31 Jan, 2020
With the next holidays bound to roll around before you've had time to mentally recover from the last, why not plan ahead for the next family adventure? This itinerary is jam-packed with activities for the whole family, from biking the scenic lakeside trails to adrenaline-fuelled jet boat rides. Check it out.
When more than 200,000 cubic litres of water are forced dramatically down a narrow canyon, the results are spectacular. Start your adventure by witnessing the power of water at Huka Falls. A pedestrian footbridge is located just 10 minutes from where you park your car and makes for easy viewing for children of all ages. For those feeling more energetic you can also walk to Huka Falls from Taupo in just under an hour.
A little further up the Waikato River you’ll find Aratiatia Dam. The dam releases a few times a day producing surging rapids through the rock valley below and generating hydroelectric power, harnessed by Mighty River Power. The kids will love witnessing the flood through this ravine and the drama of the countdown sirens. Make sure you arrive early for prime viewing.
Summer release times: 10am, 12pm, 2pm and 4pm
Winter release times: 10am, 12pm and 2pm
For morning tea, stop off at the Huka Honey Hive, for free honey tastings and a look into the secret life of bees, before reaching the Huka Prawn Park. This unique family playground allows you to try fishing for prawns – an experience not offered anywhere else in New Zealand.
Included in the admission price is your very own fishing rod, prawn bait and a bucket of cold water for your prawns. Everything you catch you can eat, and the team will even cook them on site for you. Otherwise you can take your catch home and eat it for dinner.
We’d recommend packing a picnic and spending the afternoon here. When you’re not fishing you can take a 20 minute tour of the site to learn more about prawns, view the nursery, hatchery, check out the trout pool and even feed the baby prawns. Very cute!
Having witnessed the power of the Aratiatia Dam the day before, you can now show the kids this dramatic scene from the water with an adrenaline-fuelled jet boat ride.
Start your jet boat ride with Rapids Jet – cruising serene river scenes with steep rock walls and native New Zealand bush, before being amongst the action when the gates of the dam open. Almost instantly the river takes on a new life as the still waters become a tumbling blanket of white water. Get splashed as you shoot down the river, experience the thrill of rapids and 360’s, and be deafened by the kids squeals as you enjoy New Zealand’s ONLY white water jetboat experience. Best of all – second child rides free!
For lunch, check out the World’s Coolest McDonalds. While normally going to McDonalds is not the most desirable holiday experience, it is when you get to eat lunch in an old Douglas D3 aircraft. Originally used as a commercial jet for South Pacific Airlines, the plane was decommissioned in ’84 and bought by the owner in ’85 before being installed site. There are seats inside the plane for your dining enjoyment and you can view the cockpit as well.
Then to burn off the energy and adrenaline from the morning, go smack some golf balls into the lake with the ‘Hole in One’ challenge. A floating pontoon is located 100 metres into the lake and $10,000 is awarded to anyone who can get a hole in one. Yes – it has happened! With a great backdrop of both lake and mountains, this is a great spot for your ultimate holiday snap. A must do.
Tip: If you're in Taupo on a Saturday, make sure you check out the Taupo Market (9am - 1pm) for a delicious empanada or chocolate custard doughnut to start the day.
Bring your bikes to Taupo to enjoy excellent family-friendly trails that are fun, scenic and perfect for building confidence. The Tongariro River Trail, starting in Turangi, is a gentle 14km loop track suitable for families. It follows the world-famous trout river past rolling farmland, beech forests and fern glades, and only has one climb which will reward you with views over the lake. The remainder of the ride provides river views as the trail weaves in and out of native bush.
Alternatively, walk or bike the Great Lake Walkway – voted New Zealand’s Favourite Urban Ride in 2017. This is a great spot for bike-riding at its most basic. Even those still with training wheels (and prams) will cope here. The trail has plenty of great spots for lunch, coffee, ice-cream and picnics along the way. Toilet facilities are found in all the bays and a children’s playground and barbeque facility are also on offer at Wharewaka Point.
In the evening when you’re in need of a little rest and relaxation check out the DeBretts Taupo Hot Springs. The kids will love the dragon hydro slide, the two heated racing slides and the children’s interactive warm water playground, while you relax in the bubbling mineral waters. A great end to a great long weekend in Taupo.
Need some more itinerary inspiration? Check out our other itineraries on how to spend your time in Taupo.