Taupo is the adventure capital of the North Island, located on Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake. Driving into town you can see signs advertising bungy jumping, sky diving, jet boating etc plus loads of outdoor stores. Taupo is also a centre of geothermal activity. There are heaps of things to do in Taupo with kids so don’t be put off by all these scary sounding adventure activities.
What you can find in this post
On the way from Rotorua to Taupo we detoured a little of the beaten track to visit Orakei Korako. Lonely Planet writes that “it’s arguably the best thermal area left in NZ” .
The geothermal area at Orakei Korako is only accessible by boat which is a short ride across the lake from the Visitor Centre. The boats do not run to a timetable but will leave as requested.
It was a little weird catching a boat over to a steaming land! But, once again I was quite comfortable with the geothermal activity (It still spins me out that we were able to walk where we did, but at the time I didn’t feel concerned). These thermal areas are a natural phenomena but as long you are sticking to the pathway at all times it is a safe family activity (providing you keep an eye on the kids at all times and never stray from the path).
It is a self guided walk, taking between 1-2 hours which Ned and Olive completed without a problem. There are several steps so a pram is not suitable. We definitely needed our rain jackets for this adventure! The rain made the experience all the more eerie.
The hot water pools reach boiling temperatures and swimming is not possible. Please don’t throw things into the mud or water either, the splash back will most likely burn.
There are toilets available at the visitors centre before you board the boat. A nice to know, they also lend out baby carriers for the under two’s.
At the visitors centre you will also find a little cafe stocking both hot and cold drinks (you could need either on your return depending on the weather!), plus a selection of simple cafe food – the deck looks awesome to sit out on if you had a sunny day.
Orakei Korako is definitely one thing you should add to your list of things to do in Taupo with kids. You can also visit as a day trip from Rotorua.
The Squeeze Trip, which was not meant to be
We had one full day in Taupo and there was an awesome sounding kayaking tour that I really, really, wanted to do. But, there were no children’s prices available and the half day experience was going to cost us over $800!
I then noticed that one of the jet boating companies offered the same experience, just not on a kayak and Olive was just old enough.
The experience I am talking about was called ‘The Squeeze’, a kayak/or jet boat along the river to a calm area where you hope off your boat into knee deep water, heading towards a narrow gap in the cliff face which you follow up and over boulders, through crevasses and wading through water, ending up in a hot spring with a waterfall. Sounds awesome!!!
Unfortunately, we had a fair bit of rain. By a fair bit I mean loads! The river had risen, the squeeze gap had risen to a level it would have been unsafe for the kids. Bummer…if you are interested in this tour then I recommend looking at Taupo Kayaking Adventures or New Zealand River Jet.
Huka Falls Jet Boat Ride
Instead of The Squeeze Tour, we took the kids on the Huka Falls Jet. We had a fantastic 30 minute ride. So much fun. It’s just one of those touristy activities you have to do in Taupo! The ride takes you along the river so unbelievably close to the edge while throwing in lots of 360 degree turns. The kids were holding on for dear life., but loving it.
There are a couple of jet boat companies operating but Huka Falls Jet is the only the company allowed to take you right to the base of Huka Falls.
Huka Falls is apparently the most visited and photographed natural attraction in all of New Zealand! I can see why, it’s a no-brainer must see whilst in Taupo.
The water here is slammed into a really narrow chasm, pushing through and creating a 11 metre high thundering drop. There are great views to be had across the footbridge and further along at the look out point.
It was pointed out that sometimes kayakers do go over the falls but we didn’t see any on our visit. I wouldn’t want to be a kayaker when the amount of water going over could fill an Olympic sized swimming pool each 11 seconds.
The Aratiatia Rapids are formed when the dam gates of the Waikato River are opened each day (just afer 10am, 12pm and 2pm).
There is a short walk along the river with a few different viewing points. It was amazing to see the river change when the water was released – there was so much water!
Other things to do in Taupo with Kids
Lots of activities we once again did not have time for –
Cool playground in town
Right in the centre of town (we only drove past but it looks good if the kids need to run around to burn some energy)
Taupo Prawn Park
Ned ran up and gave the prawn sign a hug and a kiss when we saw it but it was actually going to cost us $75 to sit in the freezing (although they do have heated seats!) to try and catch a prawn so we didn’t worry about this activity.
Taupo Volcano Activity Centre
This does actually sound really good with a hands on educational experiences including an earthquake stimulater. I think this alone would have been a really great experience for the kids. They quite often talk about the earth shaking (from looking at one of Lonely Planet kids books) and Olive said the best thing to do would be a climb a tree if the earth started shaking!
Taupo Hot Water Pools
There is a hot river close to town but we ran out of time to check it out
Lake Taupo Accommodation
We stayed at the Lake Taupo Holiday Resort (formally a Top 10) in a en-suite cabin. We booked this based on the amazing pool facilities which we thought the kids would love (we all did!).
Taupo was mid trip and we knew that we would need a couple of hours to relax in a pool if possible and this was a perfect place to do so. We had a couple of really freezing days and even though the pool was thermally heated we still needed to sit in the spa to keep warm (there was a temperature gauge at the pool and it was getting down to 9 degrees – normally far to cold to be jumping into a pool!). We enjoyed a drink from the swim up bar and watched a movie on the big screen. Yes, the big screen was visible from the pool. I’ve never seen this set up before, but I like it! Warm pool, swim up bar and big screen!
Other facilities at the Lake Taupo Holiday Resort included –
- Jumping pillow (which we didn’t have time to visit)
- Kids playground (which we didn’t have time to visit)
- Other outdoor activities including tennis and bocce
- Laundry – coin operated with laundry detergent included
- Bathrooms – for those camping
- Camp kitchen
- Games rooms
- Store – at reception which sold basic groceries plus pool toys
After leaving Taupo, we had a big day where we went up to Hot Water Beach via the Waitomo Caves. Waitomo Caves are approximately 2 hours from Taupo. This was probably our least favourite day (not just because of the amount of driving which surprisingly the kids managed with no technology and didn’t complain much at all – I think they were exhausted!).
We visited both the Glowworm Cave and Aranui Cave. We have visited a few caves before and to be honest both these caves left us a little under whelmed.
The Glowworm Cave was short and easy for the kids to manage, but it was bizarre as before the boat ride you were left in the dark with strict instructions to keep silent! We had no idea how long we had to wait for but it made for an interesting experience to then step into the boats in the dark and start floating.
We loved the experience of floating around looking up at the glowworms but the rest of the cave and Aranui Cave were just a bit….hmm…bleh.
There are some awesome dark river rafting/tubing activities we would have loved to have done but both kids needed to be a lot older.
If you have never been in and experienced caves before then I would still visit but if you, like us, have seen caves before then I probably wouldn’t make a special trip for the experience.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Taupo with kids to keep everyone entertained and happy! Have you been and explored Taupo with kids? What did you think? Any must places to visit?
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