Taupo, New Zealand is situated on the shores of Lake Taupo and is a quiet version of Queenstown, the south island’s big adventure and party capital. Taupo has a lot of great hikes and fishing, and is the jumping-off point for the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The impressive Huka Falls are nearby, which also have a great picnic area and nature walks. Taupo is one of my favorite places in New Zealand. I loved the close proximity to nature, the good food, and warm locals. I came for two days and ended up staying five.
Hostel prices – Dorm rooms cost around 25-30 NZD per night and private rooms average 55 NZD per night for a single, and 75 NZD for a double room. Rainbow Lodge is my favorite hostel in this town.
Budget hotel prices – A double room with a private bathroom costs around 85 NZD per night.
Average cost of food – A restaurant meal with table service can cost about 30 NZD. If you choose to cook your food, plan to spend about 54-77 NZD per week. You can find sandwiches for 8 NZD and fast food like McDonald’s or Burger King will cost between 7-15 NZD. Drinks at the bar will cost around 8 NZD.
Transportation costs – The Taupo Connector is the official bus system of the city. Single and return trip fares are 1.50 NZD and 2.50 NZD respectively.
Money Saving Tips
Explore for free – Taupo has lots of free walks and stuff to do. There are heaps of activities like hikes, visiting the lake, and going to the mountains. There’s always something to do here for free.
Shop at the Saturday market – Every Saturday there is a riverside market (Riverside Park) selling fresh produce and local crafts and an art exhibition (Colonel Roberts Reserve at the lakefront) which you can wander around for free.
Top Things to See and Do in Taupo
Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – Considered the best day hike in all of New Zealand, the crossing takes you to the spot where they filmed Mordor from Lord of the Rings. The 12 mile walk is easy at parts and steep at others as you hike across forests, mountains, and volcanoes (don’t worry it’s safe!). It was one of the best things I did while in New Zealand. Here’s a video of what to expect:
Go Taupo tandem skydiving – Taupo has the best skydiving in New Zealand with Lake Taupo providing a nice view as you drop back towards earth. It costs between 250-300 NZD for a 12,000 ft. jump.
Bungy jump – Bungy jumping is popular all over New Zealand. If you haven’t tried it in any other region, do it while here. The view is spectacular and the activity is reasonably priced.
Go swimming at Turangi – The hot springs in the river are a great place to relax and swim during the day. During the winter, it’s the place to be to stay warm.
Visit the Huka Falls – This is one of the fastest-moving waterfalls in NZ. The water flows so quickly that it stays pure blue like an iceberg because of the lack of oxygen in the water. It’s close to the city and the best way to get there is to walk.
Spend a day at Lake Taupo – The lake is the main attraction in town with a boardwalk full of great restaurants and some great lakeshore hikes. During the summer, the lake is a popular place to go trout fishing, sailing, jetskiing, swimming, and boating. A day on the lake is something you should really consider.
Visit Lake Taupo Museum and Art Gallery – This is a small museum located near the centre of town, behind the Great Lake Center on Story Place. It contains exhibits on the Maori, Volcanic and early European history of Taupo. A Maori meeting house is also recreated within the building and exhibitions of art by local and New Zealand artists are ongoing. The “Ora” garden which won the 2004 Chelsea Flower Show has recently been added in a specially-created outside area.
Climb Mount Tauhara – The mountain sitting on the eastern edge of town can be climbed fairly easily (get directions from your accommodation) and the views from the top on a clear day are remarkable, so take your camera.
Relax in Butcher’s Pool – This is awesome, natural thermal spring is rarely crowded. Other than the changing sheds and a simple deck, all you have around you is nature.
Hit up the Turoa Ski Area – Found in the Tongariro National Park, this is a marvelous place for skiers of all levels. There is gear for rent or purchase, as well as a ski school. Snowboarding is not advised.
Go jet boating – Not only is Waikato river the largest river in New Zealand, but it also happens to be the most popular spot for boating. Jet boating is popular because of the high-speed thrills and fun. Only certain areas of the river are open for this activity.
Stop by the Great Lake Center – Often host to conventions, performances, and exhibitions, there is always something going on here. If you are looking for something to do beyond all of the physical activity, this is where you should be.