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The ultimate way to summer in Taupo: scenic walks and swimming spots

by Abby Cox | #LoveTaupo team

In Texas, I wouldn't dream of taking a 2-hour walk in 38-degree Celsius heat. Just getting in the car felt like a 250-degree oven. During the summer, all I could do, as a Texas native, was stay cool inside with the air conditioning.

But in Taupo, summer signals getting outside for afternoon swims, lakeside barbeques, and scenic walks. It's when Lake Taupo comes alive with families at the lakefront munching on fish n’ chips, couples walking on the Great Lake Pathway, and kids splashing around until sunset.

Lake Taupo Wharewaka - mountains, kids playing in the lake - photo by Todd Eyre
Wharewaka

And for me, the ultimate way to summer in Taupo is finally being able to take advantage of those scenic walks paired with a refreshing swim and picnic.

With these five walks and hikes, you can get the best of both worlds – a summer walk with amazing views and a cool reward. They're a must-try for your summer trip to the Taupo region.

1. Spa Thermal Park to Huka Falls Walk

Stopping in to see the iconic Huka Falls? Make it a half-day adventure with this local's favourite walk.

Begin at the Huka Falls carpark and end in the Otumuheke Stream at Spa Thermal Park, or vice versa.

Either way, you're bound for a beautiful walk with lush forests, the Waikato River-New Zealand's longest, and the marvel of Huka Falls. It's great a family-friendly, 3-kilometer walk with gentle uphill walks and easy descents.

An hour into your walk, you won't be able to resist a swim at Otumuheke Stream! You get the best of both worlds with a natural hot spring so you can soak sore muscles in the geothermal waters or cool off in the shallow pools closer to the river.

Spa Thermal Park has excellent public facilities so your family can change into your togs and jump in. Afterward, treat yourself and your fur friend with ice cream from Lil Something Cafe located right by the stream. Both the park and the walk are dog-friendly so bring your pooch along.

Lil Something Cafe

The Spa Park gates close at 8.00pm, so if you want a relaxing evening soak and to stay for the sunset just make sure you park outside the gates. 

What to expect:

  • 2-Hour return walk
  • Difficulty: Easy 
  • Family-friendly
  • Dog-friendly
  • Public Facilities
  • Easy carpark access for both Spa Thermal Park and Huka Falls

2. K2K Trail (Great Lake Trails)

The Great Lake Trails are known as one of New Zealand's best bike rides but it's also a great walking track, especially during the summer!

Start your pre-hike ritual in Kinloch at the Tipsy Trout with premium Manuka Brothers’ roasted coffee and a cinnamon bun. And if you didn't pack a lunch, their cabinet is stocked with treats for a beach picnic later on.

The trail begins along the Kinloch lakefront, changing into a steady climb through native bush.

You will be rewarded with sweeping views of the western bays at the famous Codgers Rock lookout- definitely an Instagram-worthy shot. From there you're not far from Kawakawa Bay where the beach and a dip in the lake reward you at the end. Fed from the Tongariro's alpine mountains, the water's so clear you can see right to the bottom.

View from Codgers Rock

If you're an avid rock climber, don't forget to bring your gear. Kawakawa Bay is home to one of the best natural rock-climbing walls in the North Island.

If you're not up for the return walk, Taxicat Adventures provides shuttles to and from Kawakawa Bay back to Kinloch. Once you're done hiking, sit back and cruise along the Western Bays of Lake Taupō. 

What to expect:

  • 6-hour return walk
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Dog-friendly
  • Small Toilet Facilities near Kawakawa Bay campsite
  • Full-day parking beside the Tipsy Trout
  • Book Taxicat Adventures here

3. Lake Rotopounamu Track

On the way to the Tongariro National Park, sits an unsuspecting track hidden in the bush.

Just 10 minutes from Turangi, you'll find stunning lake views, active birdlife, all centering around a hidden swimming spot for summer.

This is a great option for families with young kids. There's a 5-minute uphill walk before reaching the trail circling the peaceful Lake Rotopounamu. About an hour into your walk, the trail opens up to a beach for a swim and a lakefront picnic. 

After this short walk, drive 20 minutes to the Tongariro National Park for some of New Zealand's best half-day hikes like the Taranaki Falls Walk or the Tama Lakes Track. Surrounding the Whakapapa Village, there are a number of shorter walks, offering amazing views of Mount Tongariro and Mount Ruapehu.

Taranaki Falls

What to expect:

  • 2-hour loop walk
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Family-friendly
  • No dog access
  • Small toilet facilities near 10 Minute Beach
  • Carpark access (be careful of traffic while crossing to trailhead)

4. Great Lake Pathway 

With significant upgrades to make this path bike and walker friendly, there is space for everyone to enjoy their time on the Great Lake Pathway (Lion's Walk). 

Lion's Walk runs 10 kilometers along the lakefront all the way from Taupo town across to 5Mile Bay. The paved walkway is the perfect setting for a mid-day walk and stunning views of Tongariro National Park's mountain ranges.

Along the way you can cool down with an iced coffee from the shops located right on the pathway – The Steaming Bean, Espresso Cove, or Two Mile Bay Sailing Club!

So whether you walk part of, or the full 10kms, this is a perfect way to spend the day with whānau.

Walk the pathway, take in the beautiful lakeside views, and swim at one of the many beaches along the walk. Some of the best include Wharewaka Park, 2Mile Bay Sailing Club, 5Mile Bay and the lakefront close to Taupō town.

Lake Taupo Two Mile Bay - family on the Great Lake Pathway - photo by Todd Eyre
Great Lake Pathway, Two Mile Bay

You're spoilt for choice with swimming spots, picnic spots, sunshine, and epic sunsets right alongside one of the Taupō region's best natural attractions, Lake Taupo.

What to expect:

  • 10-kilometer walk one-way
  • Family-friendly
  • Dog-friendly
  • Public Facilities located along the pathway
  • Multiple carparks

5. Rangatira Point Track 

One of the locals’ best-kept secret is the summer favourite, Whakamoenga Point.

Whakamoenga Point

Starting near Acacia Bay is the Rangatira Point Track. You'll find yourself wandering through native bush right next to the lakeshore with uninterrupted views of Lake Taupō. There are 3 carparks with options for a short or longer walk, ranging between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours (one way). 

The trail will open up to a volcanic flat landscape right next to the lake. To get there, you'll come across a boat ramp. Once you're there, just keep following the track to Whakamoenga Point (marked by the public access sign). 

Make the most of your time there, jump, swim and soak in the warm summer on the flat volcanic rocks, just don't forget your sunscreen!

What to expect:

  • 1.5 hours or 3 kilometers return
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Family-friendly
  • Dog-friendly
  • No public facilities
  • 3 carparks
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