Taupo and the Tongariro Crossing

Taupo is a Great Lake town on the north island between Rotorua and River Valley. The Lake is the biggest you will find in New Zealand, being the largest freshwater lake in Australasia and is roughly the size of Singapore. The lake is the crater of one of the largest volcanic eruptions of the last 5000 years. Lake Taupo is 159 metres deep!!

How long should you stay in Taupo

We stayed for 3 nights in Taupo, this wasn’t really long enough, as there is plenty to do. I would recommend 4-5 nights in Taupo if your itinerary and budget allow.

Where to stay in Taupo – Finlay Jacks YHA

We had a great stay at Finlay jacks Taupo. It has the best hostel beds and kitchen I have come across yet. With a great outdoor area with hammocks, benches, ample seating and grassy area it’s a great place to chill. Multiple washing machines, dryers, a tv room, bike hire (30nzd per day) evening meals for a small fee variable on the dish. With a great attitude towards backpackers this really is somewhere you should stay. They also have a rad resident dog called biggie. Rooms from 25nzd pppn.

Things to do in Taupo

Explore the Lake

Take a scenic walk, hire a bike or go for a drive to the gorgeous lake, there are plenty of options for water activities on the water including kayaking and a range of boat trips. Kiwi experience offers you to sign up to an evening sailing trip with Barbary where you visit the Maori rock carvings, you can go for a swim and even take a turn at the wheel. It’s byob and is 50nzd. There are several other options, I would suggest looking on bookme.co.nz for offers.

The Natural geothermal spa pools

The otumuheke stream in the spa park in Taupo provides free hot spa pools, about a 25 minute walk past the Taupo bungee centre from YHA Finlay jacks. The pools are located throughout a waterfall network of pools leading into the Waikato river which you are able to swim out into to cool down. The river has very strong currents so be cautious not to venture out too far.

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Skydiving

Skydiving is on offer from skydive Taupo, they have a pink plane and it’ll cost you 359nzd for the 15000ft dive. Ahh!

Extreme swing and Bungay

Taupo Bungay and cliffhanger offer both a Bungy and extreme swing over the beautifully scenic river Wakaito, 139nzd jump, 125nzd swing. We sat and watched a few ‘jumpers’ but didn’t fancy it myself! Maybe on the way back up!

Huka Falls
This 11 metre high water fall pumps an astounding 220’000 litres of water over it’s rock face every second! A walking track from Taupo leads you to viewing platforms along the river. The water is crystal clear and bright blue. Your kiwi experience bus driver may make a stop for you here but if not, it’s a must do in Taupo. Another option is the huka falls jet ride, 80kmh adrenaline ride providing water level views of the falls 109nzd.

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Skateboarding in Taupo

There is a great skatepark I’m Taupo located just beyond the Bungy jump and before the thermal spa park off spa road. We spent an afternoon skating with the local kids and had a rad skate. The park has a bowl/mini ramp complex and also a large curved bank some pump bumps and a hip. It was really good fun.

The Tongariro Crossing

It is here that that you will also find the Tongariro national park, established in 1894 it was the first place in the world to be inscribed on the world heritage list under the revised criteria describing cultural landscapes. The park has active and extinct volcanoes, remarkable landscapes and diverse ecosystems. Considered New Zealand’s best one day hike we had to go and see it for ourselves.

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We booked the Tongariro expeditions shuttle (65nzd) with kiwi experience. They offer two pick up times – 5:20am or 6:20am. We chose 6:20am and made the 1.5 hour journey to the beginning of the track. They offer a hire service for clothing, footwear and equipment. I wasn’t a big fan of the shuttle service personally, I didn’t like the way they spoke to us and they were very loud at 6:20am in the morning. However the thing that really put me off is after finishing the hike you sit and wait for the bus to fill up before they will run it back in to Taupo and they seemed to enjoy telling you to sit and wait because that’s how it is. If you have your own transport you could leave this at the end of the track and take a lift to the beginning. You could hitch hike. Or simply take a taxi.

The hike

The hike takes around 8 hours depending on your fitness level and experience. It is a moderate hike and had the most changeable weather conditions that I’ve experienced on a hike.

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The hike is split into sections:

  1. Mangatepopo to soda springs – easy walk 1 hour. Here you get a great view of mt Ngauruahoe (mt Doom) Walking mostly flat on boardwalks along the mangatepopo stream.
  2. Soda spring to south crater – hard ascent 1 hour. Next is the devils staircase and it’s hard!
  3. South crater to the base of red crater ridge – easy walk 15 minutes. Flat walk.
  4. Red crater ridge – difficult ascent 30 minutes. Tricky up hill section, steepest section of the track with some sheer drops; take care especially in adverse weather conditions.
  5. Red crater summit to emerald lakes – descent 15 minutes. Steep and also very gravelly, many people were falling down on this section also my shoes got filled up with dipust and rocks.
  6. Emerald lakes to the blue lakes – 15 minutes easy descent. Downhill track leading to the blue lake.
  7. Blue lake to ketetahi shelter – 1 hour mixed track. Some flat, uphill and downhill mixed section. I was shattered by this point and found the first uphill part unwelcome. You will now lose your view of mt doom.
  8. Ketetahi shelter to ketetahi car park – Long descent 2 hours. The first 1 hour 15 is made up of a windy downhill path with beautiful views of the lakes. The last 45 minutes consists of many downhill steps to the car park.

The trail is very scenic, the mountains, lakes and changing landscapes really are worth all of the hard work. Things to note – there is no safe drinking water on the track; bring plenty. The lakes and mountains are sacred, therefore you cannot swim or touch the lakes and it is forbidden to climb the mountains. Wear sun cream, you will be high up! Enjoy.

Love B X

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