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The best things to do during NZ winter

Snow-related activities take center stage for many travelers seeking the ideal winter holiday in New Zealand. However, the region also offers a plethora of outdoor pursuits that cater to those seeking a rejuvenating winter vacation.

Embrace the breathtaking beauty of the region with invigorating hikes, where scenic trails showcase the winter wonders of New Zealand. Feel the thrill of exploration as you embark on exhilarating biking adventures, traversing picturesque landscapes and soaking in the crisp winter air.

Cast your line into gin-clear waters and enjoy the serene art of winter fishing, or tee off on frost-kissed fairways for an enjoyable round of golf. With a myriad of winter activities, scenic attractions, tours, and adventures, the Taupō region stands out as the premier destination for a North Island winter getaway in New Zealand.

Places to visit in the Taupō region

Geothermal walkways and pools

Taupō is home to an array of North Island attractions and there are plenty of winter activities around the region. Taupō is a volcanic, geothermal wonderland with several geothermal hot pools, perfect for a hot soak.

Relax and unwind in the healing mineral waters of Wairakei Terraces; an adults-only geothermal resort uniquely situated below magnificent silica terraces or take the family to DeBretts Spa Resort where you will find multiple geothermal pools and three hydro slides for family fun. The AC Baths is another family-friendly option with two hydro slides, a bombing zone and a rope swing.

Tokaanu Thermal Pools at the southern end of the lake is a worthy stop after a day on the slopes, here you can also explore the surrounding Tokaanu Thermal walkway- a short walk where you can see steaming hot mineral pools and spluttering mud pots amongst attractive native bush.

Explore the outdoors all-year-round

It’s not only skiers that benefit from brilliant terrain as result of ancient volcanic activity. Derived from one of the greatest volcanic eruptions ever known, the region’s free-draining pumice soil means excellent cycling, hiking, golfing and mountain biking conditions year-round – even in the middle of winter.

Grab an e-bike from one of the local bike shops, cruise along The Great Lake Pathway from town to the 2 Mile Bay Sailing Club and enjoy a hot coffee and muffin with a grand view out over the lake. Or for the more adventurous rider, head towards Spa Thermal Park and link into the Rotary Ride – allow a leisurely 2-3 hours to complete the 5.5km grade 3 trail from Spa Park to Huka Falls and back. The Tongariro River Trails provide scenic riverside vistas of splashing trout and hopeful anglers. 

There is a magnitude of walking tracks throughout the region, catering to every ability, so pack a jacket and get out for a nature hike amongst the beautiful native bush and discover some stunning lake and river views.

Cosy winter eats

You don’t have to be on the mountain to experience apres ski, take a wander before dinner and see the town come to life with fairy-light-lined streets and cosy bars and restaurants with hearty winter food menus, mulled wine and crackling fires.

There’s locally brewed Lakeman craft beer and wood-fired pizza on the lakefront, gourmet cuisine at top-end restaurants and family-friendly dining throughout the town. Many of these establishments offer spectacular sunset views and a vista of Lake Taupō with the snowcapped mountains of Tongariro National Park in the distance.

Escape the crowds in Tūrangi

Located just 40-minutes south of Taupō town and central to three New Zealand ski resorts (Whakapapa, Turoa and Tukino), you will never be short of things to do in the holidays when you base yourself in the beautiful village of Tūrangi.

Located on the west bank of the magnificent Tongariro River in the plains below the Kaimanawa ranges, the friendly town of Tūrangi is New Zealand’s fly-fishing capital, as well as the gateway to the UNESCO dual World Heritage Tongariro National Park and the wild Kaimanawa Forest Park.

Tūrangi is an excellent option for families looking for the ultimate New Zealand holiday. You will find an array of accommodation options and plenty of holiday homes dotted around the gorgeous lakeside villages around the lake's southern edge. Ski gear, day ski passes, and mountain shuttles can all be easily arranged at one of the town's many ski hire or rental outfits.

What’s on in Taupō? 

Winter gets off to a colourful start in Taupō with the King's Birthday Weekend Art Trail, that visits local artists and artists at their home studios.

In July, the centrepiece event of the season is Taupo's Winter Festival. It's held during the July school holiday break, with many free and family-friendly events.

Foodies need to get in quick for the annual Merchant Food & Wine Expo – with more than 100 New Zealand wines available and local restaurants showcasing their food, this event is a sellout every year.

New Zealand snow

Whakapapa Ski Area is just one hour and fifteen minutes from Taupō on its southern doorstep. The mountain is a magnet for experienced skiers, but it must be the best place to learn to ski or snowboard in the North Island.

With one of New Zealand's largest beginner area, Whakapapa is the choice for many when learning to ski. What’s more, Whakapapa ski resort is now home to the country's largest gondola, the Sky Waka. From the Plaza area, sightseers can take a gondola up the mountain to the Knoll Ridge Chalet whilst watching skiers and snowboarders show off their moves below.

Situated at 2,020m above sea level, it's New Zealand’s highest cafe and eatery. Here you will find great coffee, gourmet fare and incredible views overlooking the Pinnacles and out over the Central Plateau of New Zealand's North Island. The gondola will operate year-round and is set to become a must-see in New Zealand.

The stretch of State Highway 1 from Taupō town to Tūrangi must be one of the most picturesque drives in New Zealand, even if you don't plan on skiing - be sure to take a road trip from Taupō to Whakapapa Ski Area and absorb the stunning scenery of the region. As you wind around the shores of Lake Taupō alongside forestry and native bush you will find yourself captivated by the remarkable panoramic views out across the lake.


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Food & Drink

8 cosy eats & drinks in Taupō this winter

If you’re looking for an escape this winter, Taupō is just the ticket. From cosy drinks by the fireplace, to magical places and spaces to explore, we say lock it in. So check out these fantastic locations to grab a hot (or cold) beverage and enjoy a yummy meal. 


6 ways to warm up after exploring the Taupō outdoors 

Friends mountain biking - Sunset picnic at Kinloch - by Todd Eyre
Cycling & Mountain Biking

7 reasons why you should ride in Taupō this winter 


Winter trout fishing at an iconic fishing lodge 

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