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A rich history has unfolded in the shadow of Tongariro National Park’s mighty peaks for thousands of years. Landscapes have changed, communities have formed, and Taupō has become a bustling township with a thriving cluster of fabulous eateries, galleries and plenty of thermal baths to decompress.
Enjoy a visit that treads lightly on this unique landscape by opting for low-impact transport options like hiring a bike, lacing up the sneakers or jumping aboard a zero-emission electric yacht. Create a lasting legacy for your family by timing your visit for a Greening Taupō planting day and learning about the surrounding diverse wetlands, forests and rivers.
6 green adventures:
Set sail across the sparkling caldera of Lake Taupō powered by some of the greenest forms of travel by jumping aboard electric- and wind-powered boats. Sail Barbary and Taupō Sail Adventures offer low-impact tours to the Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings and secluded bays surrounded by towering bluffs topped with native forest.
Join a tour at the Taupō Marina, where the Waikato River begins, surging downstream to turn the turbines of nine hydroelectric power stations.
Sandwiched between the rolling hills of Spa Thermal Park and the 425-kilometre-long Waikato River, this steamy wallowing hole is a bustling destination for locals and visitors to soothe tired adventuring muscles. The thermal stream winds 1.5 kilometres downstream from its source to an area beside the Waikato River, which local Māori have historically used for sacred healing.
Soak in the natural pools where the stream mingles with the chillier Waikato River. After taking a dip, discover the bug hotel below the playground where critters abound – how many can the kids spot?
Need to know:
Directions: Follow the signs downhill from Spa Thermal Park car park on Country Avenue off Spa Road. There is plenty of parking, but check gate-closure times on arrival.
What was once a weedy, overgrown landscape has become a shady forest trail following a sparkling, clear-flowing stream, connecting the lakefront with Whagamata Road. Between April and November, this is an important spawning stream for brown and rainbow trout, which form ‘redds’ or shallow depressions in the gravel to lay and fertilise their eggs. Peek into the shallow stream to see milling trout feeding on critters floating by.
Since the 1970s, volunteers have transformed this former barren farm into a forest with tūī and bellbirds swooping through the canopy. The dual-use trail suits all abilities and passes stands of trees towards Whangamata Road before looping back to the lakefront. A short detour takes older kids over a humpy MTB trail before the vast fairy glade filled with whimsical creations, then continuing back to the shoreline.
Need to know:
Directions: Plenty of parking near Kinloch beach, 20 km from Taupō. From Kinloch, ride west along the shoreline of Lake Taupō to the well-signposted turnoff before turning inland.
Fingers crossed, you might spot an ancient river duck surfing the fast-flowing Tongariro River. Whiō/Blue ducks live near the trout centre, but their numbers are threatened; habitat loss and predators have reduced their population to under 3000. These ever-watchful ducks – they’ll see you before you see them! – is featured on the New Zealand ten-dollar note. Although you aren’t guaranteed a whiō, you’ll see hundreds of trout at this freshwater conservation and fishery centre.
Peer into the native aquarium where giant kōkopu, kōura/freshwater crayfish, and tuna/eel lurk, find your favourite fishing fly in the museum or walk through the hatchery to see where trout fry are raised. Time your visit for the school holidays for the Kids’ Fishing programme.
Enjoy a half-day at the centre before using it as a launching pad for longer adventures beside the Tongariro River Trail. Head south for an out and back to the Red Hut Bridge. Or tackle the 15km loop, taking in lofty vantage points across Tūrangi to pretty Mount Pihanga and anglers trying their luck with wiley trout.
Directions: Drive 4 kilometres south of Tūrangi on SH1
Walk to the top of the volcanic cliffs behind Motuoapa for panoramic views of Stump Bay, Lake Taupō and the vast Te Matapuna Wetlands. Only glimpses of the sprawling wetland wedged beside SH1 and Lake Taupō are visible while driving, but by taking a short walk to the lookout, the diverse wetland habitat, home to globally threatened species of birds, can be admired.
An impressive volunteer effort by Project Tongariro is underway to protect the wetlands for future generations.
Need to know:
Directions: Tangitu Street, Motuoapa Village, approximately 10 km north of Tūrangi.
For nearly two decades, hundreds of dedicated volunteers have helped return native birds and biodiversity to the foothills of Pihanga. Predator control has allowed fauna and flora to regenerate and become self-sustaining – but roadside food scraps tossed from travellers driving along the Te Ponanga Saddle Road are making things more challenging. Remember when adventuring to put food scraps in the rubbish or compost bin!
The walking trail climbs steadily to the rippling lake before settling into a leisurely wander around its shoreline, lined with translucent kidney ferns. Long Beach sweeps around the far side of the lake and is ideal for picnicking and swimming. Then, heading home, pass under gnarly trees overhanging the trail and look for critters in the fallen logs before returning to the car park. For a shorter adventure, visit Five Minute Beach or Ten Minute Beach.
Need to know:
Directions: From Tūrangi, drive towards National Park on SH47. Parking is available on the southern side of Te Ponanga Saddle (11 km from Tūrangi). Well signposted. Take care when crossing the very busy road.
1. Stay on marked tracks: Stick to designated walking tracks to prevent trampling on delicate flora, disturbing native wildlife and damaging fragile landscapes. Wandering off-trail and creating new shortcuts can harm fragile ecosystems and native flora.
2. Biosecurity measures: Clean your gear, shoes, and equipment to remove any soil, seeds, or pests before entering natural areas to prevent the spread of non-native species.
3. Respect wildlife and nesting areas: The region is home to native wildlife, so please avoid disturbing nesting sites or taking dogs into Tongariro National Park.
4. Dispose of waste properly: Carry a small bag to collect all rubbish, including food wrappers, tissues, and other waste.
5. Use eco-friendly sunscreen and insect repellent: Look for biodegradable or environmentally safe products to minimise your ecological footprint
Immerse yourself in the spirit of manaakitanga as you embark on the Tiaki Promise, ensuring the protection of Lake Taupō and its surroundings for generations to come. Join us in embracing responsible travel and explore tips for a sustainable journey in this breathtaking region.