Most of us know that going to Taupo involves seeing Lake Taupo, with a side of skydiving or bungy jumping. Gemma and I only had 6 hours here, so we had to plan carefully and decide what our priorities were and decide what to do in Taupo.
We were heading South from Rotorua last Sunday, after an epic weekend of fun which you can read about here. As you come towards Taupo from the North there are some nice spots to take in, so we organised to stop at Aratiatia Dam, Huka Falls and finally, Lake Taupo.
So the dam and rapids were up first. At 10am, midday and 2pm everyday Aratiatia Dam literally opens the floodgates and a calm, sleepy riverbed becomes white water heaven. It also releases at 4pm in the summertime.
The free car park right next to the dam as you arrive is handy, and we got there just as the 5 minute countdown siren was wailing. You can watch from the bridge directly above the dam, walk to a viewpoint a few hundred metres down river, or walk to a viewpoint around 1 kilometre down river. We opted for the middle option, partially due to time constraints and partially because the bridge had some tourists on and we wanted our very own viewing platform.
The signage at the car park says 5 minutes to the first viewpoint, and 10 minutes to the second. It took us 2 minutes to walk to the first viewpoint, and we decided we liked it there so didn’t move on.
Another siren blared out to give us a 2 minute warning, and we got our cameras ready. To our left we could see the dam head on, with a few tourists dotted on the bridge. To our right we could see the final viewing platform down river, again with a few tourists on. Underneath us all was a sleepy river, that looked as though it was barely flowing.
Eeeeeeeeeeeee! The final siren blasts our ears and the floodgates quite literally open. It is very easy to see where the new gush of water is up to, as it is the distinct frothy white that we see with all rapids. I recorded a video before and after to show you the difference, and have turned it into a GIF below.
After 10 relaxing minutes in the morning sun, watching the once serene river evolve into an all action froth-fest, we walked back to the car to continue our journey into Taupo.
Our next stop was Huka Falls, which is much more popular with tourists, and this was proven by the number of cars in the free car park! We arrived around 10.45am and the car park was rammed. If this place is popular now, imagine what it’s like in the Summer?
I tried to nip to the loo but was halted by a 50 cent charge. The lady at the information desk informed me that the charge was enforced by “DOC”. Whoever this fella Doc is, he owns the toilets, and he charges 50 cents a splash. It was only when I found out that DOC stands for Department of Conservation that I realised it was the New Zealand government trying to charge for toilet breaks.
Anyway, we wandered across the bridge to see what the fuss was all about. A heavily flowing river gushed just beneath our feet and in the distance we could see a drop off point, the waterfall itself. You have to walk along the river for 2 minutes before you get past the falls and can see Huka in all it’s glory.
There is a separate viewpoint on the way in that gives you a different angle, and the view is best from here. As beautiful as the setting was, we were under impressed with Huka Falls on the whole. We all know that I’m a sucker for a waterfall, but the fact that we stayed for only 5 minutes probably shows what we thought of it.
Now, enough interruptions, time for Lake Taupo! We were back on the road in no time, and Taupo is only a few minutes away from Huka Falls. There are some great views of the lake as you come into Taupo from the North. We liked the township as soon as we arrived, it is a quaint place, and the backdrop of a deep blue lake and snow capped mountain do it no harm either.
Said mountain is Mount Ruapehu, which is scalable if you have the time. Some companies also offer trips across Lake Taupo if that’s your thing. We decided a nice walk along the waterfront would be appropriate, albeit a tad windy. It’s a breathtaking place, and after a wild attempt at golf ($1,000 if you get a hole in one) we sat on a bench looking across the Lake and soaked in the beauty.
We had a booking at Indian Delights for dinner (lunch) and after a quick browse of some local shops, we headed straight there. We were excited to work with Indian Delights because there is some fierce competition for Indian restaurants in Taupo. We had also heard that the view from this place was second to none.
Obviously a full review of Indian Delights will follow, but for now I can confidently say that the vegetable curries are flavoursome and the view is unbelievable. Bellies full, we went for a slow walk around the town and partook in some window shopping before jumping in the car and heading back to Auckland having had a nice, relaxing day in Taupo.
Have you been to Taupo? What did you do? Planning to go to Taupo? Leave a comment…