Taupo is one of the larger towns we visited, situated on the largest lake in New Zealand of the same name. For us Taupo was the gateway to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, dubbed as one of the best day hikes in the world. The hike is a long one, and passes through many different types of stunning landscapes, as well as some Lord of the Rings highlights. When that didn’t pan out due to inclement weather, it became a relaxing town to explore and recharge in. We stayed with some family friends and watched Lord of the Rings trilogy instead! Not quite as good as seeing it in person, but close enough!
How to Get There
It is about a 1.5 hour drive from Rotorua to Taupo. If you’re travelling from Wellington to Taupo you’re in for a 5-6 hour drive. We took longer like usual to take pictures, as our route took us by Mt. Doom and near Rivendell (in Kaitoke Regional Park) which had a lot of info on the LOTR scenes filmed there.
Where to Stay
We were lucky enough to stay at a family friends’ place for free, and enjoyed some home cooked meals and great kiwi hospitality. We had a good day of rest after deciding against doing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, and marathoned the Lord of the Rings Trilogy instead. There are many reasonably priced hostels in Taupo situated between Tongariro St. and Rifle Range Rd. You can find cheap accommodation in Taupo here.
What to Do
- Tongariro Alpine Crossing – A 19 km hike through the beautifully rugged alpine landscape, which unfortunately we never witnessed first hand. The day of our hike featured lots of rain and cloud, as well as very high winds and cold temperatures. Our booked bus cancelled the trip, but since we had driven about 2 hours to get there we drove to the beginning to check it out anyway. It would’ve been a miserable walk (which we could’ve handled), but our final decision was made on the fog and cloud cover obscuring the landscape. We had come to experience the views, not just to say we’d survived the trek, so we decided to forego the hike this time and save it for next time around. We also approached it in a very round about way. We could’ve just driven the closer end of the hike, and parked our car, then caught a ride back to our car after through the booked bus. It is possible to park for free at either side of the hike, but you have to book a ride back to your car beforehand as the hike is not a loop. We booked our drive with the Plateau Lodge, and we very much appreciated their service! They are reasonably priced, provided lots of advice and also offered guided trips (though those are much more expensive!). If you are hoping to do the hike, you can also stay at the lodge and organize your trip/car pick up right from there.
- Huka Falls – An awesome show of the power of water less than a 10 minute drive from the center of town, you cannot visit Taupo without seeing this waterfall. Wakaito River features ice blue water and foam crashing down the narrow channel out of Lake Taupo and it is truly a magnificent sight.
- Lake Taupo – Walking along the lakefront is a fun activity in itself. On a clear day you can easily see Mount Ngauruhoe (better known as LOTR’s Mount Doom) across the large lake all the way up to its snow covered peak, making it a beautiful view!