Taupo is located in the centre of the North Island, around 3.5 hours from Auckland and 4.5 hours from Wellington. A popular destination for locals and international visitors
Taupo’s township and surrounding area are a haven for walkers, hikers and mountain bikers. See the largest lake in New Zealand running into a narrow river gorge creating dramatic rapids and waterfalls. The geothermal activity also creates natural hot pools to relax in, and so much more fun, free things to do in Taupo! The suggestions we make demonstrate that a visit to this stunning region does not have to break the bank.
Thankfully, Taupo and the surrounding area provide a wide variety of inexpensive activities, many of which are free. This natural amusement park is full of unexpected delights around every corner. The journey of a lifetime awaits you!
If you follow our suggestions, you will depart Taupo with some great memories and a not-so-empty wallet.
New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato, flows north from Lake Taup between banks that are 100 metres apart. Immediately prior to the Huka Falls, it drops into a narrow gorge formed by igneous rock. This phenomenon might be thought of as a natural version of a fire hose being directed through a tiny nozzle.
When the waves rush along the valley and over Huka Falls, they boom and rumble before crashing 11 metres below into a churning pool. A footbridge at the top of the falls allows visitors an ideal vantage point from which to take in the mighty spectacle of water crashing by.
If you have the budget take a jet boat tour or a river cruise to get an up-close look at the roaring waterfall.
There are numerous excellent lookouts all around the falls from which to take in their full majesty and get some very breathtaking photographs.
At Taupo’s Spa Thermal Park, the Otumuheke Stream flows peacefully through bush and scrub and along the park’s border.
The water then cascades down a few minor waterfalls, filling the pools below with warm, flowing mineral water before entering the mighty Waikato. Unlike the commercial alternatives available, it is soothing, pleasantly calming, and entirely natural.
Follow the signs from the Spa Thermal Park parking lot to the Waikato River. Near the beginning of the trail, a bridge crosses Otumuheke Stream, a natural hot stream where you can have a free dip.
Once there, you don your bathing suit and descend the steps at the stream’s edge to bathe in one of the pools or sit immediately beneath the small waterfall.
From this point, a well-defined path winds its way along the riverbank, providing breathtaking vistas along the route. The walk takes in the magnificent Huka Falls.
Craters of the Moon is a geothermal walkway with Lunar Landscapes. With its vast craters, this geothermal area has some unique plant species that have adapted to survive. And colourful soils. And it’s seething gouts of steam from its vents. It Looks more like another planet.
The Geothermal activity underground is responsible for the steam and the pervasive, sulphurous smell.
Allow approximately 45 minutes to complete the loop and an additional 15 minutes for the upper lookout (this section is steep and stepped in places, but the view is well worth the effort and highly recommended)
Visitors pay an admission fee of $10 Adult & $5 Child and follow a carefully mapped hike through the dramatic terrain.
Spill gates from the dam at the top of the Aratiatia rapids are opened several times a day, filling the canyon with raging water that can rush by at speeds of up to 90,000 litres per second. About thirty minutes later, when the gates are shut, the turbulent stream calms down to a gentle current. Visitors can sense nature’s might by witnessing the ebb and flow from full to no flow.
The Waikato River drops 28 metres in just one kilometre near Aratiatia. The headwaters are channelled via a tunnel and used to generate hydroelectric power, which is both clean and sustainable. The Aratiatia rapids are released to their natural flow at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. daily (and at 4 p.m. in the summer). High rock bluffs overlook this choppy section of the river and provide several great vantage locations.
Stairway of Tia is the literal translation of the name Aratiatia. It alludes to the zigzag pattern of stakes that helps hikers make it up a steep slope, as well as the high priest of the Arawa tribe, an early Maori explorer named Tia, who travelled through the gorge on his way to discovering Lake Taupo.
Excellent views of the Waikato River can be seen over a two-hour hike between Huka Falls and the Aratiatia Rapids. At the beginning of the rapids, the river flows through a 142-hectare reserve on Lake Aratiaitia. You can ride your mountain bike on this path.
The Great Lake Pathway (Lion’s Walk) was voted New Zealand’s Favorite Urban Ride in 2017, and it’s easy to see why: the route is excellent for families and features breathtaking vistas of Lake Taupo and the snowy summits of Mount Tongariro National park
The trail begins at Taupo Boat Harbour and follows the lakefront, providing spectacular views of the lake and the mountains of Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngauruhoe across it. This route takes you by a lot of hotels and motels, as well as several relaxing hot water sites.
There are many places to rest, have coffee or ice cream, go for a swim, or take pictures along this somewhat flat walking or bicycle path. At Wharewaka Point, you’ll find a children’s playground, a BBQ pit, and a bathroom. There are no restrictions on canine companions or strollers on this path.
After passing the Three Mile Bay boat launch, the paved path continues to further quiet coves where boats are moored and beautiful vacation homes. You can stop at one of the many picnic or rest spots along the lakeside and take in the scenery or go for a swim.
All along the trail, kowhai trees have been planted to give indigenous creatures a safe haven. It’s not uncommon to observe ducks and swans in the area.
Mountain bikers and hikers can explore a network of routes along the Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river.
Follow the river at your own pace while taking a new perspective of the Mighty Awa.
From Atiamuri Village to Lake Karapiro, the paths traverse over 100 kilometres of the formerly inaccessible area in Southern Waikato.
Meander at your own pace along a Trail that embraces the enchantment and beauty of New Zealand’s native bush, exotic forest, and charming villages of Atiamuri, Whakamaru, Mangakino, and Arapuni.
Be inspired as you pedal past spectacular hydro dams, over suspension bridges, and significant wetlands while taking in vast lakes and river vistas.
Five sections comprise the Waikato River Trails: Karapiro, Arapuni, Waipapa, Maraetai, and Whakamaru.
Image: Huka Honey Hive
Entrance to New Zealand’s largest honey product expo is completely free. Try some free samples of 100% pure New Zealand honey, honey wine (mead), and liqueurs. Discover the many uses and advantages of bee products like manuka honey, royal jelly, propolis, and pollen. Try out some of the best honey-based beauty and health products on the market. Original concepts for presents for all occasions.
Visit our hives to see natural bees up close and learn more about the incredible honeybee and its vital role in human society through their displays and DVD presentation.
In the winter, Sit by the fire, and enjoy a coffee and honey ice cream in the garden to round out your stay. There’s something here for everyone, so bring the kids and find out what all the buzz is about.
The Best Place in Taupo to Be First Thing on Sunday Morning
Browse fresh produce, scrumptious food, art and crafts, and much more.
Never before have Sundays been so inviting. An intriguing market has recently emerged next to the picturesque Lake Taupo, with its breathtaking backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
Whether you’re here for breakfast, brunch, or lunch, you’re sure to find something delicious at the Sunday market, which boasts more than 50 vendors and a lively performance schedule.
Thursday Evenings in the Summer:
Taupo’s market Central hosts an exciting food and beverage fair every Thursday evening during the summer.
What better way to begin your Thursday evening throughout the summer than by joining the festivities of Taupo market for “dinner at the lake.”
Bring your friends and family and choose from the enormous selection of available meals.
Listen to Live Music and sip on Local Craft Beer and Mead while viewing an abundance of breathtaking sunsets. Plus entertainment for the children!
Tokaanu Thermal Walk is located in the town of Tokaanu near the southern end of Lake Taupo.
This short, leisurely stroll features steaming hot mineral pools and bubbling mud pools. A terrific alternative for families and children and a great activity before soaking in the therapeutic waters of the Tokaanu Thermal Pools next door. ($8 Adult per person)
Take a leisurely stroll throughout this natural thermal area. Observe bubbling mineral springs in sinter basins and bubbling mud pots amongst lovely local vegetation.
Since the 16th century, members of the native Mori tribe Ngati Kurauia have resided near the Tokaanu Stream and thermal area. Thermal Pools are utilised for leisure, bathing, and their therapeutic properties.
Continuous hot water and steam vents are utilised for communal cooking and the dying of traditional garments. Share in this tradition by swimming in the adjacent Tokaanu Thermal Pools, which are both therapeutic and relaxing.
The Tokaanu region is part of the active Taupo Volcanic Zone, which stretches from White Island to Mount Ruapehu and has numerous active volcanoes.
Far beneath the surface, the water comes into contact with the hot volcanic rock and is finally driven back up to the surface, where it emerges as mineral-rich, hot thermal springs.
Rainbow trout are often spotted in the chilly Tokaanu creek, which flows alongside the thermal area.
What are the finest cruises on Lake Taupo?
A cruise tour of Lake Taupo is one way to experience it. Aboard Chris Jolly’s (From $45) spacious power-Cat includes visiting the Maori Rock Carvings and the opportunity to catch a fish on specific trips.
Other popular Lake Taupo cruises include
sailing aboard Sail Barbary (From $49) or Sail Fearless (From $49) for 2 to 2.5 hours of sailing. Summertime sailing cruises typically include light refreshments, onboard commentary, and the opportunity to swim.
The highlight of any sailing or cruising tour is a stop at the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings in the lake’s cliff face.