Created in partnership with Tourism New Zealand
There’s plenty on offer for families year-round in Taupō with many of the activities on the waters of magnificent Lake Taupō.
Take a cruise, sailing trip, swim, kayak or SUP on the lake, try your luck fishing, explore the geothermal sites, or try to land a hole in one on the lake pontoon. From Taupō it’s just over an hour to the ski areas on Mt Ruapehu.
Whether you’re planning to head away over the school holidays or just want to escape on a mini-break, we’ve put together some of our favourite places to stay, eat and play so you can create some lasting memories with your family.
Please note: Venue information was correct at the time of publication. Please check with individual venues for the latest opening dates, times, prices, etc, before making plans.
Free family activities
Even if you’re travelling on a budget, there are still so many experiences you can enjoy with your family.
Swim in Lake Taupō – during the warmer months the lake is abuzz with paddlers, swimmers and those enjoying watersports.
Huka Falls – a visit to Taupō isn’t complete without a stop at Huka Falls. Watch the power of water as it funnels through a gorge narrowing to form the thundering 11-metre high waterfall. Access is by a short walking track.
Aratiatia Rapids – from the Aratiatia Bridge or viewpoints along the Waikato River, await the dam gate release as thousands of litres of water rush down the gully.
Great Lake Pathway – bike or walk the track with beautiful lake and mountain views. There’s a playground at Wharewaka Point, plus lots of places to picnic, swim or stop for coffee or ice-cream. Don’t miss getting your photo taken at the #LOVETAUPO sign.
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Otumuheke Stream – soak in natural geothermal rock pools with stunning views of the Waikato River. Changing rooms, lockers and toilets are on-site and storyboards explain the historic significance of the area as a bathing and meeting place for Māori.
Tokaanu Thermal Walk – situated at the southern end of Lake Taupō, you will see steaming mineral pools and bubbling mud pools on this short walk through native bush.
Waipahihi Botanical Gardens – walking tracks take you through beautiful native bush as well as flowering shrubs in spring. Bring a picnic and enjoy the grassy open spaces.
Become a Kiwi Guardian! Print off the Waipahihi Botanical Gardens adventure map before you head out, then find the Kiwi Guardian post and submit the special code word on it to receive a Kiwi Guardians certificate and medal.
Fun family experiences
Taupō’s position in a geothermal hotspot by Lake Taupō and the Waikato River makes it a great place for families to stay a while, explore, play and make memories.
This unique attraction features an activity loop for some fun family challenges. Hand-feed baby prawns, take the aqua trikes, pedal boats and stand up paddle boards out onto the water, then dine in the Riverside Restaurant.
For a ride you will never forget! Enjoy 30 minutes of thrills, fun and excitement as you travel by jet boat along the Waikato River at up to 80km an hour with 360 degree spins. See the spectacular Huka Falls from a unique view.
Family-favourite thermal hot pools with hydroslides and an interactive warm water playground, private pools and spa treatments.
Go on an adventure! Guided tours by kayak or bike take in breathtaking scenery, waterfalls, geothermal activity, natural hot pools and Māori rock carvings that can only be seen from the water. From two hour tours to overnight expeditions.
Drift along the mighty Waikato River and enjoy the amazing views of Huka Falls, birdlife, and native bush with information from local guides. Open-air deck and viewing platforms for the best photos and feel the spray on your face!
A unique taste experience with free honey, mead and liqueur tastings. View live beehives, discover health and wellness products, divine honey-based skincare, an amazing range of gifts and delicious honey ice cream. Beekeeper tours available.
Family friendly eateries
Pack up a picnic for lakeside fun or dine in at one of Taupō’s many family-friendly restaurants and cafes.
Spoon and Paddle – open for breakfast, brunch and lunch, this cafe has a homely feel and a kids menu with some unique choices, like gingerbread french toast and pikelets with passion cream.
Kefi at the Hub – spot the helicopter parked up on Huka Falls Road and you’re in the right spot! Gluten-free, keto and vegan options available along with tasty savouries, divine sweets and freshly made salads.
Taupo’s McDonalds – simply the coolest McDonalds in the world. You can take your meal up and into the plane to sit and dine. Awesome!
Cobb & Co. – the iconic family restaurant has something for every member of the family. The special kids area features a large fish tank, toys and games consoles and the kids menu caters for all ages (and includes those famous Traffic Lights drinks!).
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The Storehouse – an eclectic cafe serving freshly made meals and cabinet food and selling a collection of homewares too. Try the fried chicken waffles!
Licorice Cafe – you can’t miss this cafe on the way into or out of Taupō from the south at Motuoapa. Spot the licorice on the roof and pop in for breakfast or lunch, with a selection of cabinet food and great coffee.
Where to stay
For family friendly stays, we recommend checking out the below. Or search here for holiday parks and campgrounds.
Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort – more than a place to stay, Taupo DeBretts is a destination! Year-round relaxation and recreation activities on-site in the Hot Springs waterpark and Living Waters Spa plus tasty food at the Savour Café. At Taupo DeBretts, you choose your adventure. Accommodation options include everything from luxury rooms to campervan and tent sites.
Wairakei Resort – tranquil 4-star accommodation set amidst a stunning thermal valley. Enjoy the 9-hole course, tennis on floodlit courts, two geothermally heated swimming pools and six outdoor hot tubs and an on-site spa. There’s a range of accommodation options including family villas and suites with WiFi and 24-hour room service.
Voyager Apartments – situated close to the lakefront with the shopping and restaurants just a short walk away. Modern one, two, and three bedroom apartments with fully equipped kitchen, laundry facilities, air-conditioning heat pump, private spa bath, Sky TV, free WiFi, DVD, and stereo. The on-site swimming pool is heated year-round.
Acapulco Motor Inn – family-run, affordable motel accommodation just a short walk to central Taupō. Choose from a range of accommodation options that can sleep up to eight. All air-conditioned with free WiFi and some rooms with spa pool/bath.
Main photo credit: Destination Great Lake Taupō
- Find out more about Taupō
- Destination guide: Rotorua
- 5 places to travel in a campervan these school holidays
Written by Kidspot New Zealand for Tourism New Zealand.