Flights to Taupo: Little town, big lake
Experience TaupoTaupo is the beating heart of the North Island, home to massive Lake Taupo, the thundering Huka Falls, steaming Wairakei geysers and snowy volcanic mountains. Get amongst it. Paddle a kayak or cruise in comfort to ancient Maori rock carvings in Lake Taupo's western bays. Cast your line to tempt a fat trout. Bike, drive or walk the picturesque lake shore. Done all that? Now melt into a warm thermal pool.
Back to nature
Get all hot and steamy after your flight to Taupo. No, not in a sauna. Nature will do it for you, geothermal style. Run the gauntlet of hissing earth and steam at the Craters of the Moon thermal area. Explore Orakei Korako, a valley of white silica terraces, gushing geysers and boiling mud pools. It’s just a boat ride across Lake Ohakuri from the car park. The boat returns at the tinkle of a bell when you're ready.
Free and cheap
Mountain biking trails go from gentle to lung-busting on your Taupo holiday. If the cycling doesn't take your breath away, the views surely will: lush bush, rushing rivers, snow-capped mountains and, of course, the great lake itself. Hikers can stride out in dense forest parks or walk the mighty Waikato River. The two-hour Huka Falls Walkway follows an easy riverside path to the crashing cascades.
Cast a lazy line and try to tempt a rainbow trout. Fly fishing on the Tongariro River is an art form, and not as easy as the locals make it look. Rubber waders may not be high fashion but you’ll appreciate them when thigh-deep in these icy, snow-fed waters. Get your circulation going again in the hot springs of fern-shrouded Onekeneke Valley. Or on the links at one of Taupo's celebrated golf courses.
Where? Taupo sits on the northern shore of Lake Taupo, about three hours' drive south of Auckland.
Population: Around 34,000 people live in the Lake Taupo region, either in the town itself or on surrounding farms.
Key dates: Lake Taupo was created 26,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption so big that the resulting sun-haze was reported in China. The volcano has blown its stack 27 times since, mostly recently a mere 1,800 years ago.
Did you know? Around 62,000 gallons of water cascade over the Huka Falls every second. That's enough to fill two Olympic swimming pools.
Huka Lodge has hosted everyone from rock royalty to real royalty (think the Queen of England, Rod Stewart, Bill Gates and Barbra Streisand). Out of your price range? Try one of our family or motel picks instead.
Size isn’t everything; some of Taupo's dining delights are bite-sized. Kick-start your day with a hearty breakfast at Taste Café, lick your way through a decadent gelato from Kaffee Eis, then go all moody and modern at The Brantry.
Shopping in Taupo
Taupo's village-style shopping has plenty to tempt. Come over all nostalgic at the old-fashioned lolly shop. Pick up gourmet goodies and vintage wines from The Merchant. Rub shoulders with the locals and watch ponga tree carving at weekend markets.
Head to The Shed for the latest big-screen sports. Or do your own thing: a twilight round at Wairakei will earn you an ale at the '19th Hole'. Catch touring bands at the Great Lake Centre, or sup smooth Guinness at Finn MacCuhal's.
See the earth move in Wairakei Natural Thermal Valley, then find out how and why it happens at the Volcanic Activity Centre. Catch prawns for lunch, slurp sticky honey treats, then try to keep it all down on a jet boat adventure.