Taupo and the Waikato River from the air

Taupo, also written Taupō, is a town on the northern shore of Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake, in the central North Island. It is built around the lake's outlet into the Waikato River, the country's longest river.

It is a popular tourist destination due to its lake, boating, trout fishing, geothermal attractions, waterfalls, outdoor activities and proximity to the North Island's highest mountains.


The Lake Taupo area is situated on a volcanic plateau. The lake, famed for its trout fishing and boating, fills the caldera of one of the largest super-volcanoes in the world, in a still active geological region. About 26,000 years ago, the lake area was a volcano that erupted in an enormous explosion that ejected about 800 cubic kilometres of material, spreading it over the central North Island and forming the Volcanic Plateau. The resulting depression became Lake Taupo after it filled with water draining off the surrounding hills. It last erupted about 1,800 years ago, reportedly turning the skies over China and Rome red.

Today, Lake Taupo is New Zealand's largest lake by area, covering 616 square kilometres. It feeds the Waikato River, New Zealand's longest, with the water to run eight hydroelectric power stations. After leaving town, the river rushes through the tourist attractions of Huka Falls and Aratiatia Rapids.

Get in

By plane

Taupo Airport is 8 km south of the town centre. Air New Zealand Link operates daily flights from Auckland, and Sounds Air has scheduled flights from Wellington most days. The airport provides for private jets and other aircraft and is the busiest parachute drop zone in New Zealand.

By bus

Intercity and Nakedbus offer coach services to Taupo several times a day from throughout the North Island. Adventure travel networks in the form of Kiwi Experience, Stray and Contiki also visit Taupo (daily in summer).

By car

Taupo is located centrally lies on the junction of State Highway 1 and State Highway 5, making it accessible from most places in the North island.

Until recently, Taupo was a congestion spot over the Christmas/New Year period and on public holidays as two highways worth of inter-city traffic mixed with local traffic on the lake front. In October 2010, an eastern bypass of Taupo opened to take the two highways around the outside of the town rather than through it, easing the holiday congestion somewhat.

Approximate distances and drive times are:

Get around

The urban centre is very compact and is within easy walking distance of most hotels, motels and hostels, as are a number of the more popular activities. To explore further, there are several car rental companies and the popular "Hot Bus" shuttle, which has regular trips to the most popular tourist sites. In addition most activity operators offer a free pick up, drop off service. It is also possible to hire push bikes and motor scooters. Accommodation providers will be able to assist with all transport arrangements.


Local tours


Rental cars


The rapids in the Waikato River before the Huka Falls

There are many sights of interest in the Taupo region, most of which are free of charge, and you should set a day aside to check out some of the sights. To get around the sights transport is a must - a mountain bike at the very least for people with some fitness or perhaps a rental car or shuttle for those who prefer to relax while on holiday.

Geothermal activity

Being in the heart of the Taupo Volcanic Zone you don't have to travel far to encounter geothermal activity. There are several examples and, though not as heavily marketed or developed as those in nearby Rotorua, they provide a fascinating insight into the fragility of our planet.

Ten minutes north of town on Wairakei Road, the Wairakei steam field can be accessed by car and provides an insight into the tapping of the earth's heat for electricity generation. The 175MW Wairakei Power Station opened in 1958, the first geothermal plant in New Zealand and only the second commercial-scale geothermal plant in the world. Today, geothermal power stations in New Zealand produce 15 percent of the country's electricity requirements. Further north along State Highway 5 is the newer and smaller, but more prominent, Ohaaki Power Station. Its 105-metre tall natural draft cooling tower, like those typically found at nuclear power stations, stands out from the landscape for miles around.


A sailing school on Lake Taupo

There is no shortage of activities on offer in Taupo, be it an adrenaline rush or the more sedate - there is something for everyone! From the ever popular bungy, to Taupo being internationally known as a mecca for skydiving, to jet boating, trout fishing, scenic flights, and simple pleasures such as the AC Baths and the one and only Starlight Cinema!

Bungy jumping

Taupo Bungy operates not far from the town centre at the Hell's Gate section of the Waikato River. The location is quite scenic and utilises a custom-built cantilever platform protruding from a cliff face over the river. There is a cafe and several good vantage points. They are endorsed by the New Zealand Safety Standards Authority.

Jet boating

With New Zealand's largest river, the Waikato, flowing from Lake Taupo, there is little wonder that jet boating is available and there are three operators providing trips on various sections of the river. Jet boating is a very New Zealand activity and well worth the effort.


Taupo's natural scenery with its lake, forests and volcanic backdrop make for an excellent skydive location. Taupo is New Zealand's skydive Mecca, as people flock here to do a jump at the cheapest prices in the country. There are two companies operating from Taupo Airport: Taupo Tandem Skydiving and Skydive Taupo. Each company offers tandem skydives from both 12,000 and 15,000 feet and also provide various DVD and photo options to capture the moment. Taupo Tandem can also cater for experienced solo jumpers and a skydive school operates over the summer months which offers training to beginners.


With a surface area of 616 square km, Lake Taupo is the focal point for the town and its people and to truly appreciate it you really need to head out on it. There are many hidden bays and some spectacular views to be had from on the water. Well worth a look are the large Maori rock carvings which can only be accessed by water.

The options available range from large, powered charter boats to kayaks. The Barbary, a 1926 racing yacht with an interesting history, is quite popular and a good option for a sunny day.

Chartered & fly fishing

Lake Taupo is widely considered to be the rainbow trout capital of the world and the lake's tributaries contain some fine brown trout. There are numerous charter and guiding companies that offer both lake and river fishing expeditions. The easiest way to find and book such trips is via local fishing stores and booking centres.

Chartered trout fishing

Fly fishing

Fishing stores

Scenic flights

With the natural beauty of Taupo and its surrounds a scenic flight is well worth considering. There are a number of companies offering flights ranging from 15 minutes to several hours over the town, lake, mountains and volcanic areas. Both helicopter and fixed wing flights are available.


There are many opportunities to walk in and around Taupo. Forest, mountains, guided walks and unguided.

Adventure packages

Swimming & sauna


Family & children

Booking agents

Maori culture

Join an eco-cultural tour. Your guide will take you through the magnificent Pureora Forest Park and explain how the Maori people utilised the forest resources in their daily lives. You will learn to weave/carve a taonga (special gift) and to "hongi" (traditional Maori greeting/farewell)


Over recent years the event industry in Taupo has been thriving. A combination of attractive venues and a supportive community have been key to this growth. Taupo now hosts a number of major international and national events, including:




Not your average airline food.







Holiday parks




Boutique accommodation/lodges

Serviced apartments

Stay safe


Internet access

Accessing the Internet is simple and easy, with Internet cafes and wireless hotspots available in the city centre, motels, restaurants, bars and clubs.

Available wireless hotspots

Wireless hotspots available within numerous areas or that cover a large area.

Go next

Taupo can be used as a base to see the surrounding country, including Turangi, Tongariro National Park, Waiouru and the western bays.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 21, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.