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We were quickly won over by the thermal pools at DeBretts. We splashed for so long by the time we returned to our hotel, we were exhausted prunes. The next day we rode horses through Wairakei Forest to the Craters of the Moon, and it was like visiting another planet. The kayak trip to Spa Park where we soaked in the steaming river was similarly otherworldly. We even found time to clown around on the tightropes and trapezes of Action World. The photo book we created from that weekend is crammed with happy images, and is partly why that initial expedition remains so fresh in our memories years later.
On our second visit, we took cousin Toby along for the ride - a middle-aged mum and two 9-year-old boys on an adventure, that was genuinely my idea of heaven. Again we made the most of those fabulous pools at DeBretts but, being older we could visit at night when the grounds are illuminated so magically. Theo and Toby slid down the slides and splashed in the pools till they were utterly spent and, as a result, they slept like logs, also my idea of heaven. We enjoyed invigorating bush walks around Huka Falls and declared Aratiatia Dam so awe-inspiring, we returned to watch a second time. We’d probably go every day if we lived closer.
While I was at Victoria University, I thought nothing of driving between Hamilton and Wellington at the start and end of term. Mostly I merely passed through Taupō, conscious of the need to press on but I always wanted to stop at the lakefront Hole-In-One Challenge. Finally, with two nine-year-olds in tow, my dream was realised. As for my fantasy of putting a hole-in-one, that didn’t come to pass, but at $1 a pop, we got more than our money’s worth simply bashing balls into the water.
Last winter, Theo and I visited again and, with him having a few more miles on the clock, at 13, a whole new range of activities opened up. We took a trout charter with Chris Jolly and landed three fine fish, and we marveled at those iconic rock carvings. We went jet-boating, snow shoeing and skiing on a real live volcano. We also made time for simpler pleasures like skimming rocks on the mirrored surface of the lake.
It’s been almost a decade since we first visited Taupo and, whatever the reason or season, whatever the weather and whatever we’ve done, each visit has seen our affection deepen. But because travel is currently on hold, Theo and I have found ourselves flicking through our photo books and rekindling some of our happiest holiday memories, while also imagining what we’d like to do when it’s safe again to explore, and Taupo is definitely on our wishlist.
Getting out into nature and adventuring is an essential part of life for kids growing up in New Zealand. Taupo’s incredible scenery and wide range of family-friendly activities are what have made it a favourite holiday spot for New Zealanders for decades.