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Hikes and walks around Taupo
Taupo town centre and the surrounding area has some stunning walking and hiking tracks.
Waipahihi Botanical Reserve
Follow SH 1 south from Taupo and turn left onto Shepherd Road (second left after the Napier/SH 5 turnoff). The reserve (35 ha) was formed in 1966 to create a park of forest trees and plants and to be a refuge for birdlife. Of special interest are the alpine garden, lemonwood walk and the 2,000 rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. here are walkways, beautiful lake and mountain views and attractive picnic areas.
Lions Walk or Great Lake Walkway: Taupo to Wharewaka Point
One of the most popular walks in Taupo with both locals and visitors, the Lions Walk or Great Lake Walkway is part of what may eventually become a track around all of Lake Taupo. From the Lake Taupo Yacht Club follow the path beside Lake Terrace to the Taharepa Road Reserve where a paved track skirts the lake edge to Two Mile Bay then to Wharewaka Point. Ideal picnic and swimming spots can be found along the way. Plenty of opportunity to feed the ducks and admire the swans. Toilets can be found in all of the bays and there is a children’s playground and barbecue facility at Wharewaka. Return via the same track or arrange transport back to town.
Wharewaka Point to Five Mile Bay
Drive south on SH 1 for about 6 km and turn off at Wharewaka Point. This Taupo walk begins at the reserve and follows a formed track on a terrace above the lake edge for 1 km, then passes through several paddocks to the Five Mile Bay Lakefront Reserve.
Control Gates Bridge to Spa Thermal Park
From the Control Gates bridge follow the true right of the Waikato River. Pass the waste treatment station on the right and at the end of the entrance road take a sharp left. Turn right after 20m and follow the path to Cherry Island. Head along the river to the steps up to Taupo Bungy. From the top it is only 200 m to Spa Thermal Park.
Huka Falls Walkway
Time: 2 hours return via the same track.
Turn right off Tongariro Street into Spa Road at the northern end of Taupo, then left into County Avenue and drive into Spa Thermal Park. Following the signs, walk for five minutes across the park to the Waikato River. Near the start of the walkway, a bridge crosses a natural hot stream. The well-defined track winds along the riverbank and offers lovely views on the way. The walk finishes at the spectacular Huka Falls, where the Waikato River is confined to a deep rock channel. The river emerges with a rush at the northern end to form the falls. A pleasant walk for the whole family. Return via the same track or arrange transport from Huka Falls carpark (across the bridge). This Taupo walk can be linked with the Aratiatia Rapids Walk.
Rotary Ride: Spa Thermal Park to Huka Falls
Time: 2 hours return via the same track
This is a shared bike track where walkers give way to bikes. Follow the signs from the end of County Ave (off Spa Road). The track crosses the Otumuheke Stream approximately 200m upstream from the Waikato River. From here the track meanders through gullies, twists around trees, runs alongside open farmland, crosses two bridged streams, passes through culverts and has great views of the Waikato River and open valleys.
Huka Falls to Aratiatia Rapids Walking Track
Time: 4 hours return via the same track
Follow SH 1 north from Taupo for about 1.6 km, turn right into Huka Falls Road and follow the signs to Huka Falls. A refreshment kiosk and pay toilets are located in the carpark. The track begins across the bridge. Head left to the last viewing area over Huka Falls. At the back of the viewing area the track climbs onto the cliff tops with magnificent views of the river.
The track then gradually descends and continues along the river to the Aratiatia hydro dam and rapids. Try to finish this Taupo walk when the control gates are due to open. Return via this route or arrange transport from Aratiatia. A ‘must see’ in your walk around Taupo.
Aratiatia Rapids Viewpoint
A short track to three lookouts over the Aratiatia Rapids begins 50 metres from the bridge on the true right of the river. The dam’s control gates are opened several times a day to allow the rapids to flow - a spectacular sight. Check times with the Taupo Visitor Centre.
Waikato River Walking Track
Time: 1 hour one way
This Taupo walk begins at the Huka Falls carpark and ends at Otupo Flat. Return on the same track or arrange return transport. Five minutes down the track there is a grassed area with a good view back to the falls. From here there is a short steep climb up to a road then the track drops again to the river and ambles along through a variety of terrain and vegetation. There are several short side tracks to points of interest along the way.
Craters of the Moon Walking Track
Time: 1 hour loop track
Follow SH 1 north from Taupo for approximately 6 km. Turn left into Karapiti Road. Continue for 1.5 km to the Craters of the Moon carpark. This is a walk with a difference in a lunar-like landscape. It is a dynamic thermal area formed when drilling began nearby at the Wairakei Geothermal field in the 1950s. The walk features sizzling and bubbling craters, mud pools and steam vents. Keep to the boardwalks as constant changes in thermal activity can make the ground unstable and dangerous. Cycling is not permitted on this track but is allowed on the adjacent Craters of the Moon Mountainbike Tracks.
Acacia Bay Walking Track
Time: Varies depending on distance and route taken.
Follow SH 1 north across the Control Gates, turn left onto Norman Smith Street, then left into Acacia Bay Road. Turn left into Te Kopua Street and park at the end of the cul-de-sac. The path starts in the Te Kopua Point Reserve and follows Acacia Bay Road and the lake edge from Te Kopua Point through Acacia Bay North to the Whangaroa Reserve in Acacia Bay South.
The path can be joined at various places along Acacia Bay Road, and varies from a lake edge track through grass or native trees, to a cobbled walkway along the side of the road. At Acacia Bay North, the path leaves the beach near the toilets, and follows the road around Waikereru Point between the two bays. The path then leaves the road before re-emerging on the lake edge reserve at Acacia Bay South near the Whangaroa Reserve boat ramp.
Rangatira Point Walking Track
Time: 1.5 hours return
Follow Acacia Bay Road past the boat ramp and on for another 2 km. The track starts at the first carpark on the left. The track leads around the lakeshore to Totara Bay. There is a large group of pines at Te Karaka Point at the far end of the bay. A side track from this point leads back to Acacia Bay Road. The main track continues to Rangatira Point then loops back to meet the road. Excellent lake views. Vehicle access to both ends of this track.
Whakamoenga Walking Track
Time: 1 hour return via the same track
Follow Acacia Bay Road to the road end carpark. Begin on the Rangatira Point Track. Turn right at the first junction. An easy graded track runs through the bush beside the lake around to Whakamoenga Point. There are good views across the lake from many points along the walkway. Please respect adjacent private property by staying on the track. Note: The Rangatira and Whakamoenga Point Tracks can be walked together (2.5 hours return).
Time: 20 minutes return
Connects Mapara Road to the end of Brunette Drive. A boardwalked track through native planting restoration areas. Magnificent views.
Kawakawa Bay Walking Track
Time: 4 hours return
Travel north from Taupo on SH 1 over the Waikato River. At the top of the hill turn left into Poihipi Road and follow signs to Kinloch (24 km). Go past the boat marina to a parking area by the beach in Nisbett Terrace. The track to Kawakawa Bay begins at the western end of the beach to the right of the parking area. The track entrance is signposted. Glorious views feature as the track climbs from Whangamata Bay and sidles along the top of a broad cliff. The bush is dominated by rewarewa but look out for the giant matai too. Once you reach the rocky lookout the track drops down to Kawakawa Bay.
Tahunatara Point Walking Track
Time: 1.5 hours return
Take SH 1 north out of Taupo, cross the Control Gates, turn left onto Norman Smith Street, left onto Acacia Bay Road, and right onto Mapara Road. Follow this for 6.7 km then turn left onto the unsealed Whakaipo Bay Road. Head down towards the beach then veer left to the track signs. Park beside the fence. The track begins across the Mapara Stream bridge. Cross the stile to the right of the bridge and follow the track markers past the boat ramp and along the lakeshore through regenerating bush. It’s an easy Taupo walk on level ground - ideal for families. There are several picnic and fishing spots along the way. At the end of the track there are views over the lake to Karangahape cliffs and the Tongariro National Park volcanoes. Walk a further five minutes to view Tahunatara Point. Return via the same route. Note: This track crosses private land leased by the department from the trustees of the ID2 Maori Land Trust. Please respect the landowners wishes and stay on the track.
Opepe Graves and Northern Walking Track
Time: 30 - 45 minutes, loop track
If you’d like some history mixed in with your walks around Taupo, follow the Napier/Taupo Highway (SH 5) 17 km from Taupo. The highway bisects Opepe Scenic and Historic Reserve and there are car parks on both sides of the road. On the northern side a short walk brings you to a graveyard where members of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry, who died in an engagement with followers of the Maori warrior Te Kooti, were buried. Later, residents of Opepe Township and the Armed Constabulary were also buried there. Continue around the bush loop track through mature podocarp (rimu, matai, miro) forest which is unusual in this region as so much was destroyed by the Taupo eruption of 186 AD and later by fires and the woodman’s axe.
Opepe Southern Walking Track
Time: 1 - 1.5 hours, loop track
To continue your walk through the colonial history of the Taupo area, carefully cross the road to southern loop track. Taking the track to the right from the car park you have the option of walking to a pitsaw pit and returning (20 minutes return) or continuing around the loop. Approximately 20 minutes past the pitsaw pit is an historic water trough and totara fence; relics of the old township. As you continue up the track to the site of Opepe township you cross the original Napier Taupo Road. At one time Opepe Township had a hotel, a store and several dwellings. The remains of water wells can still be seen. An armed constabulary stockade, occupied from 1869 to 1885, was situated on the western escarpment.
Waitahanui River Walking Tracks
Time: Varies depending on entry and exit points
Drive 12 km south from Taupo on SH 1 to Waitahanui. Park at the carpark near Waitahanui Bridge on the lake side of the road. The track begins on the true left of the river on the opposite side of the road from the lake and meanders alongside the Waitahanui River. These tracks are for fishing access. Be aware of anglers casting their lines in the numerous trout pools. The track upstream on the true left of the river is in scenic reserve as far as the third footbridge, and is open to the public. All other tracks are on private land and are open to angling license holders only.