Lake Taupo sits atop restless land: a 350km-long geothermal zone stretching from White Island to the peaks of the Central Plateau. It has witnessed some of the world’s most violent volcanic activity: the Oruanui eruption which created the lake about 26,500 years ago was several times larger in scale than Krakatoa. Today Taupō’s geothermal field is harnessed to generate electricity, and visitors flock to parks to marvel at geysers, silica terraces and bubbling mud pools.
The region’s turbulent geological history has produced an environment suited to a range of adrenaline-fuelled adventure sports. The tributary rivers of Lake Taupō offer narrow canyons for jetboats to roar through, whitewater rapids for rafting and a sheer gorge for bungy jumping. Skydivers take in the whole landscape at once, coast to coast.
South of Taupō is New Zealand’s oldest national park, designated a dual World Heritage Site due to its cultural and natural significance. In 1887, Ngāti Tuwharetoa paramount chief Horonuku Te Heuheu gave the mountains of Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe to the Crown in order to prevent them being divided under private ownership. It was opened to the public in 1894 as Tongariro National Park.
A network of multi-day tramping tracks encircles the peaks of Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe, with many options for single-day excursions. The most famous of these, the Tongariro Crossing, showcases the variety of landscapes, from peaks and craters to steaming vents and mineral lakes. Mountain-biking tracks of various grades traverse the park, while further north, less demanding cycle trails skirt the Waikato River and Taupō lake edge.
East of the lake, sport of a different kind abounds: hunters stalk sika, red deer, wild boar and goats year-round. The region’s famed trout rivers also remain open for fly-fishing throughout the year.
More relaxing pursuits include lake cruises, world-class golf courses, and opportunities to learn about the history and geological features of the land at the volcanic heart of the North Island, and the lake, the eye of Maui’s fish.