Taupō is such a great family destination and with its dazzling array of free family adventures you'll need to stay a few days to explore forests, lakes and raging rivers. Then, stroll down to the Waikato River and soak away a few hours in the steamy Otumuheke Stream. Here are some of our top free family adventures in Taupō.
OTUMUHEKE STREAM | Spa Thermal Park
The thermal waters of Otumuheke Stream collide with the chilly Waikato River and creates a picturesque spot to soak weary adventurers. It is not a hidden gem anymore but still worth a visit.
This thermal hot spot is a drawcard for locals and tourists to splash around in the mingling waters to find their perfect “natural hot tub” temperature. The stream is busy both day and night. In the evenings it can sometimes get a little raucous with tourists. So, if you don’t fancy jumping in with the masses, visit earlier in the day. Although, if it’s busy there are newly installed platforms to perch on and survey the landscape.
The stream area underwent a major refurbishment in late 2018 and has gone from a rustic gem only known to the locals, to a popular chill-out spot. The nearby Spa Thermal Park is ideal for a family outing to tire out even the most energetic kids.
TIME: Allow 10 min to walk to the stream.
ACCESSIBILITY: Fully accessible on a wide concrete path. Steps down to the water.
DOGS: Dogs on leads.
LOCATION: Park at Spa Thermal Park on County Avenue off Spa Road. Plenty of parking. Follow the footpath down to the Waikato River.
IMPORTANT: This adventure is not suitable for unsupervised children. Gates to Spa Thermal Park are locked between 8pm and 7am.
ŌPEPE NORTHERN LOOP | Napier Taupō Highway (SH5)
This mini adventure is close to Taupō and it is all about the trees. There are ginormous trees to peer up at, clamber over and even ones with dark holes in their trunks to climb through…if you are brave enough.
This undulating trail passes through a mature podocarp forest with wizened trees looming overhead. Many of the trees survived extensive fires and logging, so today you can see enormous rimu trees and climb through hollowed out trunks. Interpretative signs give you an insight into this remarkable forest remnant. In its heyday, the Ōpepe township boasted a hotel, a store and homes for 120 residents.
Ōpepe was the scene of a one-sided skirmish between European militia and Māori rebels in June 1869. Nine members of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry were killed when a band of Māori warriors led by Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki stumbled across their camp. A soldier in the middle of drying his uniform managed to escape naked across rough country in the middle of winter to safety! A small side track leads to a cemetery where the soldiers are buried.
TIME: Allow 30 to 45 min to explore the 1.5km loop.
ACCESSIBILITY: The trail is well graded and suitable for outdoorsy buggies.
LOCATION: Ōpepe Scenic and Historic Reserve is 17km from Taupō on the Napier Taupō Highway (SH5).
WHAKAMOENGA POINT | Acacia Bay South
This easy trail leads to flat volcanic rocks jutting out into Lake Taupō. Explore the shallow rock pools, spot the fish or take a dip.
This family adventure sidles alongside Lake Taupō with views towards Tongariro National Park through the trees. Halfway along, there is a paved turning bay for the nearby gated community. Walk to the end and keep following the “public access” signs back into the bush. There is a small concrete jetty which is fun to have a quick clamber over before continuing along the path. A small junction leads to an initial flat rock formation but the main one is further along, which has more space to spread out a picnic.
Keep an eye out for kayakers and sailing boats passing by as they head around the corner to see the famous Mine Bay Māori rock carving of Ngātoroirangi. The faces are not visible from this walk though.
TIME: Allow 30 min one-way to the point.
ACCESSIBILITY: Walking only for this one.
DOGS: Dogs on leads at all times.
LOCATION: Follow Acacia Bay Road until you reach the Private Access sign. Plenty of roadside park available. This is the third car park you’ll see along the final section of road.