I’m currently working on walking the line between appreciating my country through the eyes of a tourist, without becoming an actual tourist in my own country. From this perspective I present to you, my kiwi guide to Taupo, New Zealand. For more on Taupo check out my follow me post about my weekend away in Taupo. Otherwise enjoy my kiwi guide to this neat town. Many of these things are family favourites that I grew up doing, others are slightly touristy.
First things first, Huka Falls is probably one of the top tourist destinations in Taupo. And it’s popular for a reason. Although it’s no Niagara Falls, and there are definitely other beautiful and more secret waterfalls around the country, Huka Falls is beautiful; and even though it’s slightly touristy, it’s touristy in a kiwi kind of way…and I like that.
The Honey Hive
This place was a family favourite growing up. It is a place where you can go and test, buy and learn about all things honey related. New Zealand produces some incredible honey and this is one of the best places to buy it. It is also extremely kid friendly. You can go and try as many different honeys as you like (although they have just limited it to 3 tastes for children) and there are friendly staff walking around to answer any questions you may have. They also have a high-ropes course next door if honey doesn’t give you the thrill you’re looking for.
As well as different kinds of honey and honey related foods (honeycomb, toffee, liquors, ice cream) the Honey Hive also has some really cute home decor and knick knack type items; and a great selection of natural, New Zealand made honey skin and beauty products.
All the products have easy testers for you to try. My personal favourite product was a travel pack that came with 5 mini pottles of the different creams you could get.
This place is a goldmine for neat gifts from New Zealand to take back to friends and family. There’s something for everyone; food, beauty, skincare, soft toys, home decor many of the products come in travel-friendly sizes and are just a step nicer than some of your regular “gift store” type souvenirs.
AC Baths is a great family-friendly place to go – and was a personal family favourite growing up. There’s a great indoor-outdoor leisure pool which gives plenty of space for splashing and playing around, as well as two hydroslides, kiddi pools, lane swimming, a tarzan swing, a handful of private thermal mineral pools, a sauna, spa and cafe.
Debretts Hot Spring & Pools is another great place to go to relax and is also great for families. The whole complex is mostly outdoors and consists of As 12 private pools, two large mineral leisure pools, fresh water pools and spas, hydroslides, kiddi play areas and bbq/picnic areas. The outdoor setting of the pools is beautiful and the complex is surrounded by lush New Zealand greenery.
Out of the two, if you have to pick one I would suggest Debretts over AC Baths. As much as I loved going to AC Baths growing up, having gone back to both places with friends a few years ago I would say that Debretts has a nicer overall feel and setting than AC Baths. Due to it’s outdoor location, it is more natural, more beautiful and more kiwi.
Two quick tips having said that; if the weather ends up cold and rainy during your entire stay then perhaps AC Baths may be a better alternative. Although Debretts is open all year round, in the middle of winter I can imagine your experience could be significantly less pleasant. Also be wary that there is a steep incline to walk down to the Debretts pool complex.
These aren’t the only hot pools and spas in the area, a full list can be found here; however, these are the two that I have personally visited and experienced.
Whether you chose to devote an afternoon to spending time at the lakefront or not, it is impossible to visit Taupo and not to see the lake. If the weather is nice, I would highly recommend taking some time to go for a walk by the lakefront-maybe get some lunch to go and make a picnic out of it, or get a hot drink if the weather is a bit cooler. If you’re a keen swimmer, be warned that the water, even in the middle of summer is chilly at best and anytime around winter it is down right icy.
There are heaps of activities in an around the lake and you can find a list of all the water based activities in the area here. My personal favourite in summer is to get out on a jet-ski and to spend a day whizzing around and visiting the surrounding bays.
This is a geothermal wonderland just 25 minutes out of town and according to Lonely Planet Travel Guides it is “arguably the best thermal area left in New Zealand”. As a kiwi who has visited many a thermal area I will vouch for it and say that it is impressive, and well worth a day, or afternoons trip.
Sadly it has been a few years since I went and I cannot find any photos from our trip, but for more information and pictures you can follow this link.
Or, if you would like to see a list of the top 5 Geothermal wonders in Taupo & Rotarua then you could check this article out here. Number 4 was one my family often visited growing up.
Another great way to spend a day, afternoon or even just an hour in Taupo is just to walk around the main city centre. There are heaps of gorgeous art galleries, boutiques, gift/knick-knack shops, as well as cafes and restaurants. I’m telling you, if you need to buy a gift for someone, then Taupo is the place to do it.
There’s also a great park right next to town and by the lake. Having grown up playing there, I can personally vouch for the quality of it’s playground. As an added bonus there is also a train that runs around the outskirts of the park.
Finally, here is a list of a few of my favourite places to frequent when I visit Taupo.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to Taupo. If you are looking to plan a trip I’d be happy to answer any questions you have. Or have you already been and have I missed something that other people definitely need to know about? Let me know in the comments.