Taupo to Rotorua – Must Stops
The distance from Taupo to Rotorua is only 80 kilometers, but there is a lot to see and do along the way. Road trippers can take a break and hike to stunning falls, enjoy roadside farms and attractions, and view various geothermic wonders. Several stops present good options for refreshments, lunch, or dinner.
Stop Number 1 — Huka Falls
The first stop on our road trip is just five kilometers north of Taupo, and it is a must-see. Leave Taupo and head north on Wairakei Drive to Huka Falls Road, where you should turn right.
Visitors can park and walk a trail to reach Huka Falls. The walking trail takes about one hour each way, so plan for two hours total. Or, visitors can park at an upper parking lot to access a shorter trail, which will take about 15 minutes each way.
Huka Falls feeds the Waikato River, the largest river in New Zealand. The river narrows as it runs through a shallow ravine. A footbridge crosses the ravine, giving pedestrians a stunning lookout. Watch as more than 220,000 liters of water per second rush over the 11-meter high waterfall.
As you hike, you’ll see the river change from a wide and tranquil scene to the roaring fury of the impressive waterfall. Keep your camera handy as there are plenty of opportunities for beautiful photographs.
If you’ve got kids or are young at heart, you’ll love Huka Prawn Park. Leave Huka Falls and take Huka Falls Road to Karetoto Road. Huka Prawn Park is just three kilometers from Huka Falls.
Huka Prawn Park features an adventure park, a riverside restaurant, and the only geothermally-heated prawn breeding ground in New Zealand. You can hand-feed baby prawns, enjoy the pedal boats, walk the adventure trail or shoot off water canons.
Enjoy al-fresco dining with views of the Waikato River at the Huka Prawn Park Restaurant, the only riverside restaurant in the area.
If you’ve got animal lovers in your family, stop off at the Lilliput Taupo Animal Park and stretch your legs. After departing Huka Prawn Park, take State Highway 1. Lilliput Taupo Animal Park is 8.8 kilometers away.
The park includes donkeys, ponies, emus, sheep, goats, deer, alpaca, and llama. Peacocks, rabbits, turtles, lizards, and guinea pigs round out the small animal and bird list. A play park features a trampoline and slides and swings.
Take State Highway 1 to Tutukau Road and follow the signs for Orakei Korako Geothermal Park & Cave. This geothermic park gets at the heart of this fantastic and unique area. Lonely Planet has called Orakei Korako the best thermal area in New Zealand and one of the finest in the world.
Explore hot springs, geysers, bubbling mud pools, and amazing silica terraces. The Diamond Geyser erupts every few minutes, and a fountain of water cascades down the rocks. The Rainbow and Cascade Terrace provide a beautiful vista.
Check out Ruatapu Cave, which reaches 36 meters into the Pool of Mirrors hot pool at the bottom. Orakei Korako features the most geysers of any of New Zealand’s geothermal parks. Up to 23 geysers are active at any point. Orakei Korako also has a beautiful rainforest that provides a delightful walk.
MudCake Café is located at the park and serves delicious hot beverages.
Next, take State Highway 5 north. Wai-O-Tapu is 38 kilometers from Orakie Korako.
Wai-O-Tapu is home to many geothermic lakes, which are notable for their colorful and unique appearance. For example, the Champagne Pool is named after the bubbles that churn on the lake’s surface. The bubbles are formed due to the abundance of carbon dioxide.
The Lady Knox geyser is a popular Wai-O-Tapu attraction. The geyser is induced to erupt by adding soap into the opening. The geyser is induced every day at 10:15 am and can erupt for up to an hour. Rocks placed around the spout enhance the eruption, which can reach up to 20 meters high.
Prisoners first discovered the geyser when they visited the hot water lake to wash their clothes. When they added soap, the geyser erupted. The geyser is named after Lady Constance Knox. Lady Knox was the daughter of Uchter Knox, New Zealand’s 15th governor.
Take State Hwy 5 to State Hwy 38 to Okaro Road. Waimangu Valley is 10 kilometers from Wai-O-Tapu.
Waimangu Valley offers walking and hiking trails that wind through the unique geothermic ecosystem this area is known for. Waimangu Valley also offers boat cruises that cruise Lake Rotomahana.
Hikes range from 1.5 kilometers to 4.5 kilometers long. Visitors love the bright blue Inferno Crater Lake. Don’t miss the world’s largest hot spring, Frying Pan Lake.
Waimangu Valley is home to the former site of the pink and white terraces. These terraces were considered the Eighth Wonder of the World. Unfortunately, they were buried during Mt. Tarawera’s 1886 eruption. The original site can be seen during the boat cruise on Lake Rotomahana.
Take State Hwy 5 to Te Puia, 21 kilometers away from Waimangu. Te Puia features cultural experiences and geothermic tours. Te Puia is home to the famous Pōhutu geyser, the biggest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere. Te Puia also features hot springs, mud pools, and silica formations.
Visit Te Puia’s Kiwi Conservation Centre to learn more about New Zealand’s favorite bird. At Te Puia, visitors can also watch traditional Maori carving and weaving and purchase unique hand-crafted artwork.
Visitors can also check out Te Puia’s model Pre-European Maori village and sacred Marae to see how Maori people lived before Europeans settled the area.
Pātaka Kai is the on-site restaurant and serves beverages and lunch. In addition, buffet dinners are served Friday and Saturday nights, and brunch is served on Sundays.
Taupo to Rotorua Roadtrip
The drive isn’t that long, yet it travels through fascinating opportunities for hiking, walking, admiring geothermic wonders, and gaining a deeper understanding of Maori culture.
Bachcare has a host of rental homes in Taupo and Rotorua. Stay with us and enjoy the area at your own speed.