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6 green adventures in the Taupō region: embracing the Tiaki Promise

by Ceana Priest | Outdoor Kid

Balance wanderlust with eco-friendly adventures as you explore the volcanic-shaped landscapes of the Taupō region.

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:

Bonus: 5 tips to help protect the environment while adventuring 

1. Lake Taupō Sailing | Lake Taupō Marina

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.

Kindred Spirit, Taupō Sailing Adventures

Join a tour at the Taupō Marina, where the Waikato River begins, surging downstream to turn the turbines of nine hydroelectric power stations.

2. Otumuheke Stream | Spa Thermal Park

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.

Otumuheke Stream, Spa Thermal Park

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:

  • Allow 10 min one-way walking to the stream.
  • Well-graded concrete and dirt paths are suitable for buggies and bikes.
  • Toilet, coffee kiosk and changing facilities available.
  • Dogs are allowed on leads.

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.

3. Whangamata Stream Trail | Kinloch

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.

Biking along the Whangamata Stream Trail. Photo by Outdoor Kid

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:

  • Allow 60 min return (about 7 km return).
  • Well-graded dirt paths are suitable for buggies and bikes.
  • Toilets at Kinloch Village.
  • Dogs are allowed on leads.

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.

4. Tongariro National Trout Centre | SH1 Tūrangi

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.

The native aquarium at the Tongariro National Trout 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.

Find out more: Whio Forever and Tongariro National Trout Centre

Directions: Drive 4 kilometres south of Tūrangi on SH1

5. Motuoapa Cliff Lookout Walk | SH1 Motuoapa

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.

Motuoapa Cliff Lookout Walk. Photo by Outdoor Kid

An impressive volunteer effort by Project Tongariro is underway to protect the wetlands for future generations

Need to know:

  • Allow 15 min return.
  • Dirt path with steps only suitable for walking.
  • Dogs on leads.

Directions: Tangitu Street, Motuoapa Village, approximately 10 km north of Tūrangi.

6. Lake Rotopounamu | SH47

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!

Beaches at Lake Rotopounamu

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.

Support Project Tongariro’s work by ‘adopting’ a hectare to fund pest eradication.

Need to know:

  • Allow 120 minutes (6 km) for the loop. Or, about a 60-minute return to Five and Ten Minute beaches.
  • Walking only. Dirt paths with steps.
  • Toilet at Long Beach (BYO toilet paper).
  • No dogs allowed.

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.

Top 5 things you can do to help protect the environment while adventuring:

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

Explore Outdoor Kid for a world of inspiring outdoor adventures with your whānau

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