Taupo Outdoor Activities

Rotorua to Turangi Travel Routes

Its worth taking some time or even a whole day between Turangi and Rotorua to experience the great range of Taupo outdoor activities; skydiving, jet boating and bungy jumping, the walking and mountain biking  attractions or a visit one of the geothermal parks along the way, instead of the more commercial ones in Rotorua.

From Taupo to Turangi (SH1) the road follows a scenic lakeshore offering  picnicking, swimming opportunities and a range of short walks. The road to the west of Lake Taupo (SH32) gives access to the mountain trails in the western bays.

For an alternative route between Taupo and Rotorua consider taking the Broadland’s Rd turn off from SH1 near Mt Tauhara rather than the main SH5 route. There are a number of options on both routes for a soak in either free or commercial thermal bathing pools.

Taupo Township

Adventure Activities, Walking & Cycling

Taupo itself has all the facilities of a modern tourist, forestry and rural service centre as well as an increasingly impressive range of bars and cafes – some offering great views down the lake to the mountains from the lakefront. There are some very good cycling and mountain biking opportunities, some of which are shared with walkers.

One of the most popular Taupo outdoor activities is the Great Lake Bike Trail  in the Western Bays of Lake Taupo, which could include a scenic water taxis transfer from various points on the trail. From Taupo you can either walk or mountain bike to the Huka Falls along the Waikato River, or to the west of Taupo around the lakeshore at Rangatira Point (Acacia Bay Road) or Tahunatara Point (Whakaipo Bay).

Other Taupo outdoor activities include jet boating, skydiving and bungy jumping – which can all be booked through Riverstone Backpackers. The Taupo Hot Springs are NZ’s best fully featured thermal bathing park in a spectacular tropical gully, with lots for the kids to do.

Huka Falls Riverstone Recommendation

Time: 1.5hrs
Distance: 3km
Begin: From Spa Park car park just past Taupo Bungy

The Track crosses the Otumuheke Stream 200m upstream from the Waikato River confluence and continues downhill offering spectacular views of the Waikato River. From the Huka Falls you can cross over the river and head back to Taupo along the 2.5 km Redwood Track.

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Lakefront Lions Walk

Time: Walking 2hrs, Cycling 45mins
Distance: 10km
Grade: 1
Begin: Anywhere between Taupo Boat Harbor & Wharewaka Point

The Lions Walk is a paved walkway starting on the lake side at the Waikato River outlet in Taupo and continuing to Wharewaka Point, where there is a good picnic area offering stunning views of Mount Ruapehu and the volcanic plateau. The DOC Five Mile Bay track is part of the Lions Walk, which then joins the Awaroa Track and continues on to the lakeside settlement of Waitahanui.

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Between Taupo & Rotorua

Geothermal Parks & Natural Hot Springs

Travel Time: 1hr

All of the thermal areas between Taupo and Rotorua offer different types of experiences at varying prices – such as the scenic lake cruise at Waimangu Volcanic Valley or a ride to Orakei Korako by Jetboat. There are also a number of free thermal bathing pools in the area.

Orakei Korako Thermal Park

Time: 25min drive
Location: SH5, turn left at the Mihi Bridge on the Waikato River

With up to 23 active natural geysers Orakei Korako Thermal Park boasts the most activity of any geothermal park in New Zealand.  Marvel at the number of boiling hot springs and the vibrant colors, or take a native bush walk through this untouched geothermal paradise. The Lonely Planet Guide describes Orakei Korako as “…arguably the best thermal area left in New Zealand”.

Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland

Time: 30 minutes drive
Location: SH5, 2km from turnoff near Waiotapu Hotel

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is a fairly commercial operation with a lot of interesting geothermal features packed into a small area, including the boiling Champagne Pool, bubbling mud pools, stunning mineral terraces and Lady Knox Geyser, which spouts at 10.15am and gushes up to 20m for about an hour. There is a lot to see in a small area and access is easy.

Waimungu Volcanic Valley Riverstone Recommendation

Time: 20 minutes drive
Location: Turn off SH5 at Waimangu Rd 14km south of Rotorua. If coming from Taupo turn east on SH38 toward Lake Waikaremoana and then after 4km turn left into the other end of Waimangu Road

Waimangu Volcanic Valley  is a protected scenic reserve, wildlife refuge and geothermal park under the shadow of Mt Tarawera and the native bush surrounded Lake Rotomahana. The ride on the boat around the lake to see the steaming lakeside vents exploding as the cold water gushes in under views of Mt Tarawera is unique.

Rainbow Mountain Summit Track Riverstone Recommendation

Time: 2hrs 30min return
Distance: 2.4km
Location: SH5 26 km south-east of Rotorua, just south of the SH38 turn off

The track to the summit is quite a steep climb after the easy walk to the crater lakes (1km, 30mins return). The scene features some colorful rock formations, geothermal activity and expansive views over the surrounding countryside. From the summit you can see Mt Tarawera, Lake Tarawera, Lake Rotomahana and Lake Rerewhakaaitu to the north, the Urewera Ranges and Kaimanawa Forest to the east; and Mt Tauhara, Lake Taupo and the volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park to the south.

Turangi to Taupo: Beaches & Short Walks

Travel Time: 45min drive

Lakeside spots to stop off SH1 include Mission Bay (10min drive), Waipehi Stream Mouth Reserve, (15min drive), Hallets Bay with its long white strip of sand under giant poplars (25min drive) and the sleepy Hatepe Village at the Hinemaiaia Stream mouth (30 min drive). There are also a number of short walks at Motuoapa, Waipehi, Motutere and some scenic river walks and trout fishing opportunities at the Tauranga-Taupo or spring fed Waitahanui Rivers. The Motuoapa boat harbor has an attractive waterfront and Licorice Cafe is nearby.

Motuoapa Cliff Lookout

Time: 20 minutes return
Location: SH1 10km north of Turangi
Begin: Northern end of Motuoapa Lodge in Motuoapa village

The track winds up to the cliffs behind Motuoapa Village to a wooden viewing platform. The lookout offers excellent views of Stump Bay, Motuoapa Peninsula, the wetlands and Lake Taupo. Return via the same track or for a small variation during the descent, continue along a path which leads to the north end of the settlement and return alongside the state highway to the track entrance.

Motutere/Waipehi Track

Time: 1 hour return
Location: SH1 16km north of Turangi
Begin: Opposite the northern end of the Motutere motor camp

There are great views along the track from Motutere Bay in the south, to Motutaiko Island and Jellicoe Point to the north. It passes beside cliffs of volcanic ignimbrite erupted by the Taupo volcano, and follows the old main road for a short time before crossing the Waipehi Stream. There are picnic areas and toilets across the road at the lakeshore reserve of Jellicoe Point. Return via the track to Motutere as this is a narrow and busy section of SH 1.

Waitahanui River Riverstone Recommendation

Time: 5min to 1hr return
Location: SH1 30km north of Turangi
Begin: SH1 road bridge car park

A pristine spring fed stream the Waitahanui is most known for its summer brown trout fishery but also offers a stunning walk through a moss and native bush shrouded forest, on a well formed track over a series of bridges.

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