Whether you arrive in Taupō by air or by road, you’ll be blown away by the incredible scenery. You’ll find loads of family-friendly accommodation with lake and mountain views and friendly hosts. Try Anchorage Resort, Taupō De Bretts Spa Resort or Lake Taupō Holiday Resort for spacious accommodation and great facilities like thermally heated pools.
Taupō is world famous for its geothermal hot pools, so start your holiday with a hot swim at Taupō De Bretts Spa Resort. The kids can run riot in the interactive warm water playground, and they’ll love the dragon hydroslide and the two curved racing slides. There’s even a spa on site so one of you can sneak off for a massage while the kids play.
A great way to find your bearings in Taupō is to walk or bike with the family along the lakefront Great Lake Walkway. There are incredible views across the lake to the ancient volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park, and you’ll find ice cream and coffee stops along the way. Bikes, including kid-sized ones, can be hired from any bike shop in town.
Be sure to get a family photo in front of the iconic #LOVETAUPO sign on the lakefront as you pass by the town centre.
Today will be a day of adventure on the water! Families with younger children will love the gentle trip up the Waikato River with Huka Falls River Cruise. They’ll take you right up to the base of Huka Falls, giving you the best view of New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction.
Families with older children (they must be over one metre tall for this) will love the thrill of a jet boat ride with Hukafalls Jet. You’ll experience 360-degree spins and speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour as you head up the Waikato River to the base of Huka Falls. The kids will be talking about this for months!
Huka Honey Hive is a great place to stop on the way back to town for a delicious manuka honey ice cream, free honey tastings (and mead tastings for the adults!) and a look at the live beehives where you can see the bees going about their honey-making business behind a glass panel.
Make your way south to Tongariro National Park where the awe-inspiring volcanic landscape is filled with fun options for families. Pick up a Department of Conservation walks brochure from the Whakapapa Visitor Centre and discover some of the many beautiful walks that take you through ancient beech forest and a tussock moonscape.
A warm soak at Tokaanu Thermal Pools en route back to Taupō is the perfect way to end a day full of adventure.
Today you’ll discover one of New Zealand’s most extraordinary contemporary artworks. The 14-metre high Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupō can only be reached by water, so book yourself on a scenic cruise with Sail Barbary (if you kids love the idea of taking the wheel or helping hoist the sails then this is a great option) or Chris Jolly Outdoors.
Later in the day, head to the Lake Taupō Holiday Resort for a not-to-be-missed experience in their geothermally heated Lusty's Lagoon pool. Swim into the mysterious grotto cave that hides buried treasure, have a cocktail or snack at the swim-up bar and enjoy an outdoor movie on the giant movie screen.
Tell the kids you’re going to a hidden valley to see gushing geysers, bubbling mud pools and hot springs. Orakei Korako Geothermal Park & Cave has been dubbed by Lonely Planet as ‘arguably the best thermal area left in New Zealand’. A short ferry ride will take you across to this valley that sits within a strange and colourful landscape boasting some of the largest remaining silica terraces in the world.
If the kids still have energy to burn after their geothermal adventure, stop off at the idyllic lakeside village of Kinloch on your way back to town. There’s a great playground on the lakefront and a community shed on the beach stocked with toys and books that anyone can use. For the adults, the Tipsy Trout café has excellent Manuka Brothers coffee and a good selection of craft beers. Kinloch is also the hub for the Great Lake Trail, a walking a mountain biking trail that leads both east and west from Kinloch.
White water rafting is something the whole family can do regardless of age. Tongariro River Rafting or Rafting New Zealand in Turangi both offer an easy family trip down the beautiful and scenic Tongariro River as well as more adrenalin-filled trips for families with older children.
While in Turangi, check out Creel Café, a quaint little eatery tucked away behind a tackle shop on the river side of town. The coffee is fabulous, and the pastries are possibly the best found this side of Paris.
If you still have time up your sleeve, visit the Tongariro National Trout Centre and feed the trout in their natural habitat, see giant eels in the freshwater aquarium and watch the trout swimming in the stream from an underwater viewing chamber.
Finish the week off by visiting some of Taupō’s iconic tourist attractions. Visit Huka Prawn Park where you can fish for prawns to take home.
If you haven’t already seen them, make sure you go to Huka Falls and see, hear and feel the awesome power of the Waikato River plunging 11 metres to the crystal-blue pool below.
Further along the Waikato River, you will find Aratiatia Dam. The dam releases a few times a day producing surging rapids through the rock valley below. The kids will love the countdown sirens - make sure to arrive early for the release to get a prime watching spot.
Rainy day activities
Here are some activities to keep up your sleeve in case of a rainy day:
- AC Baths – Taupō’s AC Baths has a large heated leisure pool with toddler areas as well as two hydroslides and a tarzan swing to keep the kids entertained.
- Starlight Cinema – a five-cinema complex including a lounge cinema and 3D.
- Taupō Museum and Art Gallery – explore Taupō’s history and rich Māori culture and complete the kids treasure hunt.
- Mind Junction – interactive science display, flight simulator, remote controlled boats, puzzles, games and an amazing Lego display.
- The Edge Indoor Rock Wall – indoor rock climbing wall at the Taupō Events Centre.
Family friendly places to eat
- Dixie Browns - extensive menu catering to every taste.
- Cobb & Co - the classic kiwi diner. And yes, they still do traffic lights.
- Lone Star - children and teens have their own special menus.
- McDonald’s - voted New Zealand’s coolest McDonald’s. You can eat in the old DC3 plane.
- L’Arte Café and Gallery - great outdoor playhouse and space to roam.
- Kefi at The Hub - there’s an old helicopter to play in.
If you’re in Taupō on a Saturday, make sure you take the kids to the Taupō Market (Saturdays 9am – 1pm) for a delicious empanada or chocolate custard doughnut. There are also gorgeous handmade kids’ clothes and toys for sale.