Taupo is a small lakeside town in the central North Island of New Zealand. It is a huge tourist destination partly due to its location, but also because of the giant Lake Taupo that the town is built around – New Zealand’s biggest lake. The Waikato river also runs through Taupo, which is New Zealand’s longest river.
Taupo is definitively a destination in its own right and it has plenty to offer to visitors (see 4 great things to do in Taupo here). But there are so many places nearby to do great day trips from Taupo, so it is also a place to stay if you are wanting to have a central base and stay for a longer period of time in one place. It is just incredible how close and accessible so many stunning places in the North Island are from Taupo!
These are some day trips from Taupo that you can do:
Day trips less than two hours from Taupo:
Distance from Taupo: 71km (1 hour by car)
If you haven’t heard of it, the Tongariro crossing is named one of the best day hikes in the world, and definitely not to be missed if you are in New Zealand’s North Island. The good news is that it is a short distance from Taupo town centre. There are shuttle buses running daily to take you to the entrance in the morning and pick you up in the afternoon when you’re done and take you back to Taupo. Check out my guide to the crossing here.
Mount Ruapehu & Whakapapa Ski Fields
Distance from Taupo: 104km (1hour 30 min by car)
The best place to ski in the North Island is Mount Ruapehu, and Whakapapa has some great slopes for beginners to advanced. Aside from skiing, you can also toboggan and snowboard. It is better to go here in Winter as the skifields are closed during Summer time, but if you’re there at the right time definitely check out this activity.
If you’re looking for somewhere a bit different to go on Mt Ruapehu, check out my guide to Tukino ski field. Tukino is even closer to Taupo than Whakapapa, at 87km (about a one hour drive).
Distance from Taupo: 80km (1 hour by car | 1 hour 30 min by bus)
Rotorua is another place you could spend several days, but if you are time-constrained, a day trip is very doable. Rotorua is the thermal capital of New Zealand, so you will find lots of natural hot springs and natural wonders. If you are into adventure sports, Rotorua also has a great adventure park home to the original Zorb and the luge, among other things. It is also very strong in indigenous Maori culture, which is another area to explore.
Putaruru Blue Springs
Distance from Taupo: 88km (1 hour by car)
This place is simply stunning, and one of New Zealand’s many hidden gems. This is part of a river that moves incredibly fast. The water here is so fresh and pure that it fills around 70% of our country’s bottled water. So, if you have had bottled water from New Zealand – chances are it was sourced from here.
Distance from Taupo: 120km (1 hour 30 min by car)
If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, you simply can’t miss this perfectly preserved movie set from the Hobbitton. Here you will find their tiny houses and learn more about where and how it was all filmed.
Distance from Taupo: 120km (1 hour 40 min by car)
This is the perfect place to go if you need to get away from it all and be ‘at one’ with nature. Te Urewera features some amazing hikes with the stunning natural bush that New Zealand is famous for, as well as truly immense waterfalls. When it’s so close to Taupo, you really shouldn’t miss out!
Day trips further out from Taupo (but still doable)
Distance from Taupo: 150km (2 hours by car | 2 hours 50 minutes by bus)
Tauranga is a beautiful city, home to the most famous mount of New Zealand, Mount Maunganui. A great surf location as well, so hit it up if you are in Taupo and want to catch some waves for the day or hike up a mountain.
Distance from Taupo: 280km (3 hours 30 min by car)
The furthest of these day trips from Taupo that I have listed, but in my opinion it is totally worth the journey. The region it is part of, Taranaki, has been named as the second best undiscovered region of 2017 by Lonely Planet. New Plymouth is a city with advanced architecture and infrastructure, a beautiful boardwalk and stunning beaches, among many other things. It is definitely doable in a day from Taupo, but if you can, it is well worth it to stay and explore for longer.
Distance from Taupo: 140km (2 hours by car| 2 hours by bus)
Napier is unique in New Zealand for its art – Art Deco buildings, street art, and home to some great art and music festivals, it definitely has something to offer that cannot be ignored.
Distance from Taupo: 150km (2 hours by car)
These caves are famous for the glow worms that light up the darkness. You can spend a while here exploring, and it is a real marvel if you’ve never seen anything like it (I mean, they’re worms that are lights!)
>For those wanting to go further North, or if you are staying closer to Auckland, check out We The Lost Girls’ article on the best day trips from Auckland!
Where to stay in Taupo:
My favourite place to stay in Taupo is a little self-contained holiday flat close to lake Taupo called At 2 Tobin Place.
It is a lovely place to stay in quiet suburbia; and the unit is the perfect size for a single or couple. It is private, super-clean, super-cosy, and everything you could possibly need. 5 minutes away from Lake Taupo, but still on the outskirts of town, it is in the perfect location to either roam around nearby or easily escape on any day trips from Taupo!
- If you need more inspiration to visit New Zealand, check out why I think New Zealand is the best country in the world
- If you want to know more about what to do in the North Island of New Zealand, find 23 free things to do in the North Island here.
Do you want more help planning your day trips from Taupo? Subscribe to The Wandering Linguist blog by email and receive a ‘Day Trips from Taupo’ interactive map with directions and printable map totally FREE!
Have you travelled the North Island? Anything I’ve missed from the list? Let me know in the comments below!~
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