Taupo is a picturesque town located in the central part of New Zealand’s North Island along the eastern shores of Lake Taupo. With plenty of activities that combine natural beauty, adventure, and relaxation, Taupo is a great place to spend a day or two. Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities, geothermal wonders, or simply want to enjoy the stunning landscapes, Taupo has something to offer for everyone. Find in our complete guide the best things to do in Taupo.


15 best things to do in Taupo

Cruise along the Maori rock carvings in Mine Bay

One of the must things to do in Taupo is visiting the majestic Mine Bay Māori rock carvings. Picture this: you’re cruising along Lake Taupo, enjoying the cool breeze on your face with an absolutely breathtaking scenery while admiring the impressive Maori rock carvings. This tour 2,5 hour long boat cruise truly invites you to connect with the ancient culture and natural wonders that New Zealand has to offer. 

Located on Lake Taupo, the Maori rock carvings in Mine Bay are an impressive artistic masterpiece. With over 10 meters (32 feet) height, the Maori rock carvings are one of the largest rock art displays in the world. The carvings were created by a renowned Maori artist named Matahi Brightwell in 1976 to tell stories of the Maori mythology and history. The intricate details, vibrant colors, and sheer size of the carvings will leave you in awe. Every stroke of his chisel brought Maori legends to life right there on the stone. It’s like you’re stepping into a whole different world of mythology and history! 

To witness these incredible carvings up close, you will have to embark on either a cruise or kayak tour. There are several tour options:


Hike the Tongariro Crossing 

One of the bucket list things to do for many people visiting New Zealand is hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Taupo is a great base to plan this full day trekking from. So if you’re a fanatic hiker this should be on your list! 

The Tongariro Crossing is considered one of New Zealand’s most spectacular day hikes. The hike is located within the Tongariro National Park which is an hour drive from Taupo. The challenging 19.4-kilometer (12-mile) Tongariro Crossing takes you through diverse volcanic landscapes. You will see active volcanic peaks, turquoise blue crater lakes, steam vents, and dramatic lava flows.

One thing you need to be aware of is that you can only park you car for a maximum of 4 hours at the trailhead of Mangatepopo Road. This means that if you’re planning to do the complete Tongariro Crossing, you won’t be able to make it back in time. Therefore you need to book a shuttle in advance which costs $35 NZD per person. This includes a round-trip transfer, map and information sheet of the hike.


Feel the adrenaline during a jet boat ride 

Hold onto your hats and get ready for a wild ride with the jet boat in Taupo! If you’re in for an adrenaline rush, then experiencing a jet boat tour in New Zealand is a must. And one of the best places to go jet boating is in Taupo! 

You can either book this 30 minute jet boat ride to the thundering Huka Falls or go for the Waikato River Jet boat ride. Make sure to book in advance as the 10 seats per slot sell out quickly!

Your guide will give informative commentary during the ride, complete with 360-degree spins past cliff faces and native forest. Enjoy this exciting journey down the mighty Waikato River, passing the breathtaking landscapes with rugged cliffs and lush native bush.


Visit the Huka Falls 

The Huka Falls is just a short drive from Taupo and is one of the most famous waterfalls in New Zealand. Here you can witness the raw power of nature as the mighty Waikato River plummets through a narrow gorge. The entrance to the Huka Falls is free. Via a very short, well maintained walking path you can get to various viewing platforms around Huka Falls that provide great vantage points to witness the river and cascading water.


One of the most impressive aspects of Huka Falls is its striking blue water and roaring sound. It’s crazy to think that on average, approximately 220,000 liters (58,000 gallons) of water per second plunge over the falls! This generates an immense power and creates the roaring sound that adds to the experience.

The power of the Huka Falls originates from the river canyon that narrows abruptly from approximately 100 meters (330 feet) to a mere 15 meters (49 feet) wide. This results in a dramatic rush of water over the volcanic rocks. This creates a lot of foam when the water plunges 11 meters (36 feet) down. Fun fact is that the word ‘Huka’ means ‘foam’ in the Maori language which reflects its appearance.


You can see the Huka Falls from various angles. The well-maintained walking paths to the viewing platforms around Huka Falls are easy to follow and surrounded by lush greenery, rocky cliffs and native flora. In combination with the thundering water and striking blue color of the Huka Falls, it is a must visit in Taupo. 


Visit the Craters of the Moon

Picture this: bubbling craters, steaming earth, and mud pools right in front of your eyes. And guess what? It’s just a quick hop outside Taupo, less than 10 minutes away. Trust me, once you step foot in this geothermal wonderland, you’ll feel like you’ve landed on a whole different planet… Or maybe even the moon itself! 

Along the wooden pathways and raised viewing platforms you can see the geothermal activity all around you. And to give you more information, there are super helpful signs scattered along the trail. These will tell you all about the fascinating stuff you’re witnessing and how this mind-boggling place came to be. 

The Craters of the Moon is actually not a super old natural attraction. It only originated in the 1950s when a geothermal power station nearby did something wild! They lowered the water pressure underground which unleashed a whole new world. Superheated water started bubbling up from beneath the Earth’s surface, creating boiling mud, steam vents, and all the mind-blowing features you see here today.

So get ready to witness geothermal magic up close and personal. It’s an experience you won’t forget! Entrance fee is $4 NZD for kids to $8 NZD for adults. The opening times are 10 AM to 4 PM daily with the last entry at 3 PM.


Hike to the Taranaki Falls 

The Taranaki Falls are located in Tongariro National Park. This stunning 20 meter high waterfall cascades over a volcanic rock face and is easy to get to. The 6 kilometers loop track takes about 2-3 hours to complete. So, if you’re looking for a short, easy day hike, then the Taranaki Falls track is a great option. 

It’s an hour and 45 minutes drive to the trailhead of the Taranaki Falls from Taupo. So it’s not particularly next door. However, if you’re planning to do more things along the way, then hiking the Taranaki Falls track is a great day trip. 


Go tandem skydiving 

Adventure seekers can have their thrill with skydiving in Taupo! Amidst the stunning backdrop of Lake Taupo and Tongariro National Park you’ll be soaring through the sky. Enjoy the feeling of freefalling with the wind rushing past you. And then, like a graceful bird, your tandem partner will deploy the parachute so you can soak in the magnificent views as you gently float back down to Earth.

Does that sound like an unforgettable experience to you? Then make sure to book your skydive experience in advance. Taupo tandem skydivingoffers a range of heights for your skydive, catering to all levels of adrenaline junkies. The options start at 9,000 feet, giving you an exhilarating taste of the thrill, and go all the way up to a jaw-dropping 18,500 feet. 

Of course the higher you go, the longer the freefall! Can you imagine a whopping 75 seconds of pure adrenaline-pumping, heart-racing, mind-blowing freefall from the highest jump they offer? It’s an experience that will leave you speechless!


Experience Tongariro river rafting 

Another fun, adrenaline filled activity is river rafting in Taupo. In fact, the Tongariro River is some of the best rivers for rafting in New Zealand! Get ready to experience the awe-inspiring landscapes and adrenaline-pumping rapids of this incredible river. It’s a journey that will thrill even the most daring of rafters.

The best white water rafting tour in Taupo is Tongariro River Rafting which tackles over 60 rapids on a 13-kilometer (8-mile) stretch of the river. While most of the rapids are Grade 3 it doesn’t mean that it will be a soft ride, you’ll get bumped and pushed around during the 2 hours on the raft. 

The total tour takes up to 4 hours from which you’ll spend 2 hours on the raft. The costs are $159 NZD for adults and $144 NZD for children.

Note: If you’re looking for that epic rafting experience where you’ll go down a 7 meters high waterfall with the raft, then check out the Rotorua rafting experience on the Kaituna river. This is the most popular rafting experience in New Zealand! 


Experience a scenic flight on a float plane 

Are you looking for an extraordinary scenic flight on New Zealand’s North Island? Then look no further than the Taupo Float Plane experience. This experience will give you a bird’s eye view of the stunning landscape surrounding Lake Taupo with the unique experience of taking off and landing on the lake. 

There are plenty of different tour options available. From quick 20 minute scenic flights over Lake Taupo to the one hour tour that takes you to Mount Ruaphu and the scenic views of Tongariro National Park. Or choose their longest flight of 2 hours to the Orakei Korako Geothermal Park where you will have a unique vantage point of this geothermal paradise. 


Visit Orakei Korako Geothermal Park

Located on a 30 minute drive north of Taupo, the enchanting Orakei Korako Geothermal Park is an otherworldly experience. This hidden gem is nestled amidst lush native bush and surrounded by pristine natural beauty. As you enter the park, you’ll be transported to a surreal realm where geothermal activity paints the landscape with vibrant colors and creates a symphony of bubbling hot springs, steaming fumaroles, and erupting geysers. 

The entrance fee is $47 – $29 USD and the best way to secure your entrance ticket is to book in advance.

The park is home to one of the most extensive geothermal systems in New Zealand. And besides that it has the largest geyser field in New Zealand, known as the “Hidden Valley.” This mesmerizing display of nature’s raw power is worth exploring and will leave you in awe. Be prepared to witness the powerful eruptions of geysers, shooting hot water and steam into the air, creating a dramatic spectacle that will leave you feeling both exhilarated and humbled. Along the elevated walkways you can venture deeper into this geothermal paradise. Along the walk you’ll be captivated by the sight of boiling mud pools, cascading thermal terraces, and crystal-clear turquoise pools shimmering with heat.

One of the highlights of Orakei Korako is the famous “Artist’s Palette,” a stunning terrace formation adorned with vivid mineral-rich deposits. The palette showcases an exquisite range of colors, from vibrant oranges and deep reds to striking yellows and brilliant greens. It’s a true masterpiece of nature’s artistry and a sight that will leave you in awe.


Another must-see attraction is the majestic “Emerald Terrace,” a mesmerizing formation that glistens with vibrant shades of green. The terrace is a testament to the ongoing geological processes taking place beneath the surface, creating an ever-changing landscape that never fails to impress.

Ruatapu Cave

To make the most of your visit, be sure to take a relaxing boat ride across the serene waters of the thermal Ruatapu Cave. This unique experience allows you to venture into the heart of a natural limestone cave. Adorned with stunning stalactites and stalagmites you can witness the ethereal beauty hidden beneath the surface.

Do the Tama Lakes hike 

The Tama Lakes are two small, picturesque crater lakes located on the western side of the Tongariro National Park in New Zealand’s North Island. The lakes are situated near the base of Mount Ngauruhoe, which is a prominent volcanic peak and one of the most recognizable landmarks in the region.

Although the trailhead of the Tama Lakes Track is about an hour and 45 minutes drive from Taupo, it is worth it if you want to do an unforgettable hike in Tongariro National Park. This hike could be a great alternative to the Tongariro Crossing if you can’t do that one for whatever reason. 

The Tama Lakes track is not a super easy hike though. It is a 17.6 km return hike with about 540 meter elevation gain. It takes an average of 6 to 8 hours to complete. The trail to the Tama Lakes is well marked and winds through a variety of stunning landscapes. You will pass lush forests, rugged volcanic terrain and golden tussock meadows. 

If you want to do a shorter version, then go for the Taranaki Falls loop track which is part of the Tama Lakes track but is only 6 kilometres long. 


Visit Huka Prawn Park 

Located on a few minutes drive from Taupo, Huka Prawn Park is a unique and exciting attraction that will make your taste buds dance with delight. This prawn-themed adventure park is full of fun activities for the whole family. 

You can catch prawns yourself at the prawn farm, eat delicious fresh prawns and other fantastic meals at Taupo’s only riverside restaurant and be active in the fun park with pedal boats and SUPs. There is an activity for everyone of the family and sea food lovers can indulge in a prawn feast with mouthwatering prawn-infused dishes.  

Note that the Huka Prawn Park is only open on weekends and some school holiday days from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM. But the restaurant is open from Friday to Tuesday from 9 AM to 3 PM. The entire park (including the restaurant) is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Entry to the park is $27,50 NZD, but they also have family passes available for $65 NZD. 

Hike to Rainbow mountain viewpoint

Lace up your hiking boots and explore an active geothermal mountain with coloured rocks and native plants that are unique to geothermal environments. After a short 15 minute hike uphill you will get to Rainbow mountain viewpoint. Once you reach the viewpoint, prepare to have your breath taken away. Here you can see the intense blue crater lake and vivid hues that adorn its slopes, creating a mesmerizing sight that will leave you in awe. From vibrant reds and oranges to earthy browns and lush greens, the natural palette of Rainbow Mountain is a feast for the eyes.

You can then continue to hike further up to Rainbow Mountain summit which is 3,5 kilometre return. Here you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see. The sweeping views encompass rolling hills, majestic forests, and nearby lakes, creating a picturesque scene that belongs on a postcard. However if you’re short in time, then the 30 minute return walk to the crater lake viewpoint is an absolute must. 

Check out the fascinating glassblowing and art studio Lava glass 

For a unique visit you should put Lava Glass on your things to do in Taupo list. This fascinating glassblowing and art studio is nestled in the heart of Taupo. As you step into this creative haven, you’ll be greeted by a world where molten glass comes to life in the hands of skilled artisans. Prepare to be mesmerized as you witness the ancient art of glassblowing in action.

The studio showcases an incredible array of glass sculptures. Each one meticulously crafted and infused with the spirit of New Zealand’s volcanic landscapes. From intricate vases and delicate ornaments to bold and vibrant glass artworks. The collection at Lava Glass is a testament to the boundless creativity and technical mastery of the artists.

But what makes Lava Glass truly exceptional is its connection to the volcanic heritage of the region. Taupo sits upon the Taupo Volcanic Zone, an area of intense geothermal activity. The studio draws inspiration from this fiery legacy, incorporating elements of the volcanic landscape into their artworks. You’ll find stunning pieces that feature swirling patterns reminiscent of flowing lava, capturing the raw power and beauty of nature’s molten forces.

As you explore Lava Glass, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about the intricate glassblowing process. The knowledgeable staff are always eager to share their expertise and answer any questions you may have. Witness the transformation of molten glass into works of art, and gain a deeper appreciation for the craftsmanship involved in this ancient craft.

In addition to the glassblowing studio and gallery, Lava Glass boasts beautiful gardens that provide a serene backdrop for your visit. Take a leisurely stroll through the meticulously landscaped grounds, adorned with captivating glass sculptures and vibrant flora. It’s a harmonious fusion of art and nature, creating an atmosphere of tranquility and inspiration.

Before you leave, make sure to visit the Lava Glass Cafe. Here you can indulge in delicious treats and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Savor a cup of coffee or indulge in a mouthwatering meal while basking in the artistic ambiance that permeates the entire space.


Check out the Huka honey hive 

When it comes to honey, New Zealand is truly a land of abundance and diversity. The country’s unique flora and pristine environment provide the perfect conditions for bees to create some of the most exquisite and flavorsome honey you’ll ever taste.

One of the most famous types of honey from New Zealand is Manuka honey. It’s like the superstar of the honey world, known for its exceptional healing properties and distinct flavor. Manuka honey comes from the nectar of the native Manuka tree, which only grows in New Zealand. The powerful antibacterial qualities are cherished by many for its potential health benefits. It’s no wonder people from all over the world seek out this precious liquid gold.

But Manuka honey is just the beginning. New Zealand boasts a wide variety of honey types, each with its own unique flavor profile and characteristics. From the light and delicate Kamahi honey to the rich and caramel-like Rewarewa honey, there’s something to please every honey enthusiast’s taste buds.

So if you want to learn more about the process of making honey, then visiting a honey farm is a must do! Huka Honey Hive is another fun thing to do in Taupo and is completely free to visit. You can see live beehives and other interactive displays. And if you’re interested in buying honey then you can taste the different types of honey (for free!). There is also a cafe with ice cream, drinks, and sweet treats, mostly made with honey of course! 

Of course you should buy a jar of New Zealand honey (or two) to bring home. There are dozens of varieties including pieces of honeycomb you can buy. Or grab something unique from the gift shop, including skin care products, jewelry, and more.

About Taupo

Taupo is situated on the eastern shores of Lake Taupo, which is the largest freshwater lake in New Zealand and the second largest in Oceania. It has a surface area of about 616 square kilometers (238 square miles) and was formed after a massive volcanic eruption nearly 26,500 years ago.

Located within the Taupo Volcanic Zone you will see plenty of geothermal and volcanic activity around Taupo. The area features geysers, hot springs, and steam vents, creating a unique and dynamic natural environment.

Taupo is often referred to as the “Adventure Capital of the North Island”. This is with a wink to Queenstown on the South Island which is often called the ‘Adventure Capital of the World’. Taupo offers just like Queenstown a wide range of outdoor activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping, jet boating, kayaking, fishing, and hiking. The diverse landscapes and natural wonders make it an ideal destination for thrill-seekers and nature lovers. 

Besides the outdoor activities, Taupo also has a rich Maori heritage. So while visiting Taupo you can immerse yourself in the Maori culture and traditions. Maori carvings can be seen at various locations and cultural performances are often held to showcase traditional song, dance, and storytelling. It’s a great balance between fun activities and culture. So make sure to put a visit to Taupo on your New Zealand North Island itinerary!  

Where to stay in Taupo 

When it comes to finding the perfect place to stay in Taupo, you’ll be spoilt for choice with a range of options to suit every taste and budget. Whether you prefer luxury accommodations, cozy bed and breakfasts, or budget-friendly hostels, Taupo has something for everyone. 

Find here some of the best accommodations in Taupo for every budget. These are our top picks to stay in Taupo.

Hilton Lake Taupo

The Hilton in Taupo is a stunning property with views over Lake Taupo and is just minutes away from the town centre. The hotel includes free pool and gym access and also boasts an outdoor thermally heated pool, hot tub and tennis courts.

How to get around in New Zealand 

To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a carcampervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots. But for some of them, you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand. 

Car rental in New Zealand

Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for this kind of road. We rented for 6 weeks a Mitsubishi ASX model and were super happy with this car! 

The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies, and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pickup date.


Campervan rental in New Zealand

Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a road trip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen, and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. Make sure to check if your campervan has a shower because this might influence where you want to camp. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will give you a true feeling of freedom and connect you with nature.

We recommend booking your campervan with Travellers Autobarn as they have a wide range of Station wagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 roadside assistance & long-term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream road trip!

More New Zealand travel guides

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the 15 best Taupo things to do on the North Island of New Zealand. Make sure to put this awesome destination on your New Zealand North Island itinerary!

There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the North Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides!

North Island 

20 best photo spots North Island New Zealand

Best things to do in Whangarei – The Ultimate Guide

12 best things to do in Hawkes Bay – The Ultimate Guide

Best things to do in New Plymouth Taranaki – The Ultimate Guide

25 best things to do in Rotorua – The Ultimate Guide

7 best KeriKeri waterfalls – The Complete Guide

Pouakai Tarns walk – All You Need to Know

Ruakuri bushwalk in Waitomo – The Complete Guide

Whangarei Falls walk – The Complete Guide

Tama Lakes track – The Complete Guide

Te Toto Gorge Lookout – The Complete Guide

Marokopa Falls walk – The Complete Guide

South Island

35 best photo spots on the South Island New Zealand – The Ultimate Guide

30 best New Zealand waterfalls – The Ultimate Guide

20 best hikes on South Island New Zealand – The Ultimate Guide

30 best things to do in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

16 best hikes in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

20 best things to do in Lake Tekapo – The Ultimate Guide

20 best things to do in Milford Sound – The Complete Guide

Milford Sound Cruise – The Complete Guide

20 best things to do in Glenorchy – The Ultimate Guide

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