In summer this town would really suck your bank balance dry, but you would probably love every minute. Full of summer activities, you can choose to spend your days Kayaking Lake Taupo, SkyDiving or white water rafting all whilst getting a lovely tan. But should that stop you planning a trip when winter is the only season you are here for?
Two words. Hell no!
Just like with Melbourne in Australia, if you waited for a guaranteed day without clouds, rain or a chilly breeze, you would never do or see anything! Same applies for New Zealand in Winter. Whilst making my rough bucket list for the north island I kept second guessing every location. Hmmm, The Bay of Islands, won’t be much to do in the cold. We went regardless and loved every single minute. The north island can bring some cold days and a lot of rain, but when it decides to, you can be rewarded with some stunning clear (yet crisp) days so just make sure you wrap up warm!
After such a pleasant experience in the bay of islands we decided on a slightly longer excursion from Auckland to Taupo. Taupo had been recommended a million times by friends, fellow travellers and all of you guys! We knew the Lake was meant to be stunning and the Tongariro crossing was not to be missed. However, we are glad we decided to put the Tongariro crossing on hold till Summer because it’s a full day of walking and hiking and once we saw the terrain upon arrival, I would have been a bit grumpy, cold and wet.
So when it’s too cold for Kayaking and hiking, what is a traveller to do?
Some travellers are more than happy to defy the weather conditions and power through. I personally like to do certain activities in the basking sunshine! Taupo is a touristy town, granted. However we found that excluding all the big activities and excursions there were a tonne of free things to do!
Whenever I plan a trip to an “amazing” waterfall I am normally disappointed. Unless it is full of water and high as the stars I am usually unimpressed however Huka falls surprised me with how horizontal it was. The rushing rapids pass under the viewing bridge and down to a beautiful green lagoon.
Just a short drive from the Lake, the Aratiatia Rapids welcomes you to witness the opening of the dam three times a day. Make sure you arrive 15minutes early to walk to the viewing points as the dam opens up at 10am, 12pm and 2pm in winter for a rushing view of water creating some insane rapids from a once gentle flowing stream!
TONGARIRO NATIONAL PARK
Looking for some stunning sceneray and with my new found love for the Lord of the Rings, we decided to take a random drive around the Tongariro National Park, knowing it to be the home to the infamous Mt Doom (or Mt Ngauruhoe as it’s actually named). Like I said, we are saving the Tongariro Alpine Crossing for the summer time, but we didn’t expect it to have THAT much snow on it, quite a sight to behold.
We had very few expectation when taking this drive, we tried to keep our spirits high with the pouring rain and clouds which absolutely blinded us to ANY mountain views. As we gained altitude the rain suddenly turned to snow hitting the windscreen and the surrounding mountains were a stunning white contrasted on a blue background. There were screams from the car as we saw stunning mountain ranges in the distance as we drove towards them looking for stopping points along the way!
SPA PARK THERMAL BATHS
With the temperatures being at 8 degrees outside and with me forgetting my fleece and only had my leather jacket, we were gasping for some warmth. Taupo is infamous for it’s volcanoes, obviously, because it’s New Zealand. The islands of volcanoes. With Volcanoes come thermal springs which shoot from the ground and they are available FOR FREE! Sure you can pay to go to a spa, but for me, there is nothing better than floating in a secluded pool surrounded by nature! The thermal pool are only a 5 minute drive from Lake Taupo and you will never want to leave!
To be fair, lots of people come to New Zealand in winter because they are happy to do all the cool activities in the cold and snow but when you are coming out for 12 months you may feel you don’t have a choice. Or, maybe your budget won’t stretch to do all the big days out, never fear, Taupo is full of cheap and free activities (all those mentioned above are free) to fill your days!
What little secret spots did you find in Taupo? We will be coming back in summer and would love to find some off-the-beaten-track locations!