Free things – Taupo

On a roll from yesterday’s travel tips – exploring a new city – post (here: I’m going ahead and jotting down free things to see and do in Taupo, New Zealand. Hopefully there will be many more of these to follow…

Definitions: Quickly refining the rules. In my head free is no entry fee… Things like fuel and supplies are dismissed into the maelstrom because if I have to think about them I’ll have to start admitting to just how much of my money gets sucked into my travelling and adventure experiences. Also, Taupo includes activities within a 100km radius. Just because I can.

Here we go:

  1. Huka Falls – the biggest waterfall in NZ
  2. Lake Taupo – take a half day and drive around the lake
  3. Tongariro National Park – the three volcanoes at the far end of Lake Taupo. Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngaruahoe.
  4. Watch the Aratiatia Dam open and fill the narrow rocky gorge below Lake Aratiatia
  5. Taupo’s Botanical Gardens include  85 acres of native trees and plants
  6. Walk through the rose garden and down to the old armed constabulary site on the edge of the Waikato River
  7. Scented Garden for the blind – this small garden sits on the edge of the town centre and provides a refreshing break
  8. The historic site at Opepe (15min drive from Taupo’s town centre) is a good way to get some fresh air and an insight into the lives of Taupo’s early settlers.
  9. Spa Park Hot Springs – a river of warm water perfect for a good soak
  10. Kerosene Creek – 45 minutes from Taupo but another great place to find a free hot water swim
  11. Butchers Pool – on Butchers farmland (nothing scary) this pool has wooden seating around the edges and facilities for changing
  12. There is another little known hot spring on the road to Taupo. A concrete pool catches water from a hot water spring near the Tarawera Tavern on the Napier Taupo Road.
  13. Lions Walk – from Taupo’s town centre to Wharewaka Point follow the lake and soak up the views on this paved track
  14. Climb Mt Tauhara – a stunning trek through native bush with amazing views from the top
  15. Visit the Pureora National Park for a great range of bush walks from under an hour to full day hikes
  16. Huka Falls/Aratiatia Walk – from Spa Park via the Huka Falls to Lake Aratiatia and the rapids
  17. W2K mountain bike track – brilliant MTB track from Whakaipo Bay to Kinloch
  18. Spa Park Pump Track – short sharp pump track at Spa Park
  19. Taupo’s Skatepark – pro designed outdoor facility
  20. Taupo Honey Hive – free NZ honey and fruit liquor tastings with a great play area for children
  21. Swim – chill out in Lake Taupo or warm up in one of the small geothermal creeks that run into the lake
  22. Galleries – spend a half day checking out our local galleries – highly recommend Wildwood Gallery, Larte, Lava Glass
  23. Taupo market – Saturdays from 10am to 1pm with a car boot sale the first Saturday of the month
  24. Art in the Park – Also on Saturdays this market features work from local artists
  25. Top 10 Mountain Bike tracks from
    1. Craters of the Moon

    2. Great Lake Trail

    3. Waikato River Trails

    4. The Timber Trail

    5. 42nd Traverse

    6. Tree Trunk Gorge

    7. Tongariro River Trail

    8. Te Iringa

    9. Rotary Ride – Aratiatia / Huka Falls Trail

    10. The Great Lake Walkway / Lion’s Walk

I can definitely see myself updating this as more ideas come to hand. I’ve also got a few good ideas for an “Under $20pp” list so stay posted…


Mission: The Redwoods (Rotorua)

When I think of Rotorua I think of boiling mud, geysers, Maori culture and relaxing hot pools. I definitely don’t think of stunning scenic walks through beautiful forests. But maybe I should.

I managed to organise a mid-week escape to Rotorua in a brief (literally less than 48 hours) that my partner and I had together between work commitments. This would be our first time together in just under a month and I was looking forward to a bit of a romantic getaway. Rotorua turned on a simply stunning day for us though and I couldn’t justify not checking out some of the local attractions.

I’m so glad we did. The Redwoods, aka Whakarewarewa Forest, is billed as one of Rotorua’s most spectacular natural assets. This is a high statement to live up to once you include the Whirinaki forest park, Wai o Tapu and Waimangu geothermal areas and the many stunning lakes in the area. 170 exotic tree species were planted in the Whakarewarewa forest from 1899 as a trial to test for suitable timber tree species for New Zealand’s North Island. The Redwoods is a Californian Redwoods plantation and covers 15 acres of the Tokorangi Forest, giving the area it’s nickname.

The road up to the visitor information building was lined with cars and the car park was busy and we knew the area catered for walker, mountain bikers and horse riders so we weren’t expecting the solitude, peace and tranquillity that seemed to envelop us after just a few minutes on the path.

There are 6 sign posted walks through the forest, from a half hour stroll to full day hikes. Not really knowing what to expect we decided on an hour and a half, slightly more than our usual strolls but not near our hiking capabilities. We headed in through thick stands of closely packed redwoods before the path changed to a wooden walkway over a fresh spring swamp that had me enchanted with its unusual colours. It took a while to work out that for the water to be so clear it had to be from a spring despite it’s standing appearance.

On the other side of the swamp lands were a lot more majestic redwoods. With the sunlight filtering through, the warm summer day and the toning of the trees on the red earth had me blissed out while my partner would stop every half hour or so and say ‘I can’t believe we’re all alone.’

Wandering through the forest was, for me, an added bonus in my relaxation scheme. Nothing like a little light exercise in a spectacularly beautiful area to make my day. But there were a few people out running, mountain biking and using the park to its full potential. We passed a family of three generations (plus their dog) on our easy walk, proving that the trail is suitable for most people.

My only regret on leaving was that we didn’t have enough time before going home to complete one of the bigger hikes. Next time…


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