This week I was lucky enough to jump off the Stray Bus in Taupo and have 6 entire days to explore the town that sits at the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake. Base Backpackers is almost lakefront and situated in the centre of town. The staff know all of the local secrets and were able to provide me with loads of free and cheap activity ideas!
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. Not only that, Taupo has quite the night life and being New Zealand’s sporting events capital, it is quite rare to find yourself in this scenic, lakeside town without a bit of buzz in the air.
So grab your (Google) map and mark an ‘X’ next to Taupo – here’s how to do it on a budget...
1. 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. 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.
2. 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. This popular spot is also a great place to take a dip in the river on a summer day - if feeling adventurous - try the Flying Fox
3. Hire a Kayak
Kayak New Zealand’s largest lake! Kayaking is by far one of my favourite activites -
I highly recommend checking out the 10 metre high Maori Rock Carvings at Mine Bay - amazing!
4. 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 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.
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. I 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. Bike Hire can be organised by recpetion staff at Base Taupo.
6. 5 Mile Bay
Sunny day? Hit the beach! 5 Mile Bay is the best beach close to the town centre of Taupo. Follow the lakefront walking trail 2.5km towards the bay.
7. 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. Follow the Huka Falls walking trail from Base. Allow yourself 1 hour to get there. Entry is $5.
8. Hire a Scooter
Ok so this will cost you $39 for the entire day – but still cheap all the same! Scooters can be hired from Base Taupo. I suggest following the lakefront for beautiful views
9. Hole in 1 Challenge
Driving range with a view and a fun afternoon. For $20 you will get 25 balls. The ‘greens’ are pontoons floating on Lake Taupo.
10. Aratiatia Rapids
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.
To follow my New Zealand adventure: www.facebook.com/basebackpackers