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.
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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.
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.
After a long day of hiking or biking, what better way to rest those weary muscles than with a dip in a hot spring. Located on the outskirts of Taupō, the Otumuheke Stream mixes with the cooler waters of the Waikato River so you can swim around to find your ideal temperature. If you fancy another hike after a dip in the stream, you can also start the Huka Falls trail here.
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.
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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