The town of Taupo-nui-Tia (“the great shoulder cloak of Tia”) or better known by its abbreviated form, Taupo, got its name from the Arawa canoe explorer who discovered Lake Taupo.
Lake Taupo covers 608 sq. km (235 sq. miles) and was formed thousands of years ago by volcanic explosions. Today, Lake Taupo is world famous for trout fishing, yielding in over 500 tons of rainbow trout annually. For lake excursions, hire boats are available at the harbor or at the information center near the restored steamboat, Ernest Kemp. Other special features include:
Apart from lake cruises and activities, do try the famous Taupo Bungy Jump, which is set against cliff tops high above the crystal clear waters of Waikato River. Taupo Bungy is one of New Zealand's most spectacular bungy sites. The scenic backdrop and breathtaking views alone are worth the visit. Taupo Bungy utilizes the world's first built cantilever bungy platform that project 20 meters out from the cliff top. The height of the jump is 47 meters (154 ft) with a river depth of 7-9 meters. Since commencing operations in 1991, Taupo Bungy has performed over 90,000 jumps, thus gaining a worldwide reputation for safety standards and professionalism.
Approximately 7 km (4 miles) north of Taupo is a town called Wairakei, which offers visitors an interesting geothermal power station. The station works by drawing heated water from the ground using a series of bores. This enables the dry steam to be piped to electricity turbines in a nearby powerhouse. An information center is located at the entrance while the observation area is at the top of the hill. One of the best international golf courses in New Zealand is also found in Wairakei.
Not far away is the spectacular Huka (“foam”) Falls that hurtles down from a narrow gorge over a 12 meter (40-ft) ledge. There is a footbridge from the opposite side of the river that is probably the best observation spot. It is also an ideal place for photo shoots. Under the sunlight, the icy-cold water, a beautiful turquoise-blue color, looks refreshing and tempting. A short distance away on the banks of Waikato River is the famous Huka Fishing Lodge and a replica of the original village.
For an awesome experience, observe the frightening abyss of boiling mud or steam rising from natural fumaroles (chimney-like holes on the ground although there are some that are just holes in the ground) in the hillside at the Craters of the Moon.
The Tongariro National Park at the southern end of Lake Taupo is a breathtaking 7,600 sq. km (2,930 sq. mile) piece of nature. It contains three active volcanic mountains, which are Tongariro (1,967 meters/6,453 ft), Ngauruhoe (2,287 meters/7,503 ft), and Ruapehu (2,797 meters/9,177 ft).
The most active of all three mountains is the Ngauruhoe with its last major eruption in 1954. The awesome snowcapped Ruapehu (exploding hole) introduces the acidic and bubbling Crater Lake and six other smaller glaciers. The smallest of the three mountains is Tongariro with a series of small craters and the Ketetahi hot springs on the northern slopes. For more information on walking tracks and accommodation huts, contact the Rangers at the national park headquarters.
For an excellent view of the snowcapped volcanic summits of the Park, ride on the scenic flights via floatplanes from the lakefront or fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
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