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Located in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand, the town of Taupo lies on the shores of the country’s largest lake. The lake has an exciting volcanic history and was, in fact, originally a volcano! Most notably a series of nine eruptions in 186AD culminated in the most ferocious eruption in history, coating the whole of the North Island in toxic ash. Ancient Romans and Chinese even reported having experienced darkened skies at the time. Lake Taupo as we know it today was formed in the crater of that volcano and is 159m (521ft) at its deepest point.
The Taupo area was first inhabited by some of the earliest Maori to settle in New Zealand in the 14th Century, followed by early Europeans in 1869. For the next 50 years, the Taupo region was difficult to develop as the volcanic soil did not support livestock. It took a long time to fertilise the land, and the 1950s was a boom time for Taupo when farming and forestry flourished, a geothermal power station was built and roads were improved, turning the small- town into the friendly tourist destination it is today.
There are a number of schools in Taupo so you’ll never run out of people of all ages to meet. Because it remains a relatively small area, the Taupo region is like a large family – everyone knows and looks after each other and welcomes new people with open arms.
Taupo Language is an English New Zealand member school located right in the middle of the town, close to restaurants, cafes, shops, fun activities and of course the lake; a wonderful area to enjoy your lunch on a summer’s day.
Lake Taupo is a beautiful lake to bike or walk around, to swim in or boat on. You may notice some warmer spots while swimming. These warmer areas come from thermal energy emerging from the floor of the lake. There are also a number of safe hot pools around the lake, plus there are some favourite local swimming spots in Kinloch, a 15 minute drive away.
Water flowing down from the lake creates Huka Falls, a powerful set of waterfalls. The final stage is the most popular with a 6 metre drop that is known for its rush of water. At its peak, the amount of water flowing over the falls can fill two Olympic pools each second! The amount of water that flows is controlled by the Taupo Control Gates, the amount increasing when electricity created by the hydro station is in demand. There are a number of bridges and viewing areas where you can see the awesome beauty and power of the falls.
Just an hour away by car, there are three beautiful mountains offering stunning views and recreational activities. Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe are stunning volcanos that feature in a lot of the region’s ancient Maori stories and legends. The two top ski fields in the North Island lie on Mt Ruapehu and are both easily accessible and great for any skill level. All three mountains are part of Tongariro National Park and are full of walking, hiking and cycle trails.
People in Taupo like to live an active lifestyle and enjoy spending time outside. Take your friends, join a tour or enjoy time by yourself on any of the nearby trails. Explore the beautiful Craters of the Moon on foot or bike, make your way around the lake or venture out to Tongariro National Park. If you don’t have your own bike it’s easy to hire one. Try Rapid Sensations or Great Lake Shuttles for great hire options.
Just like on land, there are many options available for exploring the lake. Kayak, take a scenic cruise tour, Jet Ski, sail boat, or even hop in a parasail for a breath-taking bird’s-eye view. Don’t miss the 10 metre tall Maori carvings at Mine Bay.
Just minutes from the CBD, Huka Prawn Park sits on the banks of the Waikato River. Take a tour around the farm to see how prawns are bred, feed them and spot baby prawns in the nursery tanks. After that take a rod and some bait and try your hand at fishing for prawns in the park’s fishery area. You’ll have the option of barbequing any you catch or the friendly staff will pack them in ice to take home. Next to the prawn park, the Huka falls jet boat operates – watch people on their exhilarating ride or try it yourself!
There are a number of hot pool complexes in Taupo, try DeBretts hot pools and hot springs or the thermally heated AC Baths aquatic centre. Just across the road from the AC Baths is one of Taupo’s most famous attractions, the Taupo Bungy. Set over a magnificent valley and river, the Taupo Bungy is the thrill of a lifetime. It’s even exciting just watching people leap off the platform! There is also a massive sky swing that operates off the same platform.
If you prefer your excitement on wheels, there is always something happening at the Taupo Motorsport Park. The venue hosts car racing and drifting, drag racing and open days where people can bring their own cars onto the track.
You’re bound to enjoy your time in Taupo, a friendly town full of excitement and wonder. Are you studying in Taupo? We’d love to hear your stories! Tell us about them in a comment below.