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Taupo: the heart of outdoor adventure

"The first word that comes to mind when we think of Taupo is – CENTRE. It is at the heart of the North Island. For people who love the outdoors, we couldn’t think of a better place to live and play." Martin Grafetsberger is the co-founder of an online community, Our Great Outdoors, a guide with Adrift Tongariro, and a passionate hiker. Discover why the Taupo region is the epicenter of his outdoor lifestyle and follow his next hiking adventures. 

Growing up near one of the largest mountain ranges in South Africa, Martin was less than 10 years old when he completed his first eight-hour hike.

He fondly remembers taking multi-day hikes with his father and grandfather, further instilling his love for the outdoors.

This early passion has guided Martin in every avenue of his life, from deciding to move to New Zealand, guiding with Adrift Tongariro, and co-founding the new social platform, Our Great Outdoors.

Why Taupo? It's the ideal place to be

While living in Auckland, Martin and Debbie spent a lot of time traveling for hours to spots on the East or West Coast, to bodyboard, paddleboard, and of course hike. But the Tongariro National Park always drew them to wake extra early and make the drive down on weekends. After countless trips back and forth, they finally made the plunge to move to Taupo.

After their move in May 2021, Martin sees all the new possibilities to explore the outdoors in the Taupo region.

“The first word that comes to mind when we think of Taupo is – CENTRE...We’re surrounded by mountains and forests, we have the Tongariro River and Waikato River, and of course, we have Lake Taupo in summer for swimming and paddling.... you've got so much and it's so easily accessible. . . It’s the ideal place to be in the North Island.

Tongariro National Park, Pureora Forest Park, the Waikato and Tongariro River, Huka Trails, Mount Tauhara, and so much more; the list is infinite of places to explore right at their fingertips.

“That is the key, having access to this whole world of outdoor activity right on our doorstep. Here, you can drive 10 minutes west of Taupo and be walking on this amazing forest track and feel like you are a world away.”

There are so many benefits to being outdoors. For Martin, the Taupo region is the place to disconnect from the pressures of everyday life and connect with nature. "We enjoy solitude and being in the middle of nowhere with no one else around. It’s where we recharge our mental batteries and where we feel at peace.”

Sunset at Tongariro National Park

Returning to his mountain roots, Martin is now an assistant guide with Adrift Tongariro, helping people complete one of New Zealand's most famous hikes, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is 19 kilometers of dramatically changing landscapes from steaming vents, glacial valleys, alpine forests, and rocky formations. For Martin, a true highlight of the walk is “right at the top at Red Crater where you look down on to the Emerald Lakes.

Despite the stunning views of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Martin reminisces back to the people and interactions from each trip. “Every trip is unique because of the people I meet and watching their reactions to being in that environment. When they see things, stop, and say "Wow.” I know exactly what they're feeling because I felt that same thing when I saw it for the first time- having those shared experiences with people is great.“ 

Creating a community for the great outdoor enthusiasts

After arriving in New Zealand as avid outdoor enthusiasts, Martin and his partner Debbie, used their time off to travel around New Zealand. Being new to the country, in preparation for their road trips, they spent hours researching activities and places off the beaten track, trying to discover the best ways to immerse themselves in New Zealand's natural environments.

“That is where the idea of Our Great Outdoors began to take shape in terms of creating something useful for outdoor enthusiasts like ourselves who enjoy lots of different activities."

Our Great Outdoors is a new social platform for everyone and anything outdoors.

It invites its online members to exchange ideas with each other for outdoor adventures, walks and hikes, and places to explore in New Zealand. Our Great Outdoors attracts all types of outdoor enthusiasts to share more about their passions and experiences from hiking to mountain biking to kayaking and more, all in one online community.

Martin at Tongariro National Park

Another goal for Martin in creating Our Great Outdoors is to inspire its members to try something different from their regular hobbies. “Being part of the community is about give and take. I get advice, inspiration, and encouragement from others, particularly those who are more experienced than me in rock climbing or canyoning, for example, where I’m a complete novice. In turn, I can do the same for others when it comes to hiking, where I do have years of experience.”

“For us, the OGO community space is about inclusivity and being open to anyone interested in the outdoors, regardless of experience or fitness level, because we all deserve the physical and mental benefits of being active outdoors.“


Life by the lake

When Martin lived in Auckland, the majestic views of Tongariro National Park and the cool waters of Lake Taupo always captured his attention. But now living in Taupo, Martin is beginning to find the "gems” in the wider Taupo region.

"One little thing we started to do when we got here is we swim in the lake for exercise. Driving down to the lake, we always stop at Victoria's Cafe Kitchen Bar. They make these amazing savory muffins. Then we drive down to the lakefront, do our little swim, regardless of the weather. And we come out and have our coffee and eat our muffins."

After a long day of hiking, the last thing they feel like doing is cooking, leading to an intimate relationship with a place beloved by locals in Taupo. "Now we've discovered the Two Mile Bay Sailing Club and their pizzas, so that is our after-hike ritual. That is probably one of our favorite places to eat."

Martin is easy to find on Our Great Outdoors if you want some tips and information about the Taupo region's amazing walks and hikes. But here are five of his favourites to consider for your next trip.

Five of Martin's favourite hikes

  1. The Great Lake Trails journey through lush native forest, past sparkling waterfalls, and over deep gorges on the western side of Lake Taupo. The trails are composed of several sections, Waihaha to Waihora, Kinloch to Kawakawa Bay, and Whakaipo Bay to Kinloch. "I know it's a mountain biking track, but it's really really amazing for walking as well."
  2. Summit of Mount Tauhara is a popular trail to the top of Mt Tauhara, climbing over 1000 meters and 2.5km long. "It’s a rite of passage if you're a hiker and you live in Taupo. And it's an amazing experience to be up there and look down at the lake and the town and see the mountains in the distance."
  3. Huka Falls to Aratiatia Dam Trail is a 2-hour one-way trail that highlights the iconic Huka Falls, river views, native bush, and the impressive Aratiatia Dam release. "We love to walk or cycle the Huka Falls to the Aratiatia Dam Track. That's our playground now. We love having that section of the river. That's where we go to exercise and have fun."
  4. Tongariro National Park is a hiker's dream and a dual UNESCO World Heritage Site. Full of multi-day and short hikes, there are also trails suitable for all ages and experience levels. "We particularly like the Round the Mountain Track which is seen as a multi-day track, it provides a lot of options for day walks, depending on which side of the mountain you approach it from."
  5. Tama Lakes "...is just one of those places that we keep going back to. For us, that track we would highlight as our favorite. It's accessible, it's not too challenging, and even in winter, you don't have too much snow."


For more hiking inspiration and tips and to become a part of a growing outdoor community, be sure to sign up for Our Great Outdoors

About Martin

Martin Grafetsberger lives in Taupo with his partner, Debbie. He is an assistant guide with Adrift Tongariro as well as an ambassador for Merrell. He is the co-founder of Our Great Outdoors, sharing articles and photography of his outdoor adventures in New Zealand. 

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