Pronounced ‘Toe-paw’ by the locals, Taupo is surrounded by Lake Taupo, Waikato River, Forest, Volcanic activity, Mount Tauhara and the nearby Tongariro Crossing. Making it the ultimate destination for hiking, biking, water sports & soaking in hot thermal springs. To put it simply, you won't be short on things to do in Taupo. Not only that, Taupo has quite the night life too, so it is quite rare to find yourself in this scenic, lakeside town without a bit of buzz in the air. With so much natural beauty in the area it is very easy to explore all that Taupo has on offer on a backpacker budget. Here are our top free or cheap things to do in Taupo.
1. Visit Huka Falls
You may have stopped by Huka Falls on the Kiwi Experience or Stray Bus, but if you have time in Taupo make sure that you take a walk to the forefront of the waterfall. The walking trail begins just 20 minutes from Base Backpackers Taupo. Walk north towards Spa Road which will lead you the beginning of the trail. Allow yourself 1.5 hours to get there from town and expect amazing views of Waikato River along the way. Hint: it's New Zealand's most photographed natural attraction for a reason!
2. Take a dip in Otumuheke Stream at the Spa Thermal Park
Due to Taupo’s volcanic activity, you will find hot springs throughout the region. The Spa Thermal Park is about a 30 – 40 minute walk from Base Backpackers and can be found on the walking trail towards Huka Falls. To take a dip, walk to the far end of the park where you can take a dip in the river under the bridge. This popular spot is also a great place to take a dip in the river on a summer day - and if you're feeling adventurous - try the Flying Fox.
3. Do the Hole in 1 Challenge
The Lake Taupo Hole in 1 driving range is actually situated ON Lake Taupo. For as little as $1 per ball or $15 for 18 balls you can try your luck at potting a hole in 1. In true New Zealand style, the ‘greens’ are pontoons floating on Lake Taupo. If you do get a hole in one you'll win yourself $10,000!
4. Hire a Kayak
Kayak New Zealand’s largest lake! Kayaking is by far one of our favourite activities and LakeFun Taupo offer Double Kayak rental for $35 per hour (split between two people). If you do have a few extra $$ up your sleeve then a challenging Kayak to Mine Bay will get you up close and personal to the iconic Maori Rock Carvings in the bay. Allow around 4 to 5 hours to reach Mine Bay - pack your camera!
Photo by Tara Hunt
5. Explore Taupo by Bike
Taupo is well known for its cycle and mountain biking trails. There are numerous trails within the region depending on what sort of experience you are after. We recommend Craters of the Moon – the trail will take you through bubbling mud pools and steaming craters. How to get there? Follow Spa Road towards Huka Falls. Alternatively, follow the bike trail along the lakefront towards 5 Mile Bay. Bikes can be hired from Base Backpackers Taupo for as little as $20 for 4 hours! You can find more tips on bike trails here.
6. Hit the Beach at 5 Mile Bay
Sunny day? Hit the beach! 5 Mile Bay is the best beach close to the town centre of Taupo. The lakefront walking trail begins at Taupo's town centre and extends 2.5km towards 5 Mile Bay. The views of the lake are well worth the stroll. If you are feeling a little lazy then you can also hire a bike from the town centre.
7. See bubbling volcanic activity at Craters of the Moon
The park is called Craters of the Moon for a reason – the park is bubbling with volcanic activity, mud pools and steaming craters. The walkways throughout the park will lead you through an abundance of geothermal activity that will leave you feeling like your taking a casual stroll through Jurassic Park! To reach the park, follow the Huka Falls walking trail from Base. Allow yourself 1 hour to get there. Entry is $8. Alternatively you can hire a bike or grab a cheap taxi.
8. Hike Mount Tauhara
You will need at least half a day to complete this walk. Mount Tauhara is a Stratovolcano offering amazing views from the summit. The base of the mountain is about 10km from Taupo town centre (you can grab a cheap taxi from town if you don't have your own transport) and once you reach the beginning of the walking trail allow a further 1.5 hours to reach the top. This is a moderate to difficult walk but the views are well worth it. The mountain is usually covered in snow in winter so make sure you pack appropriate footwear.
9. Go and See the Aratiatia Rapids
This one is a local secret! Each day the dam gates of Waikato River are opened to release the rapids – forming a waterfall! This is a sight not to be missed and there are several viewing platforms along the river. The walk from town will take you about 2 hours so you will need at least half a day. Follow the Huka Falls trail and if you really want to do it how the locals do - buy yourself an inflatable tube or raft to float down the blue waters of Waikato.
10. Have a 6D Adventure in a Cinema
If you really are on a tight budget then not to worry - you can experience all of Taupo's natural wonders and adventure activities in the town's very own 6D cinema. The Adventure Cinema allows you to sit back and enjoy a skydive over Lake Taupo, white water rafting, jet boating or a flight over Mt Doom in 6D. From $9 - $15.