From fly fishing to waterfalls, walks, cycle trails and bucket list activities, we’ve rounded up seven Must-Do’s and Kiwi Gems in Taupō to check out on a winter getaway.
1. Trout Fishing
A myriad of tributaries flow into Lake Taupō, from waterways that are little more than creeks to mighty, legendary rivers like the Tongariro. While they make a lovely scenic stop on your Taupō holiday, these waterways around the mighty lake provide some of the best fly fishing in the world and have done so since trout were first introduced here over 100 years ago.
Fly fishing for trout is permitted in most of the inflowing rivers – but getting a good guide is a good start. They’ll have the gear and can provide you with the appropriate fishing licences. These are a must-have: you can’t fish without them. If the idea of standing waist-deep in cold water is not so appealing, you’re guaranteed to spot trout, learn more about their life cycle and the history of fly fishing at the excellent Tongariro National Trout Centre.
2. Sky Diving
Taupō is known as the skydiving capital of the world. Tens of thousands of jumps happen here every year. Just take a look at the landscape and it’s easy to see why: that bright blue lake, those snow-capped peaks, the bountiful, beautiful New Zealand landscape just stretching away from 4,500 feet. Alone, or in tandem, you’ll get the thrill of the free fall and then the slow dive as you take in 360 degrees of stupendous natural beauty. There’s plenty of time to soak up the views while you’re up there before a gentle finish back on solid ground. Safe, sensational and (almost) out of this world. It’s one for the bucket list.
3. Huka Falls
Huka Falls are New Zealand’s most visited – and photographed – natural attraction. Here, you can witness water flowing at 220,000 litres per second from 11m high. It’s a sight to behold. The mighty Waikato River narrows from 100m down to a slender 15m wide, creating a surge powerful enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool in 11 seconds. Witness this from bridges, lookout points and various trails and paths, or alternatively, jump on a jet boat to get up close to the frothing base of the falls.
4. Aratiatia Rapids
While you’re at Huka Falls, follow the seven-kilometre track past the last viewing area and you can walk or mountain bike (carefully, as it’s shared use) along cliff tops and through native bush to the Aratiatia Rapids. A feat of engineering, the Aratiatia Dam harnesses the energy of the river to create hydroelectric power. Time your arrival for the opening of the gates – in winter, water is released at 10am, 12pm and 2pm – to experience a sedate stream turn into a raging torrent.
5. Ōrakei Kōrako
A virtually untouched geothermal valley, set on Lake Ohakuri just outside Taupō, Ōrakei Kōrako is a volcanic world of geysers, bubbling mud and naturally heated caves. The landscape is a riot of almost improbable colours, stained by the minerals in the hot water, bubbling up from deep underground. There are more active geysers here than in any other geothermal field in New Zealand, along with snorting fumaroles, fizzing springs and entertainingly obscene mud pools. A short bush walk leads to Ruatapu cave, where you can descend into the warm earth and admire the mirror-calm surface of a subterranean pool. Ōrakei Kōrako also has one of the largest silica terraces left in the world, since the Pink and White Terraces were destroyed by the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886.
If you're visiting Taupō you'll no doubt want to venture out on the lake. Some of the most striking additions to the Taupō waterfront are Doughboats – doughnut-shaped boats with room for up to six people to cruise the inner reaches of the Great Lake. Rug up aboard your very own bubble-like boat to explore the many bays and hidden coves and enjoy a picnic while bobbing on the waves.
7. Ride the Great Lake Trail
Get on your bike and hit the north-western shores of Lake Taupō on the Great Lake Trail. An 83km, one- to three-day grade three ride, the Great Lake Trail forms part of the Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trail. You can either tackle the trail one multi-day trip, or it can be split into shorter sections to suit your cycling skills. Taking in a range of diverse landscapes, the Great Lake Trail includes wetlands and waterfalls, beaches, gorges, headlands, bridges and of course vistas of New Zealand’s largest lake. Experienced riders will enjoy the exhilarating downhills, switchbacks and cambered berms, while the easier sections allow you to soak up the unusual rock formations and unique volcanic scenery.