We can personally recommend
This is a freebie! Well worth going to see the flood gates are opened four times a day, at 10am,
12noon, 2pm and 4pm and the sight of the water rushing through the gates takes your breath away. It is
fascinating to see the speed at which the water rises once the gates have been opened. You can combine this
with several of the other attractions which are in the same area, Huka Falls, Wairakei terraces, the Honey
Head out North along the old SH1, turn right into Huka Falls road and park in the free car park. It is but a
short walk to the falls. This is where the Waikato becomes the Mighty River. Lake Taupo is fed by 23 rivers but
only one, the Waikato continues to the sea for over 400 kilometres. The water drops 11 metres and has a flow of
approximately 200 cubic metres per second (44,000 Gallons or ten petrol tankers), the falls are a mesmerising
Huka falls walkway
If you are feeling more energetic, you could walk to the Falls. Take your car as far as Spa Park
on Spa Road, there is a very pleasant walk along the edge of the Waikato as far as the Aratiatia Dam. The walk
to the Falls will take you an hour in each direction, to the Dam quite a lot longer, if you are up for it you
could swim at the hot water beach, either to start your walk off or to relax on your return. You will know
when you are approaching the Falls by the noise! No special footwear needed, a bit up and down, but not too
Your own Itinerary
Whatever your interests we are ready to tailor 1,2 or 3 days of sightseeing or walking, cycling etc. We can also
recommend restaurants to suit all tastes and pockets.
Again, allow about an hour to visit this attraction. You will be able to see a geyser, which fills a pool and
overflows into series of terraces. The water is rich in silica and this is building up into quite spectacular
silica terraces, a man-made version of the famous pink & white terraces which were lost in Rotorua in the
1800s. There is also a recreation of a Maori village and the different houses that you would find. They have a
Hangi evening on most days of the week at about 6pm. Transport is available from here, you will be picked up from
the door and returned later. Although we have not personally been to this evening event, several of our guests have
done so and they all appeared to enjoy it.
To the North of Taupo is “The Craters of The Moon” heading North out of Taupo on SH1 there is a turning off left
clearly signed. Parking is available and payment is due at the kiosk. ($8)
There are two options a smaller though still demanding walk of about 45-55 minutes, there is also a higher loop
which is optional and takes a further 20+minutes, this is quite a steep climb but gives a great view of the whole
Geothermal area. The site sits in a large bowl so take water and be prepared for a hot walk if the sun is up. There
are numerous vents, fumaroles, craters and usually plenty of steam. The area is constantly evolving and changing,
you will have a great visit here.
Another freebie!! Take SH5 from Taupo to Napier, 12km after the roundabout as you leave Taupo you will find a
picnic site signposted on your left. Pull in here and you will see a signboard which details some walking tracks
through the bush. They range from a 30 minute walk to just over an hour, both left and right of the road.
There is an interesting small cemetery to view, which is only 5 minutes walk, and then you can marvel at the mature
rimu trees which dot the bush. The path is clearly signposted and easy, no special footwear needed. A good place to
go on a hot day as it is shady.
De Bretts Thermal Pools, Taupo
This is located close to the Hilton Hotel, a short way out of town on the Napier highway. From an unassuming car
park, you descend a path into a well hidden valley and then an unexpected sight greets you. Nestled in the bottom
of the valley, surrounded by native trees, are 5 hot mineral pools, one of which has a water slide plummeting into
it. The pools vary in temperature and even on a cold day, it is so relaxing to sit in them in the open air and
enjoy your surroundings. There are also private pools, small individual enclosed, roofed pools, which will take up
to about 4 people, again varying in temperature. To complete the experience, there is a beauty salon where you can
enjoy a relaxing massage or beauty treatment. Ask us for a discount card for the pools.
Jet Boat Rides
There are 3 operators in the Taupo area but the one we recommend is the Rapids Jet which operates from near to
the Aratiatia Dam. We have been on this particular boat twice, and both times have come off exhilarated, if
slightly damp. (Truthfully, soaking wet, it is a good idea to take a change of clothes) The ride lasts about 35
minutes, and as the name implies, you are taken across several series of rapids. There is the usual CD of photos to
buy ($35) but they are good quality and numerous. That is the two of us in the back row in these pictures.
When we were holiday makers in New Zealand and before we made this country our home we visited several of the
steaming pools and baths.
Orakei Korako – The Hidden Valley
Not to be missed! It is a 30 minute drive from Taupo, take SH1 north (the Auckland road) and
after 20 minutes you will see a brown sign to the right, for Orakei Korako, take this turn and it is just 10
minutes along there, clearly signed. There is a cafe, small shop and ticket office on the bank of the river,
get your tickets and you will be taken across the river by a launch to the landing station on the other side.
After that you are left to yourselves, most of the path is boardwalk, lots of steps as you are climbing to the
head of the valley and back again, but fabulous sights. If you are lucky, you may see one of the geysers blow,
but even if they don’t, there is plenty else to see, including a quite spectacular cave, although we believe
access is restricted now. Allow an hour to an hour and a half for your walk around.
It is possible to access the site by river jet, with NZ River Jets, access is from SH5, the Rotorua road, we
haven’t tried this, but are told that time is limited when you get to Orakei Korako.
This is the most amazing place. It is about 55km from Taupo, on SH5 towards Rotorua and is one of the best
thermal areas we have visited. It is also the site of the Lady Knox Geyser, but unless you are desperate to see a
geyser, then give that a miss. The best time to arrive is while the crowds are watching the geyser, which is
triggered each day at 10.15, if you can get there by about 9.45 – 10, you will have plenty of space. Any later,
then all those who have gone to watch the geyser spouting will descend on the place, including coach loads, and it
becomes rather crowded. Allow an hour and a half to two hours to walk round, the going is quite easy but if you
aren’t too keen on steps, then miss out the extra loop towards the end as it is quite steep. You can see the whole
gamut of thermal activity in one place, mud pools, sulphur caves, silica terraces, steaming sulphur pools etc.
Wai O Tapu Mud
Ivan – getting all steamed up!
Lady Knox Geyser
As featured in Lonely Planet, again off SH5, just a few kilometres past the Wai-O-Tapu turning, there is a road
named ‘Old Waiotapu Road’ to the right. It is not sealed, but driveable, if a bit rough. Continue along this road
for 2km until you reach a gate across and can go no further. On your right is a car parking area for about 8 cars
and to the right of that, is a short track which takes you to the stream. Beware of 2 things, firstly make sure you
lock your car and leave no valuables in sight (unfortunately the area has been targeted in the past by thieves).
Secondly, the water is HOT! Leave your toes in a bit too long and they will be nicely pink and parboiled. It is
such an unreal experience.
Maggie – cooking her tootsies! This is all hot water!
Hot & Cold
Now this is one that not many visitors get to experience. Again, travelling from Taupo, take the first turn to
Wai-O-Tapu. You very quickly come across a sign warning you of a bridge which is one way traffic and this is where
you must stop if you wish to visit the ‘Hot & Cold’. You can park just off the road, either to left or right,
either before or past the bridge, then just walk a few steps off to the right, and you will access a small beachy
area. This is where Kerosene Creek joins with a cold stream, so you have the choice of bathing waters, hot or cold,
or anything in between. Mix it yourself. Just remember to take your swimmies and a towel.
South of Taupo
Tongariro National Trout centre and Tokaanu thermal area
From Taupo head towards the Southern end of the Lake via State Highway 1 (SH1)
Once past the southern end of Lake Taupo bypass Turangi, past the golf course, you will find the trout centre about
1 Km further, it’s on the left side of the road; there is usually ample car parking and there is a small entrance
We found it very interesting, fishermen even more so. There is a 15 minute video of the work of the centre which
explains the work carried out to protect and enhance trout life in the Taupo area.
Outside there are several walks around the various ponds, when we visited the spawning season was over so we did
not get to view as much as we had anticipated.
The most interesting part was the glass fronted viewing room which is let into the side of a tributary; we viewed
both Rainbow and Brown trout.
We suggest you set aside 1½ to 2 hours to fully appreciate this trip, travelling time each way is about 50 minutes,
more if you stop at the townships for a coffee.
The area at Tokaanu has been used for many years as a spa pool; in addition there is a pleasant easy walk around a
fairly flat area where you will experience the steaming ground, pools and bubbling mud holes. You approach Tokaanu
from SH1, turn onto SH41 which takes you through Turangi, the township is a few kilometres along the road.
Whilst on SH41 there are two further attractions. A turn onto SH47 will, after 2 kilometres or so climbing all the
time, bring you to a scenic view point, on a clear day you can see the town of Taupo over 40 kilometres away. If
you have time for lunch there is a restaurant off SH41 at Waihi a village a few more kilometres away, there is a
turnoff towards the lake to Waihi village.
Tongariro River Rafting
Whilst at the southern end of the lake, although we haven’t experienced this personally, some of
our guests have tried the experience and thoroughly recommend it. They are situated in Turangi and offer a
whole range of activities, suitable for all levels of fitness and experience, from white water rafting,
through to family floats, fishing, biking and kayaking.
(We have since tried the white water rafting and it is awesome - if you will excuse the over-used expression. They
are a very professional outfit and make you feel safe and in good hands. The Tongariro River flows through some
magnificent scenery which is only accessible from the river and to raft it is just great. You have a two hour, 8
mile trip down the river, traversing some 60+ rapids, true adrenalin rush but under control at all times. They also
give you the opportunity to take photos whilst on board, using their own waterproof camera, which they put onto CD
for you, along with a lot of others taken from vantage points on the bank. Afterwards you are treated to sandwiches
and tea/coffee, which is most welcome.)
Tongariro National Park & Ski Fields
During the summer, the ski fields are closed but there are two chair lifts which remain open. From these it is
possible to get some marvellous views, but only on a clear day, we went when it was clear in Taupo but clouds hung
over the tops of the mountains and we were most disappointed to find firstly, that it was COLD when we got out of
the car (this was in March) and secondly, that the views were just not there. So, if you decide to do the southern
end of the lake make sure you have a decent windproof jacket, long trousers/pants and a stout pair of shoes. It is
a good day trip to cover the attractions at the south end of the lake, you can then return around the west side of
the lake but it is pretty hilly and twisty.
A real adrenalin rush ---- rafting in the dark, abseiling in the dark. Travel North along SH1 until SH5 turning,
head West onto SH30 and follow the signs for Waitomo. The total distance is about 145Km so maybe not for a day trip
but on your way northwards
A few kilometres along the road you will find the Black Water rafting caves, about a further 2 k along the road
will be the booking centre for the Glow Worm caves. These are unbelievable; you walk in and are taken to a small
jetty in the caves where you board an inflatable boat for a short journey. You will see nothing for 10 minutes or
so. When your eyes adjust to zero light you will realise that there are many thousands of small lights on the roof
of the cave, these are what you have come to see.
While many of you will be arriving in Taupo, either moving on from or travelling to, Napier, we thought you
might be interested in one of our trips there.
Napier is justly famous for three important things, the earthquake of 1931 which meant completely rebuilding the
city, the Art Deco buildings that sprang from that rebuild and also the thriving and famous Hawkes Bay
We left Taupo about 9am, remembering to fill up with petrol first, as there are no filling stations until you
reach Napier, having a relaxed journey and arriving at Church Road Winery in time for their guided tour at
The cost is around $21, and for this you will get a tour of the winery and have the wine-making process
explained in some detail. They also have a very interesting museum, housed in the old concrete wine vats, which
brings to life some of the history of the buildings. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, you get to taste 4 or 5 of
their notable wines, they produce 3 different qualities of wine, the Classic, the Cuvee and the Reserve, all using
different grape varieties and methods of pressing. Of course, you can buy from the cellar door, although there is
no pressure to buy. The winery is next door to the maybe more famous Mission winery, so it is possible to do both,
back-to-back. (You may be on your back though, by the time you have finished!)
Assuming you don’t spend too long over a liquid lunch, we would recommend you take one of the guided walking
tours of Napier. These depart from the Art Deco Shop (formerly the old fire station), there is one at 2pm, which
lasts for 2 hours and is extremely informative and entertaining. You will come away with a real understanding of
what happened to Napier in 1931 and how the city was rebuilt, as well as a much better knowledge of architectural
styles of the period.
As a farewell to Napier, take the road to Bluff Hill and have a view over the port and the coast from Gisborne
in the north as far as Cape Kidnappers to the south. Taking all of this in, you can be back in Taupo by about 7.30,
in time for your evening meal.
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