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Sightseeing Knoll Ridge Cafe Whakapapa Ski Area
A Non-Skiers Guide to Winter Holidaying in Taupo
The perfect winter holiday doesn't have to involve hurtling down a snowy mountain at lightning speed, so if you’re new to snow here are some tips on how to get the most from your winter getaway in Taupo.
From Turangi, you start to weave uphill towards the Tongariro National Park. This National Park has Dual World Heritage status for its unique natural beauty and cultural significance. It is easy to see why local Maori hold the majestic mountains, Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe as sacred - with their snowcapped peaks dominating the skyline, it is truly an awe-inspiring sight.
Whakapapa Ski Area
Whakapapa Ski Area is New Zealand’s largest commercial ski area, though don’t be alarmed if you are new to the snow as Whakapapa is home to New Zealand’s premiere beginners area – Happy Valley. Here you can throw a snowball, build a snowman or try tobogganing in the country’s largest beginner ski and snow play area, or just sit grab a coffee and enjoy that fresh mountain air.
Knoll Ridge Cafe
From the base of Whakapapa, you can take a scenic chairlift ride up the mountain to the Knoll Ridge Café, whilst watching skiers and snowboarders show off their moves. Situated at 2,020m above sea level, it is New Zealand’s highest cafe.
Here you will find great coffee, gourmet fare and incredible views overlooking the Pinnacles and out over the Central Plateau of New Zealand's North Island. On a clear day you can see right across the Central Plateau from Lake Taupo to Mt Taranaki, a truly epic panorama!
Geothermal hot pools
There is plenty to fill a winters day around Taupo town if you are not interested in heading to the snowy slopes of Whakapapa. Taupo is a volcanic, geothermal wonderland with several geothermal hot pools, perfect for a relaxing soak.
Relax and unwind in the healing mineral waters of Wairakei Terraces; an adults-only geothermal resort uniquely situated below magnificent silica terraces or take the family to Taupo De Bretts Spa Resort where you will find multiple geothermal pools and three hydroslides for family fun. The AC Baths is another family friendly option with two hydroslides, a bombing zone and rope swing.
Pumice soil = white gold!
It’s not only skiers that benefit from brilliant terrain as result of ancient volcanic activity. Derived from one of the greatest volcanic eruptions ever known, the region’s free-draining pumice soil means excellent cycling, hiking, golfing and mountain biking conditions year-round – even in the middle of winter.
Grab an e-bike from one of the local bike shops and take a cruise along the Great Lake Walkway from town to the 2 Mile Bay Sailing Club and enjoy a hot coffee and muffin with a grand view out over the lake. Or for the more adventurous rider, head towards Spa Thermal Park and link into the Rotary Ride – allow a leisurely 2-3 hours to complete the 5.5km grade 3 trail from Spa Thermal Park to Huka Falls and back.
There is a magnitude of walking tracks throughout the region, catering to every ability, so pack a jacket and get out for a nature hike amongst the beautiful native bush and discover some stunning lake and river views.
You don’t have to be on the mountain to experience après ski, take a wander before dinner and see the town come to life with fairy light-lined streets and cosy bars and restaurants with hearty winter food menus, mulled wine and crackling fires.
There’s locally brewed Lakeman craft beer and wood-fired pizza on the lakefront, gourmet cuisine at top end restaurants and family-friendly dining throughout the town. Many of these establishments offer spectacular sunset views and a vista of Lake Taupō with the snowcapped mountains of Tongariro National Park in the distance.
Taupo is a winter wonderland full of options for those who are new to snow - with premier mountain facilities for beginners and a range of off-mountain experiences to keep everyone entertained this winter.