We took ourselves off camping for Christmas in Taupo. While we enjoyed many of the activities we participated in, we also decided that summer in Taupo is not for us – its just too busy!
1. Aratiatia Rapids. FREE! Absolutely the single best free attraction in town. Gates open multiple times a day and the rapids are really quite incredible. Don’t go swimming, please.
2. De Bretts Hot Pools. Best on a warm day as they are a lot quieter. Christmas day swimming was wonderful and quiet, but the night of the 3rd, when the weather had turned, the place was packed and rowdy. Unlike so many other places, private pools are free, and well worth it!
3. McDonalds Plane. Buy an ice-cream, or a meal, and enjoy dining in the vintage DC-3.
4. Craters of the Moon. Close to town, and one of the cheaper options for an explore of a thermal area. Wear light clothes, even if the weather is bad, because it gets HOT in the valley. An umbrella is likely a better option than a raincoat!
5. Huka Falls. You can’t visit Taupo without visiting Huka Falls. Free! Best time of day is actually in the evening, once the gates are closed and the bulk of the tourists gone.
6. Also remember that Taupo has a couple of really good playgrounds for kids. Especially the one in the domain. Could do with more seats for supervising adults, but keeps kids occupied for AGES!
Getting There / Getting Around:
We took our family car – a wee VW Golf – with a roof box hired from Canoe & Kayak Wellington. (We had to buy a roof rack to put the box onto, and they helped with that too). It was a serious squeeze to fit everything we needed for a 10 day camping holiday, including all the Christmas presents.
One of our biggest problems with Taupo was that its just not pedestrian friendly. Where we stayed, there was no footpath available to walk on to get down to the lake front, and its a 70k-limited road. With both the big supermarkets right in the centre of town, we had no option but to go into town every day or so – given we were staying at a campground, we tried to limit how much fridge space we took up, so bought dinner makings daily. A car was an absolute neccesity.
We stayed at the De Bretts Resort Campground. Our site was a little on the small side, and incredibly dusty for a “grass” site, but the facilities were good, and the discount access to the pool was a bonus. That said, we should have bought a 3mo family pass, given we
stayed 10 days, it would have been cheaper. All sites are powered, which was great for charging phones and running a fan. The wi-fi wasn’t great, and the site has patchy 3/4G coverage. Only two of the advertised 3 BBQ’s were to be found over Christmas. Our only two problems with the campground were that it catches a LOT of noise from the road (thank goodness thats no longer the main road for all traffic to Napier!), and that its acutally a long way out of town. When even going to the pools was a “trip” away from the campground, Mr3 wound up not wanting to go out in the car either by the end of our stay.
I try really hard to be positive when writing about our holidays, but this one had a couple of negatives.
For starters, the supermarkets are too small for the volume of people visiting town, and getting to them is a nightmare with traffic, along with the fact that the roads aren’t pedestrian friendly. Perhaps we were spoiled with Martinborough the previous camping holiday, where we could easily and comfortably ride around town.
Our experience at Wai-O-Tapu was also a massive disappointment. Traffic volumes are not well managed. We paid over $60 to see a geyser that is manipulated into exploding, and then spend nearly an hour in traffic to move the 1km back to the main carpark, only to be informed that the carpark was full. Their recommendation was to go visit the mud pools and come back to try again later. We left instead as it was sweltering. In hindsight, we should have left the car where it was and walked, but at the geyser, the recommendation was to take your car and the road was not pedestrian friendly.