Winter Weekend Retreat

Escape the city rat-race with a winter weekend retreat to Taupo, the North Island of New Zealand's ultimate ski and snow resort town.

Whakapapa Ski Area

It's 3pm and you are slumping hard on what can only be described as the dullest day of all time in the office. It's one of those truly miserable winter days where it's never even really got bright. Rain has been pouring all day meaning that even running out for a coffee and treat is out of the question (unless you really want to rock a full blown 70's afro for the rest of the day).

But then you get a message. The snow report is looking good this weekend. The road trip to Great Lake Taupo and the finest ski field in New Zealand, Mt Ruapehu, is on! And so begins the winter weekend to beat all winter weekends.

Snow ball fights at Knoll Ridge Cafe, New Zealand's highest cafe

Grab your ski gear, casual clothes, dressy clothes, underclothes, hairdryer, hair straightener, one of those giant 1960's hairdresser machines that you put your whole entire noggin in, your favourite lamp, the kitchen sink, a full size replica of a steam engine - bring it all mate! If it fits in the car, on the car, in the trailer or within the replica steam engine you're towing; it's coming. That's the beauty of a North Island ski trip - no need to worry about squeezing everything into suitcase.

Enjoy the leisurely drive out of the city. Feel free to scoff at the other grey-faced, office dwellers as you cruise passed. It only takes a few hours to get to Great Lake Taupo and once you’re out of the city limits only the odd tractor, horse-trailer or rebellious sheep is going to slow you down.

The view of Lake Taupo and the Tongariro National Park from Mount Tauhara

You arrive refreshed, revitalized and ready for action in Great Taupo and check into your accommodation. There are heap of options - hotel, motel or holiday inn (Say what? Ok, there are no Holiday Inns... but pretty flash backpackers doesn't fit as well with SugarHill Gang beats).

Drop off the steam engine, get your number ones on and get ready to hit the town. There are heaps of great restaurants and bars in Taupo. Classy local favourites on a Friday night include Vine Eatery and Plateau. Feeling a little bit loose? Kick on at Pitch Bar or Finn MacCuhals - both have live music on the weekends.

Vine Eatery in Taupo

Don't worry about setting the alarm clock - it's the weekend mate! After a lie-in, head to one of the many delicious cafes in Taupo. The Storehouse has excellent coffee and breakfast delights, all served from a hipster-dream renovated warehouse. For the health-conscious, BodyFuel serves fresh, organic, gluten, sugar-free and incredibly delicious meals. Or take your time exploring the fresh produce and treasures at the Taupo Saturday Market.

Storehouse cafe in Taupo

With almond latte in hand, take a stroll to the Mt Ruapehu Snow Depot. From here you can hire gear, buy lift passes, organise a lesson and hop on the shuttle bus to Whakapapa Ski Area and Happy Valley. The shuttle bus allows you to relax, chill out and enjoy the stunning drive around Lake Taupo and through the Tongariro National Park to the ski field.

Chateau Tongariro at the base of Whakapapa Ski Area

Whakapapa Ski Area is the largest commercial ski area in New Zealand with heaps of runs for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders. If you're new to snow, Happy Valley is the place for you. It's a dedicated beginners area where you can safely learn to ski, tobogganing, have a snow ball fight or build a snowman. Inhale that fresh mountain air and get amongst it.

Don't worry about the time. Whakapapa Ski Area is offering night skiing on Friday and Saturday nights from 4pm to 9pm. The lower mountain will be yours to explore as you watch the sunset and the stars come out. A pretty magical experience you won't forget!

Lunch-break at Knoll Ridge Cafe

Have a tipple over a meal in the Knoll Ridge Cafe, New Zealand's highest cafe with award winning architecture, a fully licensed bar and a tasty food menu. You'll get stunning views across the North Island of New Zealand's Central Plateau from the sunny deck. Inside, you'll find floor to ceiling windows framing The Pinnacles. After you've had your fill of snowy fun, it's time to hop back on the mountain shuttle to Taupo. 

Night skiing at Whakapapa Ski Area

Need to warm up? How about jumping in a geothermally heated hot pool? Lake Taupo was formed from one of the biggest volcanic eruptions recorded in history. The crater it left behind filled with water to become the biggest lake in New Zealand and the biggest freshwater lake in Australasia.

You will find hot springs of gloriously mineral rich hot water and geothermal steam throughout the region. If your accommodation doesn't offer hot pools (which lots of them do) then check out Taupo DeBretts or the adults only Wairekei Terraces.

Wairakei Terraces geothermal hot pools, Taupo

After another good night’s sleep, wake up to a leisurely brunch. Filled to the brim, make your way to Taupo Harbour for a scenic lake cruise. Experience the vastness of Australasia's largest freshwater lake and visit the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings - New Zealand's most extraordinary artwork.

Sail to the Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings

No trip to Taupo would be free without checking out Huka Falls or the #LOVETAUPO lettering. Huka Falls is the most photographed waterfall natural attraction in New Zealand for a reason. The 11-metre high waterfall has the most incredibly clear blue water.

The #LOVETAUPO lettering located on Taupo's lakefront has quickly become an icon of the town. Visitors and locals can't get enough of taking photos of, in, around or through these letters.

A photo with the #LOVETAUPO lettering is a must

Hop in the car, head home, post pics online and make all your friends, family, co-workers, ex-partners, favourite coffee shop barista, local dairy worker and the adorable neighbourhood kitten very jealous. 

For more information and bookings contact the team at Taupo iSite at, 0800 LAKE TAUPO (0800 525 382) or +64 7 376 0027.

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