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Mini-adventures for your family's tiniest travelers

by Ceana Priest | Outdoor Kid

Grab a dose of the outdoors during your Taupō winter getaway on these short adventures, from hugable ancient trees and magical lakeside settings to rock hunting expeditions.

After tackling powdery ski slopes and thrilling bike trails with the family, unwind from adrenaline-filled activities on these short adventures, perfect for wringing out the last moments of the day before refuelling at the town’s eateries and watching the sun set across Lake Taupō.

5 mini-adventures: 

Ōpepe Northern Loop | SH5 Napier Taupō Highway

Walk beneath weatherbeaten tree canopies soaring into the sky with branches laden with epiphytes – and even a few with hollow trunks, where only the brave enter. An undulating trail takes you through a podocarp forest, quickly whisking visitors away from the busy highway into its serene leafy reserve.

Explore the native trees on this historic loop. Photo by Outdoor Kid

Can you find the 30-metre-high rimu with a whooping circumference of 660 centimetres? It was one of the many mighty natives that survived extensive fires and logging throughout the region.

For a longer adventure, the southern walking track through regenerating forest past relics from the historic settlement of Ōpepe begins on the other side of SH5, taking about 60 to 90 minutes (3 km) to complete.

Need to know:

  • Easy grade.
  • Well-graded trail suitable for walking only.
  • Allow 30 to 45 min (1.5 km) for the loop.
  • Dogs are allowed on leads.

Directions: Ōpepe Scenic and Historic Reserve is 17 km from Taupō on SH5 (Napier–Taupō Highway).

Waipāhīhī Botanical Reserve | Waipāhīhī 

Perched on a hilltop overlooking the shimmering caldera of Lake Taupō, this sweeping reserve, with its tangled network of trails through different plant collections, is a haven for young explorers.

One of the many walks at the Waipāhihi Botanical Reserve

And, seemingly hidden around every bend, nestled among the nooks of tree trunks are painted Taupō Rocks – pocket a couple to relocate or add to the reserve's growing collection. If you're short on time or motivation, hop in the car for a leisurely drive around the garden on a 2-kilometre loop beneath native trees and lush ferns.

Need to know:

  • Easy grade. Mix of well-graded dirt and gravel paths, and road.
  • Suitable for walking only on the tracks.
  • Bikes and buggies on the road loop.
  • Allow 60 min for a good explore.
  • Toilet available.
  • Dogs are allowed on leads.

Directions: Corner of Hyde Avenue and Shepherd Road, Waipāhīhī. Check gate closure times on arrival.

Otumuheke Stream | Spa Thermal Park

Find your ideal ‘natural hot tub’ alongside the beautiful Waikato River, where the steamy thermal Otumuheke Stream meets the longest river in the country.


Your ideal 'natural hot tub' with a view of the Waikato River

The mingling of the two creates swoon-worthy temperatures for wallowing, which tempts locals and tourists year-round. This popular hot spot has a coffee cart, Lil Something Cafe, and changing facilities, and non-toe-dipping visitors can lounge on wooden platforms overlooking the stream.

Need to know:

  • Easy grade. Well-graded dirt and concrete trail, suitable for buggies and bikes.
  • Allow 10 min one-way walking to the stream.
  • 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. Plenty of parking, but check gate-closure times on arrival.

Tongariro Domain | Taupō Towncentre

Defy gravity on the vast spider net before swooping down the slide and splashing about in the water-play area at this sprawling playground in the centre of town. And it's not just for the big kids, little kids finding their feet even have a dedicated mini-playground.

The spider net at Tongariro Domain Playground

For train buffs, jump aboard the Lions Club Express train with its bright red carriages for an enjoyable tootle around the southern part of the park on public and school holidays and every weekend during summer.

Don’t miss visiting the nearby Taupō Museum, where you can embark on a dinosaur-hunting adventure, find a moa and discover how deep volcanic forces have shaped the region’s landscape.

Need to know:

  • The train is weather dependent and costs $2 per ride. Covered shoes are required.
  • Toilets, drinking fountains, i-SITE and plenty of ice cream parlours and cafes nearby.
  • Dogs are not allowed near the playground.

Directions: Parking is available on Story Place and Ferry Road on the lakefront.

Te Ātea - Tapuaeharuru | Taupō Towncentre

The latest addition to the waterfront is an unmissable 2,000-year-old tōtara tree, with intricate carvings of animals and sea creatures winding around its sturdy trunk.

The intricate creatures carved into the pou

The pou/pillar took master carver Delani Brown around nine months to create and is surrounded by a collection of metal and wooden pou, each representing the prominent rivers and tributaries that flow into Lake Taupō, as well as compass points, the changing seasons, and native birds.

Kids will enjoy running around and pressing buttons to activate the water flow, and once they’ve had their fun, grab an ice cream cone from the newest ice cream parlour in town, Kona Kones.

Need to know:

  • Easy grade. Well-graded concrete paths are suitable for buggies, bikes and wheelchairs.
  • Toilets, drinking fountains and cafes nearby.
  • Dogs are allowed on leads.

Directions: Walk along the Great Lake Pathway in front of Dixie Brown's and The Coffee Club.

Discover more free family outdoor adventures at Outdoor Kid

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