Taupo, New Zealand
Home to the longest-running IRONMAN event outside of the United States, Taupo in New Zealand sees thousands of visitors each year discover this scenic town on the North Island. The IRONMAN is the biggest event in Taupo each year, but there is so much more to see and do in this beautiful part of the world.
We’ve listed a few of the top attractions below that see tourists visit Taupo and its natural surrounds year after year.
At the heart of New Zealand’s central volcanic plateau sits the largest freshwater lake in Australasia, Lake Taupo. This huge, shining expanse of water, moving between aquamarine blue and jade green, is crystal-clear to a depth of 13 metres. It is home to one of the best wild trout fisheries in the world, more than 30 species of water bird, several types of native fish. It’s known by local tangata whenua (‘people of the land’) as Taupō Moana, the ‘inland sea of New Zealand’.
Most days, the lake is beautifully calm, but its creation was one of the most spectacularly violent natural events in history. The gigantic Oruanui eruption, 27,000 years ago, shot volcanic debris 50km into the air, covered the North Island in a thick layer of volcanic ash, and created the caldera that is now the lake. It’s New Zealand’s largest lake (and Australasia’s), with a surface area about the same size as Singapore.
Lake Taupō has a steep drop-off from the shore to an average depth of 100m, and plunges to 186m at its deepest point. In the mornings Lake Taupo can be shrouded in mist, which usually rolls back by midday to reveal the sparkling waters beneath. The surface of the lake is often dotted with pale balls of pumice, a volcanic rock so light it floats on water.
Kayaking Taupo’s trout-laden rivers and streams, or Lake Taupo’s aquamarine waters is the perfect way to discover the region’s hidden beaches and bays.
Journey through towering volcanic cliffs as you peacefully float down the aquamarine waters of the Waikato River, or spend the day on a kayak tour to the Mine Bay Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay. Kayaking is the closest you will get to the impressive 14m carving towering above Lake Taupo. Kayaking is perfect for the whole family with trips of varying length.
White water rafting
When you combine the natural elements of superb white water rapids with a pristine environment boasting crystal-clear drinkable water and lush native bush, you really do have a world-class setting. Craft operators in Taupo offer white water rafting, family and eco experiences, and epic heli-rafting adventures on the Tongariro, Waikato and backcountry rivers.
New Zealanders are renowned for going to extreme lengths to get an adrenaline buzz (this is the country where commercial bungy-jumping was invented, after all). And Taupo is ground zero for every activity that a thrill-seeker could wish to try.
Set off on alpine adventures in volcanic mountains, discover the mighty Tongariro and Waikato rivers and the largest freshwater lake in Australasia (plus more than 20 other lakes), thundering waterfalls and ancient native bush, and all the adrenaline that comes with such an epic landscape.
Hurl yourself from a skydive plane to get the most boast-worthy view of the entire region – from the mountains across the lake and out to the coast. Leap from the highest water-touch bungy platform in the country and take a dip in the clear waters of the Waikato River. You can hurtle down slopes on snowboards or toboggans, zoom across rivers in a jet boat, bounce through rapids on a white water raft, race V8 supercars or judder along bush tracks in a quad bike – if you’ve got the nerve, Taupo has the test for it.
Walking & hiking
Nothing brings you closer to Taupo’s unforgettable wilderness than walking through it. Taupo’s untouched ancient forests and swamplands, impressive geothermal wonderlands, and breath-taking volcanoes are crisscrossed with excellent walking and hiking tracks of all lengths and levels of difficulty. From pleasant lakefront and riverside strolls like the Great Lake Walkway and Huka Falls trails, through to the Tongariro River Trail and Lake Rotopounamu native bush walks ringing with birdsong, to the epic full-day alpine trek known as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which treks across a cratered volcanic moonscape dotted with gemstone-coloured lakes. Thermal walkways at Craters of the Moon and Orakei Korako expose the power and mystery of the earth’s inner workings in the strange and wonderful landscapes of Taupo’s geothermal areas, and walks in the Pureora Forest Park take you deep into a magical and ancient world of moss covered trees, crystal-clear rivers and melodious birdsong. Taupo has some of the best walking tracks in New Zealand, all just awaiting the addition of your boot-prints.
Picturesque with an adventurous flair, the Huka Falls are revered by all New Zealand visitors who get to see it. The 11-metre (36.1-foot) high waterfall is renowned for its voluminous flows, which amount to 220,000 litres per second (that’s enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool in a matter of ten seconds!). There are walking tracks and viewing platforms that allow nature lovers and landscape photographers to relish the Huka Falls at every possible angle. If you’re looking for a thrill, hop on a jet boat – that will get you up close and personal to those thundering river rapids.
No adventure trip to New Zealand would be complete without the bungy. Taupo adds its own kick to this adrenaline rush by bringing visitors the only water-touch experience in the country. The jumping platform sits atop the Waikato River, just five minutes from town. As you reach the top, take a deep breath and prepare to plunge 47 metres (154 feet) down into the waters. For a drier, slightly easier alternative there’s always the Cliffhanger Swing, which will whizz you across the exact same location at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour (43.5 miles per hour). Not for the faint hearted!