Heading from Rotorua to Taupo? Before checking out, check out our top tips for things to do in Taupo. Just like in Rotorua, you’ll find plenty of activities and attractions, free things to do and places to eat and drink. As with every kiwi road trip, there’s a couple of good stops along the way… (Image: Adrian Hodge)
On The Way…
If you’re looking for free things to do in Taupo, you’ll find a couple on the way down from Rotorua. Of course, everyone knows about the spectacular Huka Falls, but there’s actually another very cool and unique free natural attraction in Taupo, at the Aratiatia Dam.
The Aratiatia Rapids are a short detour off State Highway 5, and well worth the stop. The dam is released 4 times a day during summer at 10am, 12pm, 2pm and 4pm. This creates a spectacular free attraction as the empty valley is flooded within minutes. The dam release can be viewed from the main bridge or a number of platforms a few minutes’ walk from the car park.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley is one of New Zealand's true hidden gems, around 20 minutes out of Rotorua. The valley was created by the Mt Tarawera eruption in 1886, and has been regenerating ever since. The result? A completely natural environment full of amazing geothermal features and rare native plant and bird life. The valley also sits on the edge of Lake Rotomahana, the final resting place of the famous Pink & White Terraces.
Eat & Drink…
There’s so many Taupo activities and things to do that you’ll work up an appetite or thirst in no time. As with any tourist hot spot, the best places to eat in Taupo are a little off the beaten track. Check out these local secrets for the best places to eat and drink in Taupo.
A local favourite for ‘cheat day’. Paulie’s is a takeaway with a few tables for good measure. Known for their range of burgers and fried chicken, or for a real calorie hit, the deep-fried macaroni cheese is hard to beat!
For great coffee, good vibes and wholesome food, this unique venue takes you away from the tourist traps at the lakefront. This little local ‘secret spot’ also has a little store inside for a bit of retail therapy.
Wairakei hosts Night Markets on Friday and Saturday nights throughout Summer, with a range of kiwiana and ethnic food options, live music and cooking displays.
Vine Eatery specialises in Mediterranean and New Zealand inspired cuisine in a casual but classy atmosphere. They offer tapas style sharing plates, perfect to enjoy with a group along with craft beer, fine wine and cocktails.
Locally brewed from Taupo’s purest water, Lakeman beer can be found in many of the bars and restaurants in Taupo. Their New Zealand Pale Ale, Taupo Thunder is backed by a number of awards and provides a real taste of Taupo.
Taupo Must Do…
There are so many things to do in Taupo, it’s hard to pick just one ‘must do’. With a raft of water activities, cycle trails and of course adventure activities like Taupo Bungee or skydiving, you’ll be spoilt for choice! One Taupo attraction that is truly unique is the Maori Rock Carvings at Mine Bay.
The Maori Rock Carvings are a real ‘must do’ in Taupo, and can only be accessed from the water. The 14m high unique contemporary work was completed in 1980, after 4 years of work by Matahi Brightwell and a team of 3 other artists.
There are a number of options to choose from to view the carvings:
- Kayak to the carvings with Canoe & Kayak or Taupo Kayaking Adventures, you can even take a motorised kayak for a bit more assistance!
- Take a boat cruise with Chris Jolly or on a replica steamboat Ernest Kemp
- Have a go at sailing a yacht with Sail Barbary or Sail Fearless