BUG New Zealand travel guidebook
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BUG New Zealand travel guidebook


BUG New Zealand travel guidebook

Destination guides > Pacific Islands > New Zealand > Waikato > Lake Taupo > Taupo


This town of more than 22,000 sits on the northeastern corner of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. The attractions of the lake itself and the huge range of adventure activities on offer make this one of the most popular backpacker stops in all of New Zealand.

Lake Taupo was formed by a volcanic eruption in 186 AD, which blew a 660m2 hole in the earth, and there’s still plenty of volcanic and geothermal activity going on in the area. The active geothermal field called Karapiti, or Craters of the Moon, is a lunar landscape of steam vents, craters, and mud pools close to Taupo on State Highway 1. Orakei Korako, about 25 minutes from Taupo on the way to Rotorua and across the Waikato River, is considered one of the best geothermal areas in New Zealand.

Trout fishing is a major attraction on Lake Taupo, and there’s a wide range of fly-fishing guides and trips available, many of which can be booked from hostels. You’ll need to buy a fishing license from the visitor centre or one of the angling or sports shops in town. You have a choice of spinning or fly-fishing on Lake Taupo, but only fly-fishing is allowed on the nearby rivers. Many restaurants will cook up your catch for you if you contact them in advance.

Nearby is the ever-popular Huka Falls, which is one of New Zealand’s most powerful (and definitely the most-visited) waterfalls. Although most buses and motorists stop off here to and from Taupo, the most rewarding way to visit is by hiking the Huka Falls Track that begins at the Spa Thermal Centre on Spa Road in Taupo.

But it’s the adrenalin-pumping adventure activities that draw backpackers in droves to Taupo. Bungee jumping, skydiving, kayaking, jetboating and Rock ‘n’ Ropes courses are all on offer. Taupo is considered to be the cheapest place to skydive in New Zealand, and attracts many backpackers for that fact alone. As such, there’s a very good backpacker infrastructure set up, with a wide range of restaurants, nightlife, transport and accommodation options.

Huka Falls, Taupo - © repox - Fotolia.com

Practical information

Taupo i-SITE Visitor Centre

Tongariro Street, Taupo
Tel (07) 376 0027
Website www.laketauponz.com & www.backpacklaketaupo.com
Open 8.30am-5pm daily


117 Tongariro Street, Taupo
Tel (07) 377 4168
Open 9am-8pm daily

Global Gossip

11 Tuwharetoa Street, Taupo
Tel (07) 376 9920
Website www.globalgossip.com
Open 9am-11pm daily

Log On

71 Tongariro Street, Taupo
Tel (07) 376 5901
Open 9am-9pm daily

Coming & going

Taupo has good coach connections to destinations throughout the North Island. InterCity Coachlines (tel (09) 623 1503) stop at 16 Gascoigne Street and Nakedbus.com stops outside the i-Site visitor information centre on Tongariro Street.

Alpine Hotbus (tel 0508 468 287) operates a daily shuttle bus for hikers tackling the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It departs Taupo at 6.15am with an additional 5.30am service during summer (Nov-Apr). The return fare is $45.


Tongariro Expeditions (tel (07) 377 0435) also have daily shuttle buses to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The return fare is $49.


A shuttle bus to Orakei Korako departs from the i-SITE information centre on Tongariro Street.

Hitchhiking in and out of Taupo is easy with State Highways 1 and 5 passing through town.

Local transport

The Taupo Connector bus (tel 0800 42875463) run an urban bus service in Taupo. There is only one route and it only runs a few times a day. A single trip costs $1.50.

Hostel accommodation

Base Taupo

7 Tuwharetoa Street, Taupo
Tel (07) 377 4464 or 0800 227 369 (0800 BASE NZ)

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Berkenhoff Lodge

75 Scannell Street, Taupo
Tel (07) 378 4909

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Burke’s Lodge

69 Spa Road, Taupo
Tel (07) 378 9292

Go Global Backpackers

Corner Tongariro & Tuwharetoa Streets, Taupo
Tel (07) 377 0044

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Rainbow Lodge

99 Titaraupenga Street, Taupo
Tel (07) 378 5754

Silver Fern Lodge

Corner Kaimanawa & Tamamutu Streets, Taupo
Tel (07) 377 4929

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Sunset Lodge

27 Tremaine Avenue, Gradwell
Tel (07) 378 5962

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Taupo Urban Retreat Backpackers

65 Heuheu Street, Taupo
Tel (07) 378 6124 or 0800 872 261

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Tiki Lodge

104 Tuwharetoa Street, Taupo
Tel (07) 377 4545 or 0800 845 456

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

YHA Taupo

56 Kaimanawa Street, Taupo
Tel (07) 378 3311

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Eating & drinking

Taupo has developed a varied and extensive dining scene, ranging from sophisticated restaurants to more backpacker budget-friendly cafés and takeaways. There are burger and pizza joints, and fish and chip shops all within the city centre. There’s also a backpacker-centric nightlife with a good selection of bars and clubs to drink and dance.
Most of the action takes place on and around Tongariro and Tuwharetoa Streets. Finn MacCuhal’s (Tuwharetoa Street, Taupo) is an enormous Irish pub near the corner of Tongariro Street; right across the street is Element (7 Tuwharetoa Street, Taupo), the Base Taupo bar and nightclub that gets jumping most nights and Taupo Urban Retreat (65 Heuheu Street, Taupo) claims to have the cheapest bar in town.

There are some restaurants and fast food places around Lake Terrace and Tongariro Street, right across from the waterfront, which are nice places to grab a bite.

Or you can hit the Pak’n Save (Ruapehu Street, Taupo) or the Woolworth’s (corner Spa Road & Tongariro Street, Taupo) supermarket and have a picnic in the Taupo Domain right on the lakefront.

Sightseeing, museums & tourist attractions

Craters of the Moon

This unique lunar landscape is the result of the 1954 explosion during construction of the Wairakei geothermal power station. There is a loop track (1 hour) that takes you through this active thermal area that features craters, mud pools and steam vents.

Karapiti Road, 7km north of Taupo
Admission $4

Volcanic Activity Centre

This small science museum has exhibits on geothermal and volcanic activity. The centre boasts an earthquake simulator, a live model geyser and an interactive tornado machine.

Karetoto Road, Wairakei Park
Tel (07) 374 8375
Website www.volcanoes.co.nz
Admission $9.50
Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4pm


Apart from Huka Falls and the lovely view across the lake, there’s not a lot to see in Taupo. However there are loads of things to do with an emphasis on great value adventure activities.


Taupo Bungy is a popular jump from a 47m platform above the Waikato River, north of town near the Huka Falls.

202 Spa Road, Taupo
Tel (07) 377 1135 or 0800 888 408
Website www.taupobungy.co.nz
Solo jump $109; tandem jump $218 for two people


The Rock ‘n’ Ropes high ropes course features a number of activities that are designed to both build confidence and scare the shit out of anyone with a fear of heights. The three main activities are the high beam, the giant trapeze and the thrilling giant swing. It is a good value half day and a highly recommended activity that many people say is scarier than bungee jumping or skydiving.

Karetoto Road (off Huka Falls Road), Wairakei, Taupo
Tel (07) 374 8111
Website www.rocknropes.co.nz
Half day $65


Two jet boating operators are based in Taupo, both offer exciting trips on the Waikato River.

Hukafalls Jet

Hukafalls Jet is the most popular of Taupo’s two jet boat companies. They are based at Wairakei Park and go right up to the base of the Huka Falls.

Wairakei Park, Taupo
Tel (07) 374 8572 or 0800 485 2538
Website www.hukafallsjet.com
30-minute ride $95

Rapids Jet

Rapids Jet is the other jet boat operator in Taupo. They operate further upstream where they surf the Nga-awapurua Rapids – New Zealand’s biggest commercially jet boated rapids.

Tel (07) 374 8066
Website www.rapidsjet.com
35-minute ride $85


There are a couple of kayaking companies based in Taupo that run kayaking trips both on Lake Taupo and on the Waikato River.


The Maori carving on the cliff face overlooking Lake Taupo is one of the highlights of the region and the best way to see it is on a half-day kayaking trip run by Kayaking Kiwi (tel (07) 378 0909 or 0800 529 255). A half-day trip costs $95.


Kiwi River Safaris (tel (07) 377 6597 or 0800 723 8577), is another kayaking company that offers kayaking trips from Taupo. Rather than kayaking on the lake, Kiwi River Safaris runs trips on the Waikato River that let you see bungee jumpers from underneath the platform and also give you the opportunity to try a cliff jump or just soak in hot pools. A two-hour trip costs $40.


Skydiving is Taupo’s most popular activity. It is the cheapest place in New Zealand to jump out of a plane and the scenery is spectacular with views over Lake Taupo and the snow capped mountain peaks of Tongariro National Park.

Competition between the three skydive companies keeps the prices low and you usually get the choice of several jump heights. Generally the ripcord gets pulled at 1524m (5000ft); so a 3658m (12,000ft) jump gives you 45 seconds and a 4572m (15,000ft) jump gives you one minute of freefall. However the 15000ft jump is not always possible, particularly in cold weather and most people choose to jump at 12000ft. Skydiving operators in New Zealand advertise their jump altitudes in feet, rather than metres.

Skydiving companies only operate when the weather conditions are right, so be prepared to spend an extra day or two in Taupo waiting for the right conditions. Most tandem skydive companies impose a maximum weight of 100kg.

Freefall Skydive

Tel (07) 378 4662 or 0800 FREEFLY (0800 373 335)
Website www.freefall.net.nz
12000ft tandem jump $249, $439 including freefall DVD; 15000ft tandem jump $339, $499 including freefall DVD

Taupo Tandem Skydiving

Tel 0800 275934
Website www.taupotandemskydiving.com
12000ft tandem skydive $249, $428 including freefall DVD; 15000ft tandem skydive $339, $499 including freefall DVD

Skydive Taupo

Tel 0800 JUMP NOW (0800 586 766)
Website www.skydivetaupo.co.nz
12000ft tandem skydive $250; 15,000ft tandem skydive $340; freefall DVD extra $149

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