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How to spend a day on Lake Taupō

At 30 km wide and 40 km long, there’s no avoiding the glorious great lake when you come to Taupō. Its full name is Taupō–nui–a–Tia, and no matter which angle you take it in from, it’s always breathtaking.

And while we think standing on the shore and admiring the view is a perfectly good way to spend a day, we do recommend getting in or out onto the water if you can. It’s often only then that you can truly appreciate the lake’s immense size and beauty.

Here are five of our favourite ways to make the most of Taupō Moana (expanse of water) when you’re in town.


1. Scenic cruising

Is there anything more relaxing than cruising across the waters of Lake Taupō with friends and family, soaking up your surroundings? It’d be hard to beat, that’s for sure.

One of the most well-known and visited attractions on the lake is the Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings, created by Matahi Brightwell and his team of artists over four years in the late 1970s.

So, if you think you might put that on the itinerary when you’re in town (and probably should), why not cruise in style with one of our many awesome operators?

Chris Jolly Outdoors will take you to the Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings on their large cruise cat. No matter the weather, you can head out for an adventure and enjoy a complimentary hot beverage and muffin.

Ernest Kemp Scenic Cruises is a beautiful replica steamboat that’s been exploring Lake Taupō with passengers for more than 40 years. With an average speed of 9 knots, this cruise is all about relaxing and enjoying the ride.

If you’re into sailing, check out Sail Barbary and Aotearoa's only commercially-operated electric, 0% carbon emission yacht. When the sails are hoisted, it’s an incredible way to check out hidden bays and the Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings

Taupō Sailing Adventures has two amazing boats to choose from - Kindred Spirit, a classic sailing boat, and Tiua, a luxury catamaran. Both offer daily cruises to the Māori Rock Carvings with fantastic onboard commentary.

And for something a little bit extra special, if you really want to take in picturesque views of the entire lake, you should jump aboard Taupō Parasail. While being towed behind a boat, you’re lifted 1000 ft into the air, giving you a literal bird’s eye view across the Lake Taupō Region. Don’t believe us when we say it’s absolutely spectacular; try it out and see for yourself.

2. Visiting the Western Bays

The Western Bays, known for their crystal, turquoise waters, towering cliffs and secluded beaches, are among Taupō's best 'hidden' gems.

Although these bays are inaccessible to most visitors (there's no road access), have a chat to Venture Beyond - powered by Taxicat. Their tour vessel provides transport to the Western Bays and is ideal for hikers, bikers and sightseers who want to explore the Great Lake Trails on their own.

But if you're short on time and need a guide to check out this slice of paradise, they have kayaks on board and will be more than happy to show you around.

Taupō Kayaking Adventures also offers tours in and around Western Bays, from tasters to half-day and full-day explorations where you can chase waterfalls, swim in pristine waters and visit a hidden cave.

3. Ride the rivers

The awa (rivers) that surround Taupō are thriving; the unspoiled Tongariro River that feeds into the lake, and the mighty Waikato River that is sustained by the lake. Both have an array of activities to enjoy, whether you're an adrenaline junkie or a scenery admirer.


If you're keen to get the heart racing, in a good way, jump aboard the Hukafalls Jet. It's the only jet boat that takes you to the base of the mighty Huka Falls for unique, water-level views. But you'll want to hold onto your hat (or just take it off) as you race up and down the river at high speed.

Take on the powerful, white-water rapids of Aratiatia with Rapids Jet, an impressive Chevy V8 jet boat. For 35 minutes, you'll be hitting speeds of up to 90 km/hr, with thrilling spins, twists, and turns thrown in for good measure.

You won't quite hit the same speeds as a jet boat, but with an oar in one hand and a guide at the helm, Tongariro River Rafting will take you over some of Tongariro's most epic rapids. They have a range of options to suit all ages and abilities.


For a slower pace, check out the Huka Falls River Cruise. Here you can enjoy the absolutely breathtaking views of Huka Falls, all in comfort on a purpose-built riverboat. This is a great trip to take in any weather.

How about grabbing a paddle and heading out onto the gorgeous Waikato River or Orakei Korako to explore geothermal waters? Taupō Kayaking Adventures have a number of exciting guided tours at various locations down the Waikato River.

Canoe & Kayak also take tours down the famous Taupō ‘river float’. Super scenic, this trip is ideal for beginners and families, where you’ll enjoy complimentary refreshments and a dip in a natural hot spring on your way.

4. Catch some kaimoana

Keen anglers come from all over the world to fish in our unspoilt rivers and lakes. And if that sounds like something you'd be interested in doing while you're in town, let Taupō's passionate anglers and guides show you how to reel in a rainbow or brown (trout) for dinner.

Fly fishing:

Whether you want to cast into some of our region's pristine spawning rivers or head into raw New Zealand backcountry, Chris Jolly Outdoor guides can get you there with guidance and gear provided.

With 36 years of experience, the Tongariro Lodge guides provide access to some of the best wilderness trout fishing by 4WD, boat, raft and even helicopter.

And Rob Henderson from Riverstone Fly Fishing offers catered fishing itineraries to suit your style of adventure throughout Taupō, Tongariro and the Central North Island.

Lake fishing:

When you book a fishing charter with Taupō Lake Adventures, your skipper will be Nick Reed, who has been fishing the Taupō fishery since 1987. The Big Day Out is a six-hour (minimum) excursion to the Western Bays, where you’ll enjoy a catered lunch and all fishing tackle and licences provided. And if you hook it - they’ll cook it for you!

As well as fly fishing adventures, Chris Jolly Outdoors also has charters to take you to popular fishing spots on the lake.

Raft fishing:

Taupō Kayaking Adventures have purpose-built kayaks ready for you to try your hand at jigging, harling or spinning at various spots around the lake.

Not only can you ride the rapids with the Tongariro River Rafting crew, but you can also try to catch some trout on the river while you're at it! Reach spots only accessible by raft and kayak.

5. Hire a lake-worthy vessel

All kinds of private vessels (i.e. boats, jet skis and kayaks) are welcome on our lake (just make sure you’re aware of boating fees and vessel operating rules).

But if you’re not able to BYO - bring your own - there are many options to get you out on the water.

Private motorised vessels:

If you want to cruise at your own leisure and feel comfortable operating a motorised boat, you should check out LAKeFUN. Here you can hire two-seater jet skis or boats which can take between four to eight passengers. All boats are suited for sightseeing, fishing and waterskiing/biscuiting, making for a great few hours on the water!

Doughboats are another unique experience to have right here in Taupō. These six-person inflatable ‘doughnuts’ let you cruise along the lakefront at a leisurely speed to enjoy the panoramic views of Lake Taupō. Bring your own food and music along to really make this experience your own.

Skim across the lake with Taupō Watersports on a jet ski, wind in your hair, sun on your face. The only jet ski rental that offers headsets for communication and GPS tech. Yep, you get to enjoy a self-guided tour while staying connected. But wait, there’s more! Ever been on a banana boat? One of Taupō’s newest thrills – a double banana boat ride! It’s 15 minutes of pure fun as the captain zips you along the lakefront. 

With Sail Barbary Eco Sailing, their 24-passenger, all-weather launch 'Kakariki' is great for group bookings who are keen to check out the Ngātoroirangi carvings, take a dip in the pristine waters of the Western Bays, or try to catch some dinner!

Luxury and comfort describe the essence of the Regal Flyer. Able to hold 70 passengers, it's perfect for groups, work functions, and even wedding receptions! 

Kayaks or SUPs (standup paddle boards):

Kayaking or SUP boarding is another fun way to get out on the water, where you can take your time and go where you want, or choose a guided tour. A lot of visitors (and locals too), enjoy kayaking from Acacia Bay to make the three to four-hour round trip out to the Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings, all while checking out the Western Bays.

Taupō Kayaking Adventures has kayaks to hire (as well as guided tours) to explore our expansive lake. And LAKeFUN also offers kayaks and SUP rentals all year around.

The kids will love the giant aqua trikes at Taupō Pedal Boats. Fun and easy to operate, you pedal your way around beautiful Wharewaka, making for some cool stories and photo opportunities. Hire two and race with family or friends! Coming January 2024, slide into summer with their new pedal boats fully equipped with slides! 

And if you’re stopping by for a beer and pizza at Two Mile Bay Sailing Club, you might as well take a kayak, SUP or sail boat out for a spin too! They offer all kinds of equipment for your watersport adventures!

No matter what kind of water activities you’re looking for when you come to town, the Taupō region has you covered! And while you’re here, check out some of the other awesome activities you can enjoy - there truly is something for everyone.

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