little more space to soak it all up. Taupo is a place that you will think about again and again, wondering when you can return.
This place is a hidden gem that might just reveal itself to you, if only you’d stay a while.