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Lake Taupo – Guide for Backpackers

Rapids, hot pools, giant lakes: have a water adventure in Lake Taupo.

The Lake Taupo district surrounds the largest lake in Australasia. It is so large that it is said to fit the island of Singapore in it. What’s more, this magnificent lake is actually a volcanic crater. Around this magnificent lake is a land of adventure, culture and natural wonders.

With great volcanoes comes great geothermal activity creating natural hot pools in the area to bathe in. You’ll find both free hot pools and geothermal parks. The district also makes a great base for hiking on the volcanoes on Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro as part of the Tongariro Crossing or snowboarding on Mt Ruapehu in winter.

The town of Taupo lives up to its reputation of being the “Adventure Capital of the North Island”. Adventure activities include a skydive, bungy jump, jet boating, and mountain biking. On the other hand, there are places to relax in Lake Taupo by fishing in Turangi or shopping in Taupo’s township.

Things you can’t miss in Lake Taupo

  • Skydive over Lake Taupo
  • Sail or kayak to the maori carvings
  • Visit Huka Falls
  • Bungy jump over the Waikato River
  • Bathe in Spa Park’s natural hot spring (for free!)
  • Take on one of the many bike rides around Lake Taupo!
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The largest town in the Lake Taupo region, Taupo, not only provides great shopping and restaurants, but is a great base for adventure. No wander so many Kiwis come here for their summer holidays!

Being situated on the northern shores of Lake Taupo, there are some fun water activities to get involved in in Taupo. Sail or kayak to the Maori carvings that are on a vertical rock face. Do a spot of trout fishing on the lake. (Find out more in Fishing in New Zealand). Try your golf skills at the mini golf course or hit a golf ball into the lake in the Lake Taupo Hole in One Challenge.

Check out what else you can do in our list of cheap or free things to Taupo.



These extreme rapids have become the most-visited New Zealand attraction! At Huka Falls, the mighty Waikato River is suddenly squeezed down a narrow chasm passing 200,000 litres of water per second! What’s more, this marvel is free to visit.

You can either drive to the falls, 5km north of Taupo on the Huka Falls Road, or it is part of an hour’s walk from Taupo from Spa Park. (Find out more in 10 Wonderful Walks Around Lake Taupo).

Other options to get up close to Huka Falls is on a jet boat or cruise.


Adrenaline Activities in Lake Taupo

Taupo is the home of the pink-plane and yellow-plane skydive. As the best value skydives in New Zealand with views from one side of the country to the other (and that’s in the thickest part of the North Island), skydiving in Taupo is a strong contender when thinking about where to do a skydive in New Zealand! Find out more in 12 Places to Tandem Skydive in New Zealand.

Want to start your fall a little closer to the ground? The Taupo Bungy and Cliffhanger hangs above the impressive Waikato River. The bungy is NZ’s highest water touch. Find out more in 7 Epic Places to Bungy Jump in New Zealand.

Keep on dry land by racing down the many mountain bike trails in the region such as Craters MTB Park and Waikato River Trail. More epic bike rides are listed on 10 Awesome Bike Trails Around Lake Taupo.



Yet another town in New Zealand claiming to be a the capital of the world for something! For Turangi, it is the “Trout Fishing Capital of the World”. Remember you need a fishing licence before you take advantage of the fantastic fishing here, which you can find out more about in Fishing in New Zealand). While you’re out fishing look out for the rare blue duck.

Turangi is situated at the southern end of Lake Taupo and along the Tongariro River. Apart for fishing, the town’s other claim to fame is that its the home of the “KA MATE” haka – a Maori war dance dating back 200 years that is now performed by the All Blacks rugby team before each game.


Geothermal wonderland

In the shadow of the active volcanoes in the Ruapehu region, it comes to no surprise that there are several geothermal attractions in the Lake Taupo area too.

Orakei Korako, a.k.a the Hidden Valley, has the most active geysers in NZ. See the weird and wonderful colours of the silica terraces and the rare sight of a geothermal cave.

The combination of the natural geothermal activity and manmade design can be found at Wairakei Terraces. You can really treat yourself to the health spa and Maori experience onsite.

Alternatively, treat yourself for free at the natural hot spring at Spa Park. The hot water meets the Waikato River to give you a perfect temperature for a relaxing soak. Remember to keep an eye on your belongings.

If you have more time in Lake Taupo…

  • See the surging rapids as Aratiatia Dam is released at 10am, 12pm, 2pm and (4pm in summer).
  • Hike Mt Tauhara.
  • Swim or relax in the thermally heated AC Baths in Taupo.
  • See our article 10 free and cheap activities in Taupo for more ideas!
  • While you’re at it, check out 10 Taupo Must-Dos.
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Where to stay in Lake Taupo?

For more accommodation options, check out our Accommodation Guide to Taupo and Where to Camp in Taupo.

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