A once great volcano
Lake Taupo

Located on the North Island’s volcanic central plateau, Lake Taupo was formed as a result of a massive eruption in 186AD. Today, this caldera or crater lake covers just over 600 square kilometres (370 square miles), making it the largest freshwater lake in Australasia. Surrounded by beautiful forests and volcanic mountains, this region is a year round adventure playground.

Water sports like kayaking and sailing are obviously hugely popular on the lake but there is so much more to choose from. There are a number of scenic mountain bike trails around the lake as well as a purpose built mountain bike park. Looking for something a little more adrenalin-filled? Try white water rafting, jet boating, bungy jumping and skydiving.

For something a little less active, visits to Craters of the Moon or the impressive Orakei Korako Hidden Valley will give you some idea of the area’s volcanic nature or if you want to go into full relax mode, have a soak in the geothermal hot springs at DeBretts.

The lakeside town of Taupo is the main centre in the region. Here are approximate travel times and distances to and from Taupo.

Drive times

  • Auckland to Taupo: 270 km / 168 miles – 3 hours 40 minutes
  • Rotorua to Taupo: 80 km / 50 miles – 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Napier to Taupo: 140 km / 87 miles – 2 hours
  • Taupo to Whakapapa village (for ski field and Tongariro National Park): 100 km / 62 miles – 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Taupo to Ohakune (for ski field): 135 km / 84 miles – 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Taupo to Wellington: 370 km / 230 miles – 5 hours

Travel times can vary significantly, particularly in popular areas during peak visitor months (December – February). For current travel times and updates on delays, roadworks and road closures, use the NZ Transport Agency journey planner before travelling. It’s always a good idea to allow extra time for photo stops and, when travelling longer distances, rest stops.

Taupo Airport is located 8 km / 5 miles south of Taupo town centre on the eastern shore of the lake.

  • Auckland (AKL) to Taupo (TUO): 50 minutes
  • Wellington (WLG) to Taupo (TUO): 60 minutes

As the North Island’s highest urban centre, Taupo has more marked seasons than most other North Island regions. In summer (December – February) the average high is 23 °C / 73.4 °F and average low is 11 °C / 51.8 °F. Temperatures can reach 30 °C on hot sunny days.

Winters (June – August) are cool with an average high of 12 °C / 53.6 °F and an average low of 3 °C / 37.4 °F. Morning frosts and minus degrees temperatures are not uncommon but snow in Taupo itself is rare.

Check current conditions and get the latest Taupo weather forecast on MetService.com.

Top things to do in Lake Taupo

Looking for ideas to help you plan the ultimate New Zealand outdoor adventure? Here are some of the top things for active travellers to see and do in the Lake Taupo region.

Visit Māori rock carvings in Mine Bay

Only accessible from the water, the impressive 10 metre high Māori rock carvings in Mine Bay are a definite must do for anyone visiting Lake Taupo. For active adventurers, a 6 km / 4 mile return paddle is definitely the way to go although scenic lake cruises are also an option.

Lake Taupo Maori rock carvings

Adrenalin activities

Remember those adrenalin activities we were telling you about? Where there’s a lake there’s usually a river and where there’s a river…

  • Navigate over 60 Grade 3 rapids on the Tongariro River with the crew from Tongariro River Rafting.
  • Jet boat to the base of the mighty Huka Falls.
  • Shoot through the narrowest canyon on the Waikato River to the base of the Aratiatia Rapids, NZ’s biggest and longest rapids with Rapids Jet.

Prefer to stay dry or at least dryish?

  • Experience New Zealand’s highest water touch bungy jump.
  • Tandem skydive from 15,000 ft for incredible coast-to-coast views of the North Island.

Explore these and other activities here, Taupo tours, tickets, activities & things to do.

Tongariro rafting - Photo: www.trr.co.nz

Geothermal attractions

Taupo is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone which stretches from Whakaari/White Island (a must do destination by the way) to Mount Ruapehu. Magma below the earth’s crust heats the surface in some areas which erupt in the form of steam vents, bubbling mud pools and hot springs. This is most evident in places like Craters of the Moon, a geothermal walkway just north of Taupo town centre, as well as Orakei Korako which boasts the most active geysers of any geothermal park in New Zealand.

If hot water and relaxation is what you’re after, the natural mineral pools at Taupo DeBretts hot springs are definitely worth a visit.

Orakei Korako - Photo: DmitryP/Bigstock.com

Head for the mountains

National Park Village, the gateway to the Tongariro National Park is just 100 km / 62 miles south of Taupo. The Tongariro National Park is a dual World Heritage area and home to Mount Ruapehu, the North Island’s highest peak.

There are numerous short, day and multi-day walks in the park including the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing. In winter, the mountain comes alive with three commercial ski areas, Whakapapa, Turoa and Tukino.

Tongariro Crossing - Photo: Maridav/Bigstock.com