I remember the very first time that I saw Lake Taupo. It was on my drive down from Auckland; I had just arrived on my working holiday and I was eager to see all the beautiful sights that I discovered when doing my research before the trip.
As my Intercity bus detoured through Taupo on my way to Napier, I was mesmerized. The sun was shining, it was summer, and people were walking along the lakefront laughing and eating ice creams. It was an absolute beaut. And then when I arrived with my Au Pair family and they told me we were going on holiday to a place called Kinloch, just besides Taupo, I couldn’t wait to go back and explore.
The family own a little Bach (I didn’t have a clue what this was when I first arrived. Turns out it’s a Kiwi summer home) in Kinloch, which is about a 25 minute drive from Taupo, in a bay of its own around Lake Taupo.
Kinloch is very cute. It’s small with one shop, and one restaurant, and only a handful of homes that are usually only inhabited of a summer. It was certainly not party central but it looked like the ideal place for families wanting a week away from life. We spent our first evening in Kinloch munching on Pizza from the shop and dipping our toes in the waters edge, watching as the locals jet skied across the lake. The boys skimmed stones, laughing at the sound they made as they often just plummeted straight into the water, and we watched as the most breathtakingly beautiful sunset sank behind the distant mountains. My evening ended with a film with the boys. Any guesses on what that film was? The Hobbit. Hmm.
A 6am wake up call from Ralph (2 year old) the follow morning meant that my first full day in Kinloch got off to an early start. After cuddles with the three boys in my bed, we all had breakfast and got dressed before piling into the car and heading towards Taupo for our first activity of the day. The family spent the entire journey telling me that they were taking me to the moon, so you can imagine my surprise when we pulled into ‘The Craters of The Moon‘ car park. Pardon?
The Crates of the Moon
They had brought me to a site of geothermal disturbance, where pools of boiled water are heated below the surface and burst through the ground creating shoots of steam. The volcanic activity beneath my feet meant that new ‘craters’ could be formed at any moment. I was fascinated. We followed the path through the park, looking out for red and black heated rock and the bubbly pools of mud. It was quite a challenge keeping the three boys on the path as they were excited by the new areas to explore. I told them that if they fell in they would get burnt and their skin might fall off; to which the boys replied, ‘COOL!’ (Parenting 101: don’t encourage the children to boil themselves alive.) There was a slight Jurassic Park feel to the site, more so than the moon, but it was eerily cool nonetheless.
The cost to go in was $20 for a family or $8 for an adult, and the walk takes approx. 45 minutes to do the full loop. It’s a great little walk, and an even better way to entertain three little boys for an hour too!
Our next stop of the day was about a 10 minute drive from Craters of the Moon, to a stunning waterfall named Huka Falls. ‘Huka’, meaning ‘Foam’, reflects how the water appears almost soap-y after its cascade down and over the rocks. A bit like fire, I find that moving water can often have a hypnotic effect, so I spent the best part of twenty minutes just staring. Did I look like a loon? Probably. But not as much of a loon as the woman who had taken the boat ride to the bottom of the waterfall and now had mascara in places that mascara should not be. (Although this looked really fun by the way, so definitely check out Hukafalls Jet if you want to get up close and personal with the waterfall.)
At this point in the day we began to feel a little bit tourist-ed out (by that I mean we’d had enough of rubbing shoulders with bizarre Japanese holidaymakers, who felt the need to strike yoga poses in front of the camera for half an hour) and so we headed back to Kinloch for an afternoon by the lake. The two eldest boys were fully entertained by some fish and a net, so it meant that I only had the worry of keeping one child alive whilst Emma went for a run. We did a lot of splashing and rock throwing, and an awful lot of squealing at how cold the water was (more so myself than Ralph). But it was super relaxing to just sit on the black sands and watch the children playing, and the speedboats jetting across the water. It’s not quite the same vibe at Southend as it is at Kinloch.
We returned back to the Bach for dinner, where Emma had prepared a BBQ, and sat outside and ate dinner with the mosquitoes/ sandflies whilst watching the sun set over the lake.The boys then thought it would be a great idea to whack out the second Hobbit film (because I hadn’t been introduced to Gollum yet and of course I couldn’t miss out on that…) and so our evening ended with the image of a balding creature crouched over a shabby piece of jewellery.
Our Sunday morning began as early as our Saturday, but the cries of the baby were drowned out by an excitable voice on a megaphone. It was Stanley’s race day. He’d entered a ‘Try’athalon for children, which meant he had a 100m swim followed by a 1 K race. I watched over the other two boys as Emma followed Stan around his course, cheering him on and taking photos at every step. Sometimes parents don’t realise how great they are for just being there, and it was nice to see her being so supportive of her son’s race. Stanley finished in second place, a great achievement and a well deserved spot, especially as some of the other children found ways to cheat. The thing I love about New Zealand is how outdoorsy everyone seems to be. So many families enter themselves and their children into triathlons, and 5k runs, and family runs, and runs over mountains; whilst in the UK we consider a family event to be dinner down the pub.
Ernest Kemp – Maori Carvings
The second time that I went to Taupo/Kinloch with the Easthope family, I managed to get an afternoon off by myself to head into Taupo to go for a boat ride out to see some Maori Carvings.
My boat ride was with a company called Ernest Kemp, on the most darling little boat (quite old fashioned, painted green and white with gold lettering) for a price of $30 – although I’ve since heard that they’ve put the prices up to $44 per adult. Although there is a 5pm cruise that offers complimentary wine, beer and pizza, so that one would be a good option with some friends. The cruise takes around 2 hours, and has a great commentary as you go so that you not only learn about the carvings but you learn about the lake too. Being one of the largest crater lakes in the world I found the commentary fascinating, and when you’re sailing through the lake it can be hard to believe that it’s possible to have a crater as large as it is. The maori carvings themselves are so interesting, and beautifully designed. There is an option to kayak over to them too, but the boat proved a much more relaxing experience.
Huka Prawn Park
Again, the second time that I went over to Taupo with the Easthopes we ended up at the Huka Prawn Park. Now, I wasn’t overly excited about this, if I’m completely honest, but the three boys were desperate to go. They all love the outdoors, they all LOVE fishing, and they all love food – and the prawn farm has all three.
Essentially, what you do, is you go and sit by one of the few prawn lakes that the prawn park have (and have farmed lots of prawns there so it should be impossible not to catch at least one prawn) and you wait with your rod in the water until a prawn takes the bait. Anyway, it didn’t take even 5 minutes for me to realise how much fun it was! It’s so funny because you are constantly getting prawns on the end of your rod, but they haven’t fully hooked themselves onto the end of your line. So you have to wait and ‘take the prawn for a walk’, so your line is walking all around the pond for ages until they finally bite and you can reel them in. Except you have to be so patient as it takes ages for them to bite.
Anyway, we had hardly been there for twenty seconds before two year old Ralph caught a prawn! And then we waited for maybe three hours until anyone else caught one. SO maybe it’s not as easy as it sounds… But we all loved it, despite our lack of success. And we got to eat the two prawns that we caught there, which is always a bonus.
(I can’t remember the costs for this, but I THINK it’s free until you actually catch a prawn???) The park is great because there’s actually so much more to do aside from the fishing – Stanley and I went in a little row boat, there was a treasure hunt track, trout feeding, little walks and parks, and of course a restaurant serving all sorts of fish (and prawns). Overall it was a great day out, and the boys were happy too.
Other Taupo Activities
A lot of people head over to Queenstown for their adrenaline fix, but Taupo some equally exciting activities too.
Why not try out a bungee jump over the waters of Lake Taupo, or Skydive and see just how large this beautiful crater lake is from above?
Some other fun bits and bobs include:
- Lake Taupo Hole in one Challenge
- Hot Pools
- White water rafting
- Walk The Tongariro Crossing
- Huka Falls Jet
- Trout fishing
- Botantical Gardens
And failing that, there’s a number of bars, restaurants and cafes with spectacular views over the lake, so that would be a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.