Back Your Backyard – The Natural Gems of Taupo by Stuff

News Article Outdoors


The volume of pure water flowing through the rock face of the mighty Waikato River often approaches 220,000 litres per second. This is enough water to fill two Olympic sized swimming pools, per second.


We recently hosted Sharnae from Stuff on our Scenic Cruise and she even had a chance to feed the ducks!  Here’s her travel story on beautiful Taupo.

This is part of Stuff’s Back your Backyard campaign to show Kiwis that we do not need to travel too far to get some really unique experiences.  More information about the  #backyourbackyard campaign here

Situated in the centre of a plentiful volcanic and geothermal oasis, Taupō offers diverse panoramic views to unwind, recharge and explore.

An area known for its nature-based tourism and extraordinary hot pools, Taupō has a range of hidden gems within a few hours drive of both Auckland and Hamilton.

Whether you want to walk the slow pace of life or ride the wave of an adrenaline-pumping adventure, Taupō has it all.

Here are just three of Taupō’s must-see attractions.

Views on a lake the size of Singapore

If you like the idea of going off the beaten track, Chris Jolly Outdoors’ experiences are the one for you.

The company, which has been operating for over 40 years is well experienced in offering a range of knowledgable and awe-inspiring tours by land and lake. Its private charter tours are no exception.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably seen the view of Taupō Lake from the ‘Love Taupō’ sign many times, but seeing the 360 views of the three mountains, Ruapehu, Ngāuruhoe and Tongariro, on either side is something entirely different.

A much more luxurious and intimate experience, the private charters are perfect for a small group of friends with all amenities, fishing gear and catering included.

Once on the charter, you can pretty much do anything you like with your time, but I would highly recommend asking to see the Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings, Ngātoroirangi, which can only be reached by boat.

The 14 metre-high Māori carving, which took four years to make, sits in an enclave at the lake shore at Mine Bay.

Carved by artist Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell they feature his ancestor, Ngātoroirangi, a navigator who led Māori to the Taupō area. Down at water level are a lizard, a mermaid and other carvings.

Further towards the centre of the Lake you can also try your luck at catching a trout.

This is a unique experience mostly because trout can’t be bought or sold commercially in New Zealand, which means you won’t find trout on the menu at your favourite Taupō restaurant.

If you are patient and lucky enough to snap up a good sized trout, the Chris Jolly Outdoors crew will take it off your hands, and return with it gutted and smoked – perfect on a cheese plater.

Another bemusing activity on the water, that I personally loved, is waving a bikky or piece of bread up in the air to offer to the ducks.

The ducks, which are obviously used to the shenanigans, will take off towards the boat and take the food right from your fingers. But be warned you might have to wave the food around for a while.

A powerful natural phenomenon

The iconic footbridge at Huka Falls is a great way to feel the immense power surge from the falls, but seeing it at water level is like no other.

The Hukafalls Jet Taupo gets you right up close, where you can admire the bright blue water, which produces 200,000 litres of water every second, and feel its spray on your face.

If the Falls are smaller than usual, like on the day I went, you can get even closer.

The whole adventure takes you on an exhilarating 30-minute jet ride across the Waikato River towards the Huka Falls, where you will also see the Huka Prawn Park, the Wairakei Geo-Thermal Power Station and the Aratiatia Dam.

The ride has lots of sharp turns and 360 spins for adrenaline junkies as well as spots at several points along the route where you can learn about the history of the Taupō Dam and Huka Falls.

If you’re worried about getting wet, you’ll be provided with a raincoat. Pick your seat wisely though. Sitting in the middle of the jet will keep you driest, while seats on the edge will see you bucketed in water with each spin.

The railings in the jet boat are heated to keep you warm, but with Taupō often sitting at an average of 13.9 degrees in spring, be prepared to have a numbingly-cold face while the boat travels up to 80km an hour around cliffs and trees.

A geothermal wonderland

Taupō is brimming with geothermal activity, and one natural phenomenon not to be missed is the Wairakei Terraces and Thermal Health Spa.

While Polynesian Spa in Rotorua gets most of the hype, the Wairakei spas give you a unique experience of bathing at the bottom of silica terraces, much like the Pink and White Terraces in Bay of Plenty – a New Zealand wonder which was destroyed in the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera.

The first pool closest to the entrance takes you under a bridge, which leads to the terrace overflowing with mineral-rich waters.

At temperatures between 38 and 42 degrees in the three thermal pools, you can feel the water easing up all your week-long aches and pains.

It’s recommended not to shower afterwards to allow the healing powers of the sulphur-rich water to work their magic.

If this is the last activity of your day you’ll be guaranteed to have a good night sleep. If it’s not, schedule a nap – you’ll need it.

More information:

Chris Jolly Outdoors’ private charter tours range in price depending on the experience. A standard boat ride with a minimum of two hours costs around $650. To book:

Hukafalls Jet Taupo is currently running a deal where adults are $99 and children $67. One child rides free when you book two adults and two children. To book:

Wairakei Terraces and Thermal Health Spa is $25.00 per person for entry to the thermal pools. For an additional $15, take the walkway to the topaz-hued terraces and see the bubbling waters cascade into the bathing pools. To book:

The author was a guest of Hilton Taupo.

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