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Winter in New Zealand is the perfect season for a fun-filled family break. The winter forecast may sound bleak, but don’t let the cold stop you and your family from exploring the beautiful central North Island. Throw on your boots, gloves, and beanies and join in for snow play, divine cuisine, the country’s largest gondola, relaxing geothermal hot pools and a myriad of attractions and activities to enjoy with the kids.
Taupo is synonymous with the great Kiwi adventure holiday, and many Kiwis will have childhood memories of holidays spent by the river, in the bush and on the mountains. As adults, it’s inevitable to find such adventures have been sidelined because of our busy work lives and family schedules. Now is the time to start thinking about your next winter getaway and Taupo is the perfect destination for the entire family with activities for everyone to enjoy! Let us make it easy and share some of the best ways to relax and rejuvenate the whole family:
There are many ways to relax with the family in Taupo, but one that you can’t go past is soaking in some of the world’s best geothermal baths. Soak away the aches of a day spent on the snow, or just relax and unwind. Taupo is a volcanic, geothermal wonderland with natural thermal pools perfect for a laid-back day with the kids. The best hot spots in the area include; the Tokaanu Thermal Pools, DeBretts Hot Springs and the AC Baths in Taupo town (both of which have fun hydro slides for the kids to enjoy too). If you would rather have a more natural hot pool experience, visit the recently redeveloped natural hot springs in Spa Thermal Park where the Otumuheke Stream meets the river.
Take the kids on an exploration through the ever-changing landscapes at Orakei Korako Geothermal Park or Craters of the Moon, where you will see craters of bubbling mud, hissing vents, eerie clouds of steam, an array of colourful soils and other fascinating geothermal phenomena that will most certainly keep the kids entertained.
There’s certainly something energising about being out in the fresh mountain air, surrounded by stunning panoramic views of the entire central plateau. Sound like a bit of fun? It is easy to take the kids on a last minute ski holiday to Taupo and embrace what’s left of winter. Taupo is home to New Zealand’s best beginner ski resort after all, and spending time outdoors skiing in the fresh mountain air is a great way to destress and switch off from the busy working week too.
Whakapapa Ski Area, located on Mount Ruapehu and situated within the stunning UNESCO dual World Heritage Tongariro National Park, is a scenic one hour and fifteen-minute drive south of Taupo town, and an easy forty-minute drive from Turangi. Accommodation is a breeze to book at one of Taupo’s many hotels, motels, resorts, holiday parks, and boutique bed and breakfasts. You’ll also find an array of accommodation options in Turangi, and plenty of holiday homes dotted around the gorgeous lakeside villages of the southern edge of the lake.
Whakapapa is New Zealand’s largest ski area with over 65 trails to discover, and the perfect place for children and beginners to find their feet at the dedicated beginner area. Happy Valley, which is also home to a groomed sledding slope, also has a fleet of toboggans for hire that will have you sliding down a snowy slope with a huge smile – no matter what your age!
If you just want to take in the scenery, throw a few snowballs, eat some lunch and admire the views then do we have the ticket for you! The 1.8km Sky Waka gondola opened in 2019 and takes sightseeing passengers, as well as skiers and snowboarders, to New Zealand’s highest café 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.
Water is our defining element here in Taupo, and there’s certainly something therapeutic about being out on the lake. Winter doesn’t mean that water activities need to come to an end – in fact – wintertime boasts the best scenery as the peaks of the Tongariro National Park that frame the backdrop are covered in snow – it’s a spectacular sight! Book a Lake Taupo boat cruise out to visit the Mine Bay Maori Rocking Carvings and enjoy indoor seating and heating this winter, or wrap up warm and embrace the fresh air and epic scenery with yachting at its best aboard Sail Barbary or Sail Fearless. The Waikato River is home to stunning scenic highlights which are best experienced with a cruise to the mighty Huka Falls with an indoor Huka Falls River Cruise or the thrilling Hukafalls Jet – an experience the kids certainly won’t forget!
If you prefer staying on solid ground, you can admire the lake by grabbing an e-bike from one of the local bike shops and exploring one of our many world-class cycling trails. Take a cruise along The Great Lake Pathway from Taupo town to the 2 Mile Bay Sailing Club and enjoy a hot coffee or wood-fired pizza with a grand view out over the lake. Or for the more adventurous family, head towards Spa Thermal Park and link into the Rotary Ride – allow a leisurely 2-3 hours to complete the 5.5km grade 3 trail from Spa Park to Huka Falls and back. There is a magnitude of walking tracks throughout the region – catering to every ability – so layer up, pack a jacket and get out for a nature hike amongst the beautiful native bush and discover some stunning lake and river views during winter.
Skiing the North Island has primarily been under wraps for many years, but we've revealed 11 reasons why you should consider a ski holiday in Taupō, New Zealand.