Taupo is a mix of people who simply want to luxuriate in the natural surroundings and beauty all around and adrenaline-loving thrill-seekers who take on the incredible mountains and choppy waters. No matter why you arrive, you're sure to think: "I could get used to this way of life!"
Skiing, bungee-jumping, kayaking, tandem skydives, parasailing, mountain biking, white-water rafting: if there's an outdoor activity your heart has been yearning for, you can do it in Taupo.
Taupo has a rich indigenous history. You can kayak out to the carvings on Mine Bay, featuring huge faces and smaller historical figurines, a testament to the Maori people.
The infamous Mt. Tauhara is actually a dormant volcano. If you manage to reach the top, you'll be rewarded with incredible views of Taupo and the Central North Island.
Action World, with its splash and wave pools and water slides, is a great draw for families or simply those who love water parks.
Created from scratch, the Waipahihi Botanical Reserve is a sprawling 35 hectares of rare alpine plants, rhododendrons, azaleas, and camellias.
Whether you like fishing or just enjoy being in the outdoors, Lake Taupo is sure to take your breath away. This is the second largest freshwater lake in the world and the largest lake in New Zealand by surface area. However, it's not just the size that's impressive about this lake - it's the sheer blue and towering mountains behind it that make it so breathtaking. Perfect for fishing, cycling or just exploring, Lake Taupo should be on the top of your list of things to do in Taupo.
This is easily one of the most impressive white water falls in New Zealand. The water is so blue it almost looks fake and the power of the rushing water is incredible. Huka Falls is made up of several waterfalls and goes through a shocking 220,000 liters per second. It's hard to imagine anything rushing that quickly, so although it's stunning, make sure to keep your feet firmly planted on land!
The Taupo Museum on the face of it looks a little pokey. You might wonder why you should go there, but really this could be one of the highlights of the trip. New Zealand has a rich culture, and it's once you start getting outside of the cities you really experience it. The Taupo Museum details the history of the area, the culture of the people who lived there and the stories of the current community. Not only is there a local art gallery, but also history, stories and artifacts from the area, as well as a garden.
If you're a Lord of the Rings fan (and even if you're not) this is an absolute must-see if you're coming to Taupo. What was known as Mount Doom in the films is the real-life Mount Ngauruhoe. If you aren't much of a hiker and would rather just see the mountain, you can actually get a pretty great view of it from Lake Taupo. However, if you feel like venturing up the volcano, make sure you read up and are prepared for the journey. Be aware that it is an active volcano and its last eruption was in 1977.
Although Taupo is not the geothermal center of New Zealand, that doesn't mean there's no geothermal activity for you to experience. Craters of the Moon looks exactly as it sounds - like you've just stepped off the earth into a world completely unknown. Big craters filled with steam swirling around, water that's boiling naturally and the smell of sulfur will certainly convince you you're no longer in New Zealand or on our world at all. Although it's a great site, make sure to stay on the designated paths.
The activities you want to partake in will determine the "best" time to go. There are four distinct seasons with a mild summer, perfect for beach-going, and a cool winter which, coupled with the area's mountainous terrain, makes skiing a viable activity. The climate is cooler in Taupo than anywhere else, in general, because of its high elevation.
International visitors will land at Taupo Airport (TUO), via Auckland or Wellington. Use a taxi to get to the city center, which is five miles away.
There are no trains to Taupo but there are shared trips on shuttles. Use the Mountain Shuttle to Tongariro Crossing, running between Ketetahi and Mangatepopo for NZ$30.
Surrounding cities like Napier are easily accessed. Use the Thermal Explorer Highway for 83 miles to get to Tamamutu St. and arrive in Taupo.
Book online with NakedBus (also known as Mana Trips). A trip from Taupo to the National Park Village in Tongariro, for example, starts at NZ$19, plus luggage and booking fees.
If you love that good lodge life, check into the Huka Lodge. Visitors who are looking for modest but comfy accommodations will love the Cove. Backpackers will appreciate the hospitality of Blackcurrant Backpackers.
National Park Village - Tongariro Crossing - a national park with mountains you can scale, trails you can get lost on, and horizons that are a feast for the eyes. It is located at the base of Mt. Ruapehu.
Wharewaka - located at the end of the bus line, Wharewaka is quickly becoming known for its high density of vacation home developments, as well as its beaches.
Acacia Bay - looking straight out onto the sparkling waters of the pristine Lake Taupo is this district, which is popular for visitor accommodations as well as for local residents.
Though most visitors to Taupo can get by on foot, Taupo Central has a "Busit" service, which is its local transportation. A single Busit fare for an adult is NZ$1.50. If you're paying with cash, a single fare is NZ$2.
Grab a taxi from local providers like Great Lake Taxis. Rides are metered, not pre-set. Fares start at NZ$3 and NZ$1.86 per mile thereafter.
You can rent a car from companies like Budget or Thrifty Taupo Airport. Fares vary but the regional average works out to about NZ$35 - NZ$120 per day for a standard 4-door rental.
The Taupo town center features a whole array of boutique shops and outlets with lots of parking. You can also head to Ballentynes Fashion Central Taupo.
A quart of milk in Taupo costs NZ$2.42 and a dozen eggs costs NZ$5.
A local Taupo favorite is Spoon and Paddle. This youthful and relaxed cafe serves up everything from freshly brewed, fair trade coffee to local beers and melting lamb shoulder tortillas. Mains cost between NZ$12 - NZ$19.