Highway 5 joins Highway 1 a short time later, which leads to Taupo. Before you arrive in Taupo, you may want to stop for a short visit to the Huka Village, a cross between a pioneer village and a museum. This typical small New Zealand town doesn’t have anything special to offer except for its charming location. The view from the promenade embraces the 40-km-long and 30-km-wide Lake Taupo, with the snow-covered peaks of the Tongariro National Park mountain range towering behind its southern section. Beautiful Lake Taupo is the “active” center of North Island. The lake fills a huge volcanic crater which last shook the entire region about 1800 years ago. If you want to discover the lake, you can book one of the many boat tours.
De Bretts Aviation conducts flying tours to the volcanoes of Tangariro National Park in biplanes. They leave from Taupo airport. The best time to see the mountains is in the morning.
Before passing the sign indicating that you are leaving the town of Taupo, Highway 5 branches off to the left, heading towards Napier at Hawke Bay (144 km). You are about to cross the impressive Ahimanawa Mountain Range with its beautiful valleys and rocky slopes. This part of the country is very sparsely inhabited.
Trout and Fanatics
The majority of tourists remain on Highway 1 and drive the 51 km to Turangi. There are numerous scenic picnic spots situated all along this route which follows the shore of the lake. Turangi, with its 6000 inhabitants, is considered one of the world’s best fishing grounds. There is an abundance of trout in the nearby rivers as well as in Lake Taupo. No wonder the inhabitants of Taupo call themselves fish fanatics. What else could they be with such excellent fishing opportunities?
It’s very easy to acquire a fishing license. It only costs about NZ$ 10 a day. The license is valid for approximately 40 lakes, rivers and reservoirs. In order to avoid “over-fishing,” the government has imposed a bag limit. This means that anglers are not permitted to catch more than three trout a day. In addition, fishing is only permitted at certain times of the year in the four different fishing regions. Detailed information may be obtained from the National Turangi Trout Centre or at the Department of Conservation.
Even if you have little interest in trout fishing, Turangi is the ideal starting point for a trip to Tongariro National Park.
Whether you are planning a trip lasting one or several days, it’s best to take Highway 47 from Turangi (Te Ponanga Saddle Road with splendid views of Lake Rotoaira) to the National Park before turning left towards Chateau Tongariro.
Not only do most of the hiking trails start out from Whakapapa Village, this also is where the excellent Information Centre run by the Department of Conservation is located. There are also a large number of opportunities for overnight stays, from very basic camping sites to chalets.