1. Huka Falls + Aratiatia Rapids + Huka Prawn Park + Huka Honey Hive
The Huka Falls are a must-see. 220,000 litres of water per minute rush through the point where the mighty Waikato River narrows from 100 metres to merely 15. It’s an exhilarating way to start a day of adventure.
You’ll want to see where all that water ends up – at the Aratiatia Rapids 8.3km north of Huka Falls. The dam opens a number of times each day to release water and seeing a quiet, shallow lagoon transform into a raging torrent in a matter of minutes is certainly a sight to behold!
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Crystal clear water of Aratiatia Rapids. Thousands of litres of water are released from the Aratiatia Dam a few times a day creating a spectacular flow of water through a narrow gorge. The surging rapids have been harnessed to produce environmentally sustainable hydroelectric power. 📸: @a.d.f.photography (please note: drone photography is not allowed without prior permission). #lovetaupo #aratiatiarapids #purenewzealand #nzmustdo
While you’re on this side of town, visit Huka Prawn Park. Here, you can fish for prawns (which you can take home with you) pedal boats, enjoy thermal foot baths plus plenty of other puzzles and water adventures. If the family ends up famished, there is a riverside café for dining.
If you still have some time up your sleeve the kids will enjoy a visit to Huka Honey Hive where you can try and buy a range of honey products – direct from the source.
2. Tongariro North Domain + Museum + Lake Front + Town Centre
A day in downtown Taupō is a blast. First, stop at the playground at Tongariro North Domain, where the air is fresh and a giant game of chess waiting.
Also here is Taupō’s Museum where there is always something on and daily activities for kids in the school holidays.
The lakefront itself offers swimming in the summer and rock skimming during the cooler months - you could easily spend an hour soaking in the glorious mountain and lake views. You’ll probably see Taupo’s floatplane take off (at very close range) and perhaps even a parasailer or two. Snap a pic at the #LOVETAUPO sign on your way.
In the township there are plenty of shops to pick up a souvenir, food to satisfy even the fussiest of tastes and if you’re after some visual stimulation, the Graffiato Street Art festival is on every Labour Weekend, but no matter the time of the year, there is still an amazing selection of wall art to discover– check out the walking map here.
3. Skate Park + Spa Thermal Park + Botanical Gardens + Indoor Rock Wall
Taupō’s skate park is a great place for kids to let off steam, whether they skate or scoot. Grab a coffee on the way so you can relax while they do all the work.
Just across the road is Spa Thermal Park, where it’s a leisurely walk down to the natural hot springs at Ōtumuheke Stream where the kids can have a splash. The park has recently had an upgrade with new toilets and changing rooms.
Nearby, the Botanical Gardens has 35 hectares of dutifully cultivated native bush, flora and fauna. It is the perfect place for a picnic, particularly with some of the gorgeous viewpoints dotted around the reserve.
Once the troops are recharged, head to the indoor rock wall at the AC Baths, where the whole family can have a go at climbing up to 12 metres high.
4. Tongariro National Park + Mt Ruapehu + Volcanic Centre
Winter snow or summer tussock wonderland, Tongariro National Park is a blast no matter the weather. There are family-friendly hikes or bike trails that will take you to some stunning locations for those who love an outdoor adventure.
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Get on your bike and get back to nature in Ruapehu - check out this fantastic shot by @studiozag 🌿 #SpringIntoRuapehu #VisitRuapehu . . . . . #timbertrail #nzcycletrails #ourgreateroutdoors #pureora #pureoraforest #mountainbiking #cycling #nzmustdo #kiaoranz #ruapehu #nativebush
Of course, Mt Ruapehu is most well-known for its superb snow facilities, home to the popular slopes of Whakapapa and Turoa. The ski fields are great for both learners and more experienced skiers and boarders. Either bring your own gear or hire equipment from the many stores in Taupō and Turangi. But if you’re just after a bit of fun there’s nothing wrong with a piece of cardboard to ride down the hill on.
Before you leave Turangi, stop off at the Volcanic Activity Centre. The Taupō Volcanic Zone is one of the world’s most active volcanic and geothermal landscapes, and here you can learn about how it came to be, all while standing on the doorstep of supervolcano Lake Taupō.
5. Craters Mountain Bike Park + The Hub + AC Baths
The Taupō region is famous for its biking trails. The best place to spend a morning (or day) is the Craters Mountain Bike Park. There are 50 kilometres of track here, ranging from children’s entry level to technical cross country, with some very cool downhill rides.
Thanks to a recently built under-road tunnel, you can now park at The Hub and head across to the MTB park. Grab lunch at The Hub Café when tummies start rumbling and explore the retired helicopter while you’re there.
Finish off the day at AC Baths. These thermally-heated pools are heavenly for tired bodies, and a great way to wind down after a busy day pedalling.