Huka Falls & Lake Taupo | A Complete Guide
The vibrant towns and villages surrounding Lake Taupo on New Zealand’s North Island are a hub of activity for the outdoor enthusiast. Home to iconic spots like Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon, you won’t be short of activities to keep you entertained. Spend your days in the sunshine sailing, kayaking and swimming in Lake Taupo, or stay on dry land and hike or bike the surrounding area. This is your comprehensive guide to exploring Lake Taupo and Huka Falls.
Fun facts about Lake Taupo and Huka Falls
- Lake Taupo is the biggest lake in Australasia at 616 square kilometres; that is roughly the size of Singapore.
- Lake Taupo was created by a volcanic explosion approx. 27,000 years ago, with the latest eruption in AD 186.
- Huka Falls can be found on New Zealand’s longest river, the Waikato. A massive 220,000L passes through the chasm at Huka Falls every second!
- Huka is, rather aptly, the Māori word for foam.
- Beside Lake Taupo is the Kaimanawa Forest Park. Lord of the Rings fans will recognise it as the location for the Black Gate of Mordor.
Best hikes around Lake Taupo
There are plenty of walks around Lake Taupo that are ideal for taking in the views while stretching your legs.
Spa Park to Huka Falls
Instead of simply driving straight to Huka Falls, why not make the most of the experience and walk the Huka Falls Walkway? Starting from the Spa Thermal Park (a great place to go for a dip in the natural thermal spring!), you’ll head straight for Huka Falls. To extend your walk, you can continue on by following the rapids from Huka Falls to Aratiatia Rapids for 7km.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
One of the best day walks in New Zealand lies just outside the shores of Lake Taupo. This challenging all-day walk follows a 19.4km route through otherworldly terrain, encompassing active volcanoes, red earth and surreal green and blue crater lakes. We take you on this bucket-list hike on our Sweet North tour.
Craters of the Moon
Take a stroll through this spectacular lunar landscape! This easy-going, 2.7km loop walk takes you along a boardwalk through a magical geothermal area of mud pools and rising steam.
Great Lake Walkway - Lion's Walk
For a slower-paced lakeside stroll or cycle, there’s the Great Lake Walkway. From this 10km walkway you can look out across the lake at the snow-capped peaks of Tongariro National Park. Take your time and stop off for lake swims and ice-cream en route.
The best Lake Taupo activities
There is an abundance of activities in Lake Taupo. It’s both the skydiving capital of New Zealand and the place to go to catch brown and rainbow trout. Some of the surrounding towns like Kinloch and Acacia Bay are also well worth checking out. As for places to visit in the region, the following are some of our top-rated.
Orakei Korako or ‘the Place of Adorning’ is an incredible thermal area. Spend a morning or afternoon exploring its stunning terraces and caves (one of only two geothermal caves in the world). It’s a truly surreal experience to watch the land come to life before your very eyes as you follow the 2.5km track which weaves through the park. Don’t miss out on the incredible green pool hidden away in Ruatapu Cave!
Māori rock carvings
The incredible 14m-high Mine Bay Māori carvings were created back in 1970 by master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell. To get to them is an adventure in itself, as they can only be reached by boat or kayak. The carving depicts his ancestor, the Māori navigator Ngātoro-i-rangi
You can’t come to Taupo and not spend some time unwinding in a naturally-heated hot pool. There are ample options to choose from, like Taupo DeBretts Hot Springs, Wairakei Terraces or the Spa Park. It’s a rare experience that you get to tick off a must-see site while simultaneously enjoying a spa day!
Get out on the water
If you’re a water baby, get out on Lake Taupo and swim, kayak, jet boat or go river rafting. There are endless options, from embracing Huka Falls on a thrilling jet boat ride to taking on the Tongariro River on a white-water raft. Adrenaline junkies, Lake Taupo is your nirvana!
Best time to visit Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo, like all of New Zealand, is a year-round destination. In summer (December – February), temperatures range from 18˚C to 30˚C so it’s perfect for long, lazy days on the lake. In winter, Taupo transforms into an incredible ski resort with Mt Ruapehu nearby, and temperatures ranging from –2˚C to 15˚C.
Visiting Lake Taupo with New Zealand Trails
On our Sweet North tour, you’ll travel to the Lake Taupo region to see the incredible Huka Falls in all its glory. You’ll also tick off one of the best day walks in the world, the Tongariro Crossing.
If you want to find out more about the incredible 5-14 day hiking tours we run in New Zealand, you can request a free copy of our brochure here.