Fancy the ultimate alpine adventure this winter? Pack (or hire) the skis and head to Taupō on New Zealand’s North Island for an unforgettable winter experience. With world-class ski fields within easy reach, Taupō is the perfect base to explore the spectacular region. Revel in crisp sunny days on the slopes, relax in geothermal hot pools and taste your way around Taupō’s renowned craft breweries, cool-climate vineyards and restaurants – including New Zealand’s highest cafe.
Winter is a magical time in Taupō. With the longest snow season in Australasia extending from June to October, you’ll be spoilt for choice for skiing, snowboarding and snow play. Just over an hour’s drive south, lies the Whakapapa Ski Area on Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand’s only skiable volcano. It’s also New Zealand’s largest ski field with over 65 trails to explore, and terrain and snow conditions that cater for everyone.
Whakapapa is also home to the unique Sky Waka Gondola. Ride high above the rugged mountain landscape for an unforgettable dining experience at New Zealand’s highest cafe at an altitude of 2020m above sea level. The award-winning, architect-designed Knoll Ridge Chalet, perched atop the edge of Mount Ruapehu, offers breathtaking views year-round of the Pinnacles and the valley below.
If hiking is more your style, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is touted as the best one-day hike in New Zealand with a trail that winds for 19kms through the dual World Heritage-listed Tongariro National Park. Explore dramatic volcanic terrain complete with steaming vents and spectacular panoramic views. Afterwards, soak those tired muscles in the warm, healing waters of Taupō’s renowned geothermal hot pools at Wairakei Terraces or Taupō DeBretts Spa.
In winter, Taupō comes alive with the Taupō Winter Festival, an annual celebration of arts, culture and family fun held over ten days in the July school holidays. With giant light sculptures, glow in the dark candy floss, an ice rink and slide, face painting and fun zones, there are over 30 events to enjoy, as well as food trucks and the popular Pancake Breakfast.
Taupō is also known for its craft beer and cool-climate wines. The Crafty Trout Brewery uses alpine volcanic water to craft its award-winning cider and beer, with beer-matched food on offer. Relax by the fire with a cocktail and a tapas dinner at the popular Vine Eatery and Bar or taste superb local wines with wood-fired pizzas at the Floating Rock Vineyard & Cafe on the edge of Lake Taupō.
Explore wintertime Taupō
Tucked inside the vast caldera of the Taupō Volcano, with surrounding mountains dusted in snow, the region is awash with spectacular scenery to explore. Start with the majestic Huka Falls, a Taupō must-see. Marvel as the Waikato River roars through a narrow volcanic gorge and over the falls into the pool below. Take a jet boat or river cruise to the foot of the falls, or explore the nearby walking trails on foot.
Enjoy a scenic boat cruise around the tranquil bays of Lake Taupō and see the extraordinary 14-metre high ancient Māori rock carvings at Mine Bay. For an adrenaline-charged experience, try the thrill of whitewater rafting or a jet boat ride. Another great way to take in the Taupō sights is to walk or cycle The Great Lake Pathway, an easy family-friendly trail that winds for 10kms along the picturesque lakefront.
How to get there and where to stay
Taupō is 3hrs and 20min south of Auckland and 5 hours north of Wellington. A bus service runs from Auckland to Taupō. There’s also a small airport in Taupō, with daily flights from Auckland and Wellington. Places to stay include self-contained villas in landscaped grounds at Quality Suites Huka Falls, a 20-minute drive from Taupō airport.