There’s so much more to this central plateau gem than a lake (although it’s a pretty amazing lake).
1. Om Shanti Shanti
It’s second time round for me and Wanderlust, Taupo’s annual yoga-cum-personal encounter festival, but this time I took my 14-year-old daughter and once again was wowed by the slick organisation of this feel-good event.
I can’t imagine a better place than Taupo and the former Wairakei resort to host the 2000-plus yoga enthusiasts who descend on what is now widely regarded as New Zealand’s spiritual heart centre.
Expect good food, morning chanting, evening dancing, yoga all day, geothermal steam that rises up out of the bush and even an encounter or two with a real-life guru.
If you’ve ever wanted to try raw food, trapeze yoga or a handstand with a rock band accompaniment, plan now for Waitangi 2018. Your chakras will thank you.
2. Deep soak
After putting in long hours on the mat at Wanderlust, it was time to go further afield, and a massage and dip at DeBretts Spa Resort was just what the muscles ordered.
A 15-minute drive from down- town Taupo, this hot-pool wonderland, set in a steaming thermal valley, is paradise.
I opted for a long soak in the hot mineral springs, followed by a Hot Volcanic Stone massage at Living Waters Spa, situated onsite.
While the teenager zoomed down the Blue Crush hydro slide, I melted away my troubles on a massage table as the soothing click-clack of the hot stones patted out a gentle rhythm in my eardrums.
3. A jolly good cruise
The next day was a different rhythm – more of a thrum, to be precise, as we boarded a Chris Jolly Cruise Cat for a morning on Lake Taupo.
The day was clear but chilly as we jetted out across the lake to view the Maori rock carvings at Mine Bay. At 14m high, these carvings, sculpted over four years and completed in 1980, are the largest of their type on the planet and only reached by boat.
As the waves whipped up around us, there were a few green faces on board, but the majesty of the carvings and the views back across the water were well worth it.
4. De-Vine dining
The café and restaurant scene in Taupo is vast and varied, so we opted for a Mediterranean-New Zealand – yes, it’s a thing – feast at
The Vine Eatery and Bar. We weren’t disappointed. We shared tapas to start, with the garlic prawns and Manchego cheese croquettes a highlight. Smoky pasta followed for the youngest member of the group, while the pan-fried snapper on a bed of fennel, quinoa and watercress was fresh and tasty, and the duck breast with parsnip purée cooked to perfection.
Dessert? You betcha. I don’t know how, but we managed to fit in vanilla brûlée, apple cheesecake and frangelico affogato. Oink!
5. Scenic hook-up
Whether it’s on the way in or out of Taupo, no trip is complete without a stop, walk and stroll to the majestic Huka Falls.
Thundering is the only word to describe this 11-metre waterfall, one of New Zealand’s most visited and photographed natural attractions.
Meander the walking tracks along the river and take a selfie from one of the viewing platforms. From every angle, this flowing water knows how to turn it on.