Just over an hours drive south from Rotorua is the lakefront town of Taupo, which is situated on the northern shore of the vast 238 sq mile lake of the same name. The lake is the largest in New Zealand, and immediately comes into view as you drive towards the town.
After an action-packed few days in Rotorua we enjoyed a far more relaxing time in Taupo. This started with a visit to one of the town’s main attractions, the Huka Falls. The dramatic falls are formed by the Waikato river narrowing from 100m to pass through a volcanic canyon just 15m wide. As we stood on the footbridge over the canyon, it was mesmerising to watch the incredible volume of water crashing below us.
We followed a short walking trail along the edge of the canyon, stopping at several viewing platforms. The view from each was equally as amazing, and it was quite unlike anything we had ever seen before.
Continuing on a similar theme our next stop was further downstream at the nearby Aratiatia Rapids. This section of the river is home to a dam and hydroelectric power station, the first to be built on the Waikato River. The dam is opened several times every day, releasing thousands of litres of water into the canyon below.
Arriving just in time for the 10am showing, we followed the short walking trail to a purpose built viewing platform and awaited the opening of the dam. Right on schedule a loud siren sounded, and the wall of the dam slowly began to open. The progress of the water was slow to begin with, but suddenly the small trickle had transformed into huge waves of crashing white water.
After a short drive back into the town, we parked on the lakes edge before finding a shady spot under some trees for a picnic lunch.
Next we decided to try our hand at something a little different, the Lake Taupo Hole in One Challenge. Since 1993, this has been offering holidaymakers the chance to win prizes by scoring a hole in one, with the current top prize being $10,000 in cash.
We decided to have just one go each, and after selecting our clubs we took aim at the small pontoon, which is approximately 100m from the lakes edge.
Despite not hitting a golf ball for several years, I managed to get within just a few metres of the pontoon, while Rachael’s respectable effort at least making it off the tee! Disappointed not to be adding $10,000 to our travelling fund, but pleased to have not embarrassed ourselves too much, we stayed around to watch some far more confident golfers, who were buying balls by the bucketload.
While Taupo’s main claim to fame is most definitely its beautiful lake, it is also home to the ‘world’s coolest McDonald’s’. The site includes a Douglas DC3 aircraft, which towers over the main store. As well as looking cool from the outside, the seats inside also can be used by diners.
This was something we had to see for ourselves, and on our final morning in Taupo, we decided to stop for some breakfast. As expected, the food exactly the same as anywhere else, but it was a unique experience dining inside the plane. After a much more substantial breakfast than our usual muesli, we were ready to hit the road and continue south through the Central Plateau.