New Zealand: Taupo
We left New Plymouth and headed for the central area of the North Island on our second day. A long drive after New Year’s!
The Campsite: Golden Springs Holiday Park, 4085 SH 5, midway Rotorua & Taupo, Golden Springs
We spent about three nights in the area but immediately regretted our chosen campsite. Most of the main Taupo campsites were booked out or had a higher minimum night stay.
We found a cheap one in between Taupo and Rotorua. It didn’t have great reviews but we thought we’d live – boy were we wrong.
Everything was old and dirty, attracting moths and insects all over the place. We dreaded going to the bathroom or having a shower because it was that bad. What we learnt – listen to reviews!
The only good thing about it was that it had a natural thermal pool – but there wasn’t much light for us to find it at night. It has potential if it went through a major upgrade, but it doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon.
Huka Prawn Park, Karetoto Rd, Wairakei
There are a few things to do in the area and we thought we tried the prawn fishing park. We’ve visited many trout and fish farm equivalents in Victoria but we’ve never fished prawns.
When we did catch a prawn, I had the usual girly reaction – panic and squeal until a stranger put it in our bucket for us. Although it was good to have a catch, we had another problem – it kept trying to escape!
It seemed to be doing pushups to get out of the bucket and at one point whilst we were peacefully fishing, we heard it jump out! We panicked because we didn’t want to pick it up but it was moving back towards the pond.
It actually made it. It made it back to the pond. But we asked someone for help and he quickly snatched it before it fully escaped and we breathed a sigh of relief.
After no more luck at catching anything, we lined up at the pot to boil our prawn. We saw some other people caught lots, but we were just content our one didn’t get away!
Kerosene Creek, Old Walotapu Rd, Waiotapu
A local in the kitchen at our campsite recommended this natural thermal pool spot. It sounded like such a hidden gem but when we arrived, the carpark was almost full.
After a muddy walk through the trees, we saw the creek and people lounging in different areas. The end had a mini waterfall where people would stand under for a few seconds and enjoy the heat (my one phone photo doesn’t do it justice).
Think of it as a small, public version of Mornington Peninsula hot springs. Sadly Australia doesn’t have these natural geothermal features to enjoy.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The next few days were rainy and foggy – this meant our aim to complete the Tongariro Crossing fell through. The crossing is apparently the highlight of the North Island, a day hike for about 7-8 hours across mountains and Lord of the Rings scenery.
Its climate means it’s very weather dependent. If it’s rainy and windy it can be dangerous and you miss out on the views, so it’s not really worth it. The shuttles that run to the start of the walk are supposed to contact you if the weather is bad enough to cancel.
I read great reviews about Tongariro Expeditions shuttle service, but we received no notifications about cancelling even though we checked the weather and it didn’t look suitable at all. When we called the service’s hotline, the weather report was from a few days back. We had to email and Facebook message the morning of to confirm, but we had already made the executive decision not to drive there. We’ll be back one day to conquer you!
Huka Falls, Wairakei Tourist Park
So what do you do on rainy days in Taupo? Even Lake Taupo was grey and misty (below), not living up to its hype.
We decided to drop by Huka Falls, a popular attraction. This lived up to its popularity – the water is an amazing colour, a crystal blue, easily beating any Australian waterfall I’ve seen.
There’s also some walks through the forest, so we decided to do a bit of geocaching to pass the time. Check out the awesome cache we found below – it definitely suits us and our travel style, reminding us of our campervan trip around Tasmania.
Waipahihi Botanical Reserve: Corner Shepherd Road & Hyde Avenue, Waipahihi, Taupo
These gardens are another little spot to visit in the town of Taupo. You can drive through the garden but that only takes five minutes, so we got out of the car after for stroll. There’s a nice little bench looking over Lake Taupo and there are lots of nooks and crannies of the garden to explore.
There were a few caches in the park so that helped add to the fun of exploring once again!
It’s unfortunate we had to experience some bad weather during our stay, but that’s the fun of holidays, dealing with the unexpected. I’m still bummed over missing the Tongariro Crossing but luckily Australia isn’t far for another visit!