A North Island lakefront town with all-action activities

Thousands of years ago, New Zealand’s Lake Taupo was created by an eruption so big the haze across the sun was visible in China and Europe. Set against the spectacular backdrop of snow-capped Mt Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu (the place for skiing) and Mt Ngauruhoe (which starred as the spooky Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies), the city of Taupo sits on the edge of New Zealand’s largest lake. Renowned for its warm geothermal waters, Taupo has a growing reputation as the North Island’s adventure capital, with jet-boating, heli-skiing, sky-diving, white-water rafting and bungee-jumping all popular activities.

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From hot springs and trout fishing to the Huka Falls

The volcano that sits beneath Lake Taupo has erupted 28 times since that first explosion which formed the collapsed crater that is now this vast and scenic lake. This is the heart of New Zealand’s geothermal country; it’s less well-known than Rotorua about an hour’s drive north, but equally remarkable.

One of the most interesting places to visit nearby is the Orakei Korako Geothermal Reserve Park, a valley of white silica terraces (the most spectacular is Te Kapua, a five metre high silica outcrop, 40m long), gushing geysers, boiling mud pools and the geothermal Ruatapu Cave (Sacred Hole) which plunges down to a clear, hot pool at the bottom. A small ferry takes visitors the short distance across Lake Ohakuri and returns at the ring of a bell. This reserve hasn’t changed for thousands of years and it’s no surprise that David Attenborough’s BBC television series Walking with Dinosaurs was partly filmed here.

Another absolute must when visiting Taupo is the 11-metre high Huka Falls, set on the banks of the Waikato River just outside the city, over which 62,000 gallons of water cascades each second. There are beautiful walking tracks and mountain bike paths along the river, various viewing platforms and jet boat rides, where you can get up close to the thundering falls. Of course, no visit to Taupo would be complete without getting out on the lake itself, whether on a kayak, sailboat or cruise. One of the most unusual sights on the lake shore is the extraordinary 10 metre high rock carvings of tattooed Maori faces etched into the side of the cliff near Mine Bay which depict a Maori navigator who led the Tūwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes to the Taupo area 1000 years ago.

The Taupo region also offers some of the best trout fishing in New Zealand. Don a rubber wading suit to stand in the rushing waters of the Tongariro River, and revel in the certainty that even amateur fly-fishers can land a rainbow trout. Those with more time can take a heli-fishing trip and fly to less accessible parts of the river. Alternatively head to Taupo DeBretts Hot Springs, one of several in town, to soak up the healing benefits of the natural mineral-rich pools, surrounded by waterfalls and lush greenery.

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