Taupo, New Zealand, is most famous for its magnificent lake, but it’s also the North Island’s adrenaline hub, with sky-diving and bungee jumping, as well as the gateway to Huka Falls. So grab your camera, pack your swimsuit and prepare to switch off – here’s our pick of the best places to stay.
Taupo lake is a vast, glassy expanse about the size of Singapore, offering fishing, sunset-cruise and kayaking opportunities aplenty. Another draw for visitors is the thunderous Huka Falls, with more than 220,000 litres (387,146 pints) per second of water gushing down. So get ready for an unforgettable time, and book your accommodation now with our recommendations.
Taupo’s Hilton strikes the balance between Victorian charm – it’s set in a 19th-century building – and resort-style benefits, including tennis courts, spacious rooms and an impressive two-tiered pool. You’re just 10 minutes outside Taupo’s town centre, stuffed with restaurants, but on a quiet stretch of lakefront that lets you channel the serenity of the water. Restaurant Bistro Lago comes with roaring fires and zippy local wines, should you not feel like venturing out after a busy day exploring.
Couples love the candlelit bath soaks, free in-room wine and gourmet pre-dinner canapes at this luxurious lodge in Acacia Bay. But most of all they love the views – across the lake, gardens, Mount Tauhara and the Kaimanawa Ranges – which pour in through ample windows lining almost every wall. Wake early for coffees on your private deck as the sun rises and prepare for a fabulous, locally sourced breakfast, whipped up by amicable hosts Stephanie and Neil.
Opened in the 1920s as an anglers’ retreat, this is one of New Zealand’s most exclusive, luxurious stays – the star-studded guest list includes HM Queen Elizabeth. Tucked into 7ha (17 acres) of super-private grounds, there’s a lodge-like cosiness with splashes of tartan and roaring fires, and yet it’s still bright and inviting. Suites are spacious and suited to long, relaxed stays, during which you can make the most of trout fishing and jet-boating.
The focus is on families at this activity-packed resort, complete with waterpark, mineral baths and cafe turning out crowd-pleasing chicken burgers and chips. A vast choice of accommodation options, from villas and motel rooms to campervan sites and cute rustic cabins means that all budgets and group sizes are catered for; while a day spa with thermal mud wraps ensures that parents seeking R&R have a place to unwind.
After immaculate lakefront? You can’t get much closer than The Reef Resort. You can practically dip a toe into the waters from these homely apartments, furnished with kitchens, lounge areas and sun-splashed terraces. A heated freshwater pool means you can treat yourself to dips year-round, while an al fresco barbecue area lets you cook a feast starring freshly landed local trout. Book the Lake View units to wake to the sparkling waters.
These one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments just a 10-minute drive from Taupo’s airport hit the sweet spot between hotel-quality amenities – there’s an al fresco pool, in-room films and a cleaning service – but have all the freedom of self-catering. It’s just a 10-minute walk from Downtown Taupo, so eating options are plentiful, but staff will deliver a breakfast pack to your room so you needn’t go further than your kitchenette to bag a scrumptious morning spread.
Set on the forested Whakamoenga Point, moments from the famed modern Mine Bay Maori rock carvings (best seen by boat), these two luxury villas are amazingly sited: lake waters unfurl towards the horizon, the dramatic peaks of Ruapehu and Tongariro thrust into the skies beyond. Both ultra-private, they come with swimming pools, floor-to-ceiling windows and outdoor eating areas so you can have long, lazy lunches with the waters of the lake lapping below.
With its clay-tiled roof and series of vaulted archways, this B&B looks more like something you’d find in Spain or California than New Zealand. A rambling lawn, gardens and saltwater pool all make for a serene, spacious place to unwind after a day chasing Taupo’s various thrills – as does a sun-drenched conservatory and golf-chipping range. An on-site farm buzzes with beehives and clucking chickens, while organic breakfasts come as part of the deal when you book one of the five comfy, classic rooms.
The views really are incredible –180 degrees of sparkling blue, rolling out to undulating green hills. The very best are from the white-washed Kowhai Suite, fitted with a deck on which to sink a glass of NZ fizz and watch the clouds pass along the widescreen horizon. But the downstairs Acacia Rooms have postcard-worthy vistas, too, plus the melodic call of native birds to gently wake you in the morning. It sleeps four – ideal for families travelling with teens.
A striking lodge, plucked straight from the Alps; plus warm New Zealand hospitality, from hosts Peter and Nina and pets Otto and Bella. That’s the brilliant blend at Chalet Eiger, set in tranquil Acacia Bay, a short drive from Taupo town centre. Stretch-out rooms come with natural-fibre mattresses, spa baths and treats – fresh fruit, cheese, New Zealand wine – to enjoy on your private terrace. In the shared lounge, local guidebooks and roaring fires await after a long day of exploring.