After leaving Rotorua, we drove to Taupo, which is located centrally on the North Island. Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand, and the town of Taupo, on its north end, has a population around 24,000 people.

It’s known for being a center of volcanic and geothermal activity—but unlike Rotorua (which is stinky), Taupo is not stinky, and is well known known for hot springs! It’s not nearly as “touristy” as Rotorua, and was a quieter stop during this busy Chinese New Year holiday!

We found a great, basic Taupo rental just West of town in a beautiful neighborhood. It had two bedrooms, and featured sealed plywood floors (we came across this numerous times in NZ)! The landlord lived next door, and rented this home out as a vacation rental to visitors:

The view from kitchen sink looked out towards the lake.

Just down the street was a park which we visited frequently.

The day after we arrived in town, I was shocked to get a message from an old college roommate, Lilian (who lives in Texas and loves to galavant around the world), telling me that she also was in Taupo while on a two-week stint in New Zealand! We hadn’t seen each other for at least 15 years (likely more)! Our visit was short, but sweet!

We were able to attend church in Taupo, and found the ward to be kind and welcoming. I introduced myself to three of the Young Women and asked them what their favorite activities were (so I could report back to my YW in Oregon). I was surprised to hear them rave about “net ball”, which I had to get an explanation for. It’s essentially New Zealand’s more-popular version of basketball (no dribbling or running with the ball, and no backboard). Who knew, right?

We had a lot of heavy, rainy weather while we were in Taupo, so we often stayed in the rental house and were fortunate that our host brought over some movies that helped keep the kids entertained.

One day we ventured out to Huka Honey Hive, which is a great spot to taste some authentic New Zealand honey of various flavors! This gift shop features an extensive tasting station, it also has a great informative area for kids to learn about bees and bee-keeping. We enjoyed looking through the glass to view the live bees at work in a beehive that was accessible to the bees from the outside.

But of course…the true highlight was the tasting station! Who knew there could be so many flavors?!! Every white sign below represents a different flavor (and this is just one half of the display):

Our very favorite honey turned out to be Lavendar Honey! It’s light, flowery, and oh-so-divine! Nothing like the manuka honey that New Zealand is famous for, or any type of “honey” you can find in the US. While New Zealand grocery stories have several rows dedicated to various flavors of honey, it seems the US just sticks to the golden honey-bear type flavor that I’ve never really enjoyed all that much.

The prices at Honey Hive were high, but there’s no comparing these honeys to the bland ones we’re used to. We bought a few very small jars that we rationed throughout our NZ travels.

One of the best highlights of our stay included going to AC Baths, which is a family-friendly recreation center with a complex outdoor pools, a “hydroslide” (waterslide), and indoor lesson/swimming lanes. But what makes it extra-special is that the pools are thermally heated using natural hot spring water (not stinky!). We spent hours soaking in the bathwater-like water, while it was fairly chilly outside and even rained on us for awhile.

A sign in the entrance indicated the water’s temperatures that day (in Celcius, of course):

And just for kicks, I took photos of a few other signs with the quirky New Zealand verbiage that always makes me smile:

And don’t forget your “togs”, okay?

We ended up staying longer than expected at the pools as we waited for the hydroslide to open (after school hours). What we didn’t realize then was that the privilege of riding the slide cost an extra $5 each for unlimited rides. Ouch! They let each child do one run for free, and we decided it wasn’t worth the extra $5 (when the children’s admittance to the pools was already $4/each).


A few other signs in Taupo also made me smile:

And I must admit…New Zealanders know how to “merge like a zip”!! They respectfully merge one car at a time, like a zipper. Apparently, Americans just can’t figure this out…

Baby food flavors often feature lamb, a New Zealand staple:

I may have fed my baby some spring lamb, but I skipped the mint peas, which I hear are quite good!

We told our landlord we were undecided about where to head after Taupo, and we asked if he had recommendations.  He mentioned that we wouldn’t be able to find accommodations in Napier, on the East Coast, during the following weekend. We inquired why, and he told us about the Napier Art Deco Festival . Of course it sounded amazing, and after further investigation and great lucky at finding a last-minute accommodation, off we went to the Coast, after all!

As we drove East towards Napier/Hawkes Bay, we enjoyed gorgeous vistas out the window:


I wouldn’t mind doing that drive again!

We returned briefly to Taupo at the end of our trip, on our return drive up from the South Island in April. The weather was clearer by then, so we stopped by Huka Falls, which is the biggest natural tourist attraction in Taupo.

Overall, Taupo is a sweet and simple town with enough to do, and yet not too much. It is sooo much less touristy than Rotorua, and the small-town feel was a great fit for our family.

My name is Alisa, and I love traveling the world with my adventurous husband and rambunctious 5 small children. I am passionate about gorgeous scenery, meeting new people, and I’m a certified salad nut. Most of all, I love making memories with my family, and I enjoy sharing our travels with others!

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