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At the southernmost tip of Lake Taupo, Tokaanu is a birdspotters paradise set on a stream near the river estuary where the Tongariro River meets Lake Taupo. Five minutes from Turangi, it has the same close access to Tongariro National Park, but in a slightly quieter lakeside setting.
The historic Tokaanu Wharf reaches out into the lake and is a particularly picturesque spot for an afternoon of fishing, picnicking, birdwatching or swimming.
Its natural thermal springs and mud pools have been used for centuries by Maori for therapeutic bathing, cooking and bleaching harakeke (flax) for weaving.
Today, you can explore Tokaanu Thermal Pools, a public hot pools complex for adults and children, or enjoy the Tokaanu Thermal Walk, a 20-minute bush walk past natural hot pools in sinter basins and spluttering mud pools.
The nearby Steaming Cliffs of Hipaua are also worth a visit to see chimneys of steam floating from the bush-clad hillsides, as New Zealand’s native kahu (harrier hawks) cruise the warm currents in the air.