Hubby and I had an amazing trip through New Zealand’s Central Plateau in our caravan. There is so much to see and do around Taupo and Rotorua. We are members of the NZ Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) and stay in NZMCA owned camps around the country. However, for others without this membership, there are plenty of beautiful places to stay with a camper or caravan.
Day 1 – White Water Rafting
We started in Taupo. And our first adventure was whitewater rafting on the Tongariro River. Absolutely fantastic, and really reasonably priced; I highly recommend this trip.
We booked with the River Rafting Centre in Turangi who picked us up and dropped us back to Taupo. We were well looked after and had a fabulous afternoon. I even jumped off a cliff into the water!
January and February is a good time for this activity. The weather is warmer and the water is very crisp and clear coming off the mountains. It was so lovely to spend this time in one of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand.
Day 2 – Waikato River Adventures
Our Waikato river trip was awesome, such a cool peaceful way to spend a couple of hours. We purchased some flotation devices for this trip and apart from the cost of your floatie, there is no additional charge. You can use blow up pool toys like we did, an airbed, or even a tyre inner tube if you like.
This is one of Taupo’s best kept secrets…
The sheer beauty and tranquility of the crystal clear waters of the Waikato River will take your breath away. Hop into the river at the Control Gates Park (from there it is a short 5 min walk to the entry point) and drift past various islands, nature reserves, swimming spots, the drop zone of Taupo Bungy and the Cliffhanger Swing. We hopped out at the natural thermal springs (Otumuheke Thermal Pools) along the way for a soak in the warm water, before continuing on to Reid’s Farm Recreation Reserve, the get-out point. You wouldn’t want to miss this. I don’t recommend going further and trying to float down the Huka Falls, you will not survive!
You will need to consider teaming up with someone else to drop a car at Reid Farm so there is a vehicle at each end. Alternatively it is a 3 km walk up a big hill and down the other side from Reid Farm back to the starting point. What a way to work up a good sweat prior to a calm meander down the river. Of course, there is the taxi option.
Ride Along the Waikato River
One of the best things about the Central Plateau of New Zealand is the many walking and hiking trails. There are plenty of trails for mountain bikes too.
We did a trail bike ride from Taupo to the Huka Falls which was fun. My first ever off-road mountain bike ride! I really enjoyed this experience. You can also walk this trail, which takes you from Spa Road, past the natural springs mentioned above, and along the Waikato River to the Huka Falls.
The ride takes you along the ridge above the river. We had our own mountain bikes, but there are plenty of places to hire bikes throughout the area.
Day 3 – Rapids, Falls and Prawns
The Aratiatia Dam and Rapids is another great thing to see while in Taupo. Again no charge, just get yourself there by car or bike. The dam opens for 15 minutes 3 or 4 times a day, 10am, 12 noon and 2pm.
From Aratiatia Dam, we caught the Huka Falls River Cruise boat for a two hour trip back up the river to the bottom of the Huka Falls.
The Huka Prawn Park is another worthwhile place to see while in Taupo. We had a fun afternoon trying to catch prawns (it’s very addictive and we got a little competitive…). I did the Park tour and even got to feed some prawns by hand.
It’s a great family day out.
Day 4 – More Mountains and Lakes
Having bikes, we decided to give the Craters of the Moon Mountain Bike Park a go. What a fabulous park. Whether you are a beginner (like me) or an experienced rider, there are trails for everyone. Definitely a place to check out if you have mountain bikes on your trip around the central plateau of New Zealand.
Lake Taupo is lovely to swim in. Cool, crisp water that doesn’t leave you sticky with salt like ocean swimming does. Lake Taupo has beaches with sand and others are quite rocky, so choose carefully where you stop for a swim. The beaches by the wharf area have a nice sandy shore and are a safe place to swim.
We took a drive to Kinloch one day. It is a small village about 20 mins from Taupo township, and on the edge of the Lake. Lovely swimming there. Do watch when swimming in fresh water if you’re not used to it. There is no salt to help with buoyancy, so it is quite different if you are used to swimming in the ocean.
Day 5 Onwards – Rotorua
Less than an hour’s drive north of Taupo is Rotorua. Rotorua is New Zealand’s thermal wonderland so be prepared for the smell when you first get there! You’ll acclimatise pretty quickly though.
We were keen to check out the Redwoods Mountain Bike Park we’d heard so much about. And it did not disappoint. Again, another fabulous venue of mountain bike trails for beginners as well as experienced riders.
Rotorua has a lot of lakes, and we explored the area by car and bike. The Blue Lake was lovely for a dip to cool off after all the riding and driving around. There are so many fabulous walking tracks in the area. Unfortunately we didn’t have to time to do it all.
If you are ever in New Zealand, a trip through the Central Plateau is well worth the visit. The mountains, rivers, and lakes are all truly magnificent. Enjoy!