Taupō the volcanic heart of the North Island
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If you point your car inland from virtually any part of the coast of the North Island, you’ll find that just about all roads lead to Taupō. Taupōmoana is the huge crater lake formed by the world’s most violent volcanic eruption in the past 5000 years.
Consider it Mother Nature’s recreational gift to us all for the lake is the hub of a popular tourist mecca, where activities include trout fishing, skydiving, cycling, soaking in thermal pools, and the usual plethora of watersports.
Of the above, it’s trout fishing that made Taupō world-famous, whether from a charter boat on the lake, or in one of the “secret” pools of the streams that drain into the lake. Hire a guide to show you the latter, and you’ll enjoy a more natural fishing experience than heading out on the lake. There’s something about the cool, fresh water swirling around the waders and the need for accurate casting techniques that makes this method more satisfying.
But then, the lake fishing is also an opportunity to enjoy expansive views of the higher, more-recent volcanoes to the south, the often-snow-capped Kaimanawa mountains to the east, and to watch tiny dots in the sky gradually enlarge into parachutists, if the boat is anywhere near Taupō airport.
The fishing charters leave from the wharf immediately to the west of the CBD of Taupō township, and there are Mobil stations in Taupō to stock up on supplies pre-boat trip, and/or refill the car for the journey home again.
After the fishing, it’s worth lingering in the town, as it offers plenty of accommodation options, and a full range of restaurants and cafes.
Your lakefront motel will usually have a thermally heated pool, but a worthwhile experience is to take a dip in the lake. This needn’t be a chilly experience as there are many places dotted around where hot springs are draining into the lake.
A few footsteps on the lake bottom can often take you from water temperatures of around 11C to three times higher.
It’s worth bringing a bicycle to Taupō, or hiring one when you get there. From the CBD to Waitahanui, a well-groomed 14km cycleway hugs the lakefront, with plenty of establishments to stop for refreshments along the way. Mountain bikers will enjoy scenic trails that run alongside both sides of the Waikato river past the raging Huka Falls to the Aratiatia rapids. Visitors who time their arrival at the rapids for the frequent opening of the Aratiatia dam floodgates will witness the river changing from a peaceful stream to a torrent within minutes.
Those seeking a longer ride off-road can take on the Great Lake Cycle Trail, which runs along the lake to the west of the town, all the way, via Kinloch, to Kawakawa Bay; or spend some time on the shorter tracks of the Craters of the Moon mountain bike park.
A soak in one of the thermal pools or streams is a great end to any day in Taupō.
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Highlight: Soaking in Otumuheke Stream
The Spa Thermal Park is north of the township. It’s here that the Otumuheke stream runs into the much-cooler Waikato river at bath temperature.
Its increasing popularity with visitors and Taupō residents encouraged a significant council upgrade to the surrounding area in 2018, with the construction of changing rooms/toilets, lounging platforms, a hot spring seating area, and coffee kiosk.
It’s a free way to soak away aches after a hard day enjoying the wealth of activities on offer in Taupō.
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