Bonnie van Dorp steps off a tiny prop plane and into a land where the waters are blue, the air is clean and the landscapes are an absolute dream.
First things first: Taupo is pronounced ‘toe paw’ – and not the bastardized ‘towel-po’ of which it is commonly known by. Learn this fact and then take a good look around, because this gorgeous locale in the centre of the North Island of New Zealand is as picturesque as they come. Fronting an idyllic town centre is Oceania’s second largest lake, which was created by a super volcanic eruption that occurred approximately 26,500 years ago. The turquoise lake is a hive of activity in the summer months, with lazy boats tugging along its surface in search of prized rainbow trout, and locals and holiday makers engaging in various watersports. In winter, its proximity to neighbouring ski fields in Mount Ruapehu make the town a draw card for snow bunnies and snowboarding enthusiasts.
Stay: Hilton Lake Taupo
Hilton Lake Taupo is situated just minutes from the town centre and commands panoramic views over the country’s largest lake. There are 113 keys in total, spread across rooms, suites and apartments. A recent expansion of the property sees an entire wing added, with some boasting spectacular vistas of thermal valleys. For meetings and events, there are seven Victorian-style conference meeting rooms available, as well as a boardroom with adjoining gardens which are perfect as breakout spaces. When visiting, make sure you take some time to enjoy a fabulous meal at Bistro Lago, the hotel’s onsite restaurant.
Stay: Huka Lodge
Consistently voted as one of the world’s most exclusive hideaways, Huka Lodge is absolutely out to impress. A favourite among celebrities and royals (yes it’s Queen Elizabeth’s favourite Kiwi getaway), the charming lodge was originally founded in 1924 by an Irishman as a fishing lodge. With a definite English Arts and Crafts influence pervading the interior and exterior design, the cottage boasts two large and stylishly appointed bedrooms, with fireplaces, ensuite bathrooms and generous dressing rooms. A generous open plan living room features a large brick fireplace, decadently comfortable furniture and everything guests need to feel this is a true ‘home away from home’. The heated infinity-style swimming pool and separate private spa pool have been integrated into the outdoor landscape. There is also a fabulous stone outdoor pavilion within a courtyard garden featuring a magnificent fireplace. Full capacity at Huka Lodge is 25 rooms in total including both cottages.
Activities: Taupo Float Plane
Witness the extraordinary landscapes of Taupo from a different point of view. Passengers will take off from the calm waters of Lake Taupo, and soar high up into the clouds, taking in unrestricted views of the glistening lake, a gushing waterfall, snow-capped mountains, volcanoes and geothermal wonders. A number of scenic flight itineraries are available exploring dramatic natural scenes including the hidden valley of Orakei Korako, Mount Ruapehu (an active volvano), White Island and more.
Activities: Formula Challenge Racing
Hop into racecars (usually reserved for professional drivers) out at Formula Challenge Racing Taupo. The motorsport experience makes for a highly effective team building activity for corporates, and packages can be tailored to suit most budgets. Packages include V8 hot laps, driver training, pit stop challenges, podium presentations and skidpan experiences. Choose between single seater racecars, Ford V8 cars and Holden V8s.
Activities: Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings
Heralded as one of the country’s most extraordinary artworks, the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings draw in tourists annually by the droves. Standing at 14 metres high, the artwork – which is accessed only by water — is comprised of several individual carvings each with their own tales to tell. The carvings are the vision of Whakataka-Brightwell, who in 1976 paddled past the alcove and had a vision of a tattooed face. He would then go on to lead a team of four artists on an artistic expedition to sculpt the carvings over four years. It is told that the artists wore nothing but safety googles and speedos when creating the artwork. We headed out to see the carvings with Chris Jolly Outdoors on its spacious Cruise Cat catamaran. For the fishing enthusiasts out there, you can also throw in a line to try your luck at catching a coveted rainbow trout.
Stay: The Lodge at Kinloch Club
The Lodge at Kinloch Club is the newest addition to the Taupo luxury lodge portfolio, and it’s a spot that needs to be seen to be believed. This uber-modern lodge is tastefully furnished with lush textures such as velvet, fur and cooper that beg to be touched and experienced. Upon arrival, you are welcomed into an expansive space aptly named The Great Room, where every detail has been carefully considered. It backs onto a dining room (perfect for intimate events) with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer sprawling views over the golf course. The cuisine operates on a farm-to-plate philosophy, with all produce reared from the owner’s private 2,000 hectare estate. Choose between suites, and one- and two bedroom villas.
This wilderness lodge is truly something special. There really is something for everyone at Poronui. For fishing enthusiasts, the lodge is a prime spot to catch the elusive rainbow trout, and for those wanting a taste of the great outdoors, Poronui offers the chance to explore 16,000 acres of lush bush by foot, horse or mountain bike. Other group activities available on site include culinary school, wilderness challenges, glamping and more. The destination, which is completely isolated, is an ideal hideaway for corporate incentive groups and retreats needing a change of scenery.
Activities: Huka Jet
For all the adrenaline junkies out there, a visit to Taupo would not be complete with an exhilarating thrill ride on board the Huka Jet. The 30 minute experience sees thrill-seekers thrown into 360 spins on the base of the Huka Falls (the country’s most photographed waterfall), all the while getting up close to sheer cliff faces and native bush. While there are other jet boat experiences available, Huka Jet is the only company permitted to take people out to the base of the mighty Huka Falls. For an extra special experience, Huka Jet also offers a ‘bubbles on the beach’ package which takes guests over to a secluded hot water beach mid-ride to surprise them with champagne and canapes.