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Planning the perfect family ski holiday - North Island, New Zealand

Defined by an ancient volcanic landscape, with mesmerizing lake and snow-capped mountain vistas, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve been lured into an enchanted winter wonderland when you arrive in Taupo for your family winter holiday. 

Experience New Zealand snow and learn to ski or snowboard on an active volcano or ride New Zealand's largest gondola, catch a shiny rainbow trout on Lake Taupo, bathe in warm geothermal waters, ride a jet boat or race a go-kart – you’ll quickly discover a holiday destination in the North Island that offers everything you need for a magical New Zealand holiday. Temperatures during winter in Taupo vary from -2˚C to 15˚C so we recommend checking MetService for the latest Taupo weather and snow reports.

New Zealand’s best beginner ski resort

Whakapapa ski resort, located on Mt Ruapehu and situated within the stunning UNESCO dual World Heritage Tongariro National Park, is a scenic 1 hour 15-minute drive south of Taupo town, and an easy 40-minute drive from Turangi. It is New Zealand’s largest ski area with over 65 trails to discover, ranging from beginner to advanced. If you are new to New Zealand snow you can find your feet at the dedicated beginner area – Happy Valley, which is safe, sheltered and an enjoyable place for the whole family to learn to ski or snowboard. Happy Valley is also home to a groomed sledding slope, with a fleet of toboggans for hire that will have you sliding down a snowy slope with a huge smile. Happy Valley must be the best place in the world to learn to ski or snowboard. It has a long, gentle slope, a chairlift and magic carpet, and its own cafe and rental facilities, making it very easy to get organized for your first skiing experience. Snowfall from the state-of-the-art snowmaking machines guarantees great snow conditions over a longer snow season which lasts from Queen's Birthday weekend in June through to late October.

Knoll Ridge Chalet

Opening in June this year, the 1.8km Sky Waka gondola will carry sightseeing passengers, skiers and snowboarders to New Zealand’s highest cafe and restaurant– the Knoll Ridge Chalet. At 2,020m above sea level the award-winning building has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the pinnacles, providing amazing views over the central plateau. The cafe and restaurant will offer multiple dining options using locally sourced ingredients. Open from 7am to late evening, guests can enjoy market-fresh grab-and-go meals and coffee to a high-end buffet wine and dine, from sunrise through to sunset.

The gondola will operate year-round and is set to become a New Zealand, North Island must-see and thing to do.

It’s all so easy

Don’t let logistics worry you, there are loads of different North Island accommodation options throughout Taupo, several ski shops and rental outlets if you need to hire ski gear, and there are daily ski shuttles operating from Taupo town and Turangi to Whakapapa which can be booked online, via a quick phone call or through the Taupo or Turangi i-SITES. So, get your ski gear and lift passes sorted before you leave, hop on a shuttle and sit back and relax with the kids as you enjoy the awesome scenery!

Everything is within walking distance of most winter accommodation in Taupo town, and for a reasonable price you can stay right on the lakefront. You will find hotels, motels, resorts, holiday parks, boutique bed and breakfasts and everything in-between! There’s a walkway that follows the lakeshore right into town, perfect for a bike ride with the kids, and you’ll wake up with a view out to the majestic snow-capped mountains of the Tongariro National Park.

Turangi is an excellent option for families looking for the ultimate NZ holiday. You will find an array of accommodation options in Turangi, and plenty of holiday homes dotted around the gorgeous lakeside villages around the southern edge of the lake.

Located just 40-minutes south of Taupo 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 Turangi.

Off-mountain things to do in Taupo

A good soak in a hot pool goes hand in hand with a winter holiday, and the geothermal landscape of the Taupo region provides several options. These include the Tokaanu Thermal Pools - just 10-minutes from Turangi, Taupo De Bretts Hot Springs and AC Baths in Taupo, both of which have thrilling hydro slides to keep the kids entertained. Otumuheke Stream at Spa Thermal Park is also a firm family favourite where bathers can relax in healing mineral water whilst overlooking the Waikato River. The area underwent a significant upgrade in 2018, including new changing rooms and toilets, lounging platforms and a coffee kiosk.

For those with an adventurous spirit, discover adrenaline activities like jet boating, white water rafting, go-karting, or take the family on a gentle scenic lake cruise or private fishing charter on Lake Taupo.

The Taupo region is without a doubt the winter holiday hotspot to visit in the North Island. There aren’t many places that are lucky enough to have ski resorts nestled within an hour’s drive in a landscape full of activities and opportunities for all the family. If there’s one magical snowy place you visit this winter, make it Taupo.

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