The Best Hidden Gems Around Taupō, New Zealand

Biking trails around Taupo offer many splendid views
Biking trails around Taupo offer many splendid views | Courtesy of Love Taupo
Richard Barnes

World-renowned for its adrenaline sports, Taupō is a well-trodden tourist destination in New Zealand. Look a little closer, however, to find some lesser-known attractions that are equally as thrilling, but not quite as busy.

As one of the most popular spots on New Zealand’s North Island, Lake Taupō receives its fair share of visitors. As well as being home to New Zealand’s largest freshwater lake, it is also the North Island’s adrenaline sports capital with bungy jumping, skydiving and more. If you want to avoid the queues and find something a little more unique on your visit, however, this guide to the area’s lesser known spots will allow you to discover another side to Taupō.

1. Hike or bike to Tieke Falls

Natural Feature

waihaha-mountain-biking-track-great-lake-trail-bridge
Courtesy of Love Taupo

The spectacular 37-metre-high (121-foot-high) Tieke Falls can be found along the Waihaha River Trail, with the trailhead roughly 40 minutes by car from central Taupō. Follow the Waihaha River trail, which is approximately 3.5–4 hours return by foot and 1.5–2 hours return by bike. The trail is littered with numerous amazing views of the river and the gorge itself. The views of the Tieke Falls are spectacular, with a bench in the perfect spot for you to rest your feet, before you head back the way you came.

2. Bike the Great Lake Trail

Natural Feature

A woman is mountain biking on the Great Lake Trail
© Andrew Peacock / Getty Images

Take on the Great Lake Trail, which takes in stunning views of the shores of Lake Taupō and of the Tongariro National Park beyond. Unlike Tieke Falls, which you can take on by bike or hiking, this is a trail best left for bikes. Mixing shoreline and inland forest gives this trail an extra thrill. Broken up over three sections to the west of Taupō, the closest section is the popular W2K Track, which offers plenty of lovely views that can be done as a loop or just one-way. The trail can be ridden in its entirety over two days, or you can break it up into sections. The third section from Western Bays Road to Waihora Bay will require boat pick up at the end, but the views are certainly worth it.

4. Hire a speedboat and check out the Māori carvings

Natural Feature

mine-bay-maori-rock-carvings-lake-taupo-sailing-sail-barbary.EFUApQ
Courtesy of Love Taupo

The Māori carvings at Mine Bay are rather well known but hard to view, as they can only be visited by boat. The most common option is to join a tour and explore this part of Lake Taupō with a group; however, if you head to Lake Fun in Taupō, you can rent a speedboat at a very reasonable price and view them at your own pace. From here you can head out to Lake Taupō and explore a number of other hidden coves and beaches.

5. Make a detour to McLaren Falls

Natural Feature

McLaren Falls, New Zealand
© Roman Slavik / Getty Images
These awesome falls are not close to Taupō; however, if you’re coming down from Mount Maunganui, they are well worth a visit. With swimming spots and plenty of scrambling opportunities on the rocks that make up the falls, this is a great option for a break on the drive down to Taupō.

6. See the geysers at Orakei Korako Geothermal Park and Cave

Park

Tourist on wooden boardwalk, Emerald Terrace, Orakei Korako Geothermal Park, Taupo Volcanic Zone
© Westend61 / Getty Images

A mere 25-minute drive from Lake Taupō is the Orakei Korako Geothermal Park. This spectacular geothermal park boasts the most active geysers of any geothermal park in New Zealand. The park is laden with geysers, hot springs, mud pools and some stunning multicoloured terraces created by a mixture of water and geothermal activity. Orakei Korako is much quieter than the parks in New Zealand’s main geothermal area of Rotorua, so this is a great alternative for those who want to avoid the crowds.

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