A Brief Introduction

Taupo | New Zealand

Located on the North Island of New Zealand, Taupo is known for being situated next to the biggest lake in the country and having scenic views from the mountains of Tongariro National Park.

The city itself is small and heavy relies on tourism activities such as jet boating, skydiving and all kinds of water sports. The main attraction with Taupo is being close proximately with nature. With the very popular Huka falls, Lake Taupo, the Waikato River and natural hot springs which are all free to visit.

While inside the town (CBD) you can easily walk around from place to place but getting to the main attractions would require a vehicle. Making life a lot easier. A lot of people joke that Taupo is the cheaper version to Queenstown but it’s still a must visit spot due to its location and natural resources at its doorstep.

Every summer they expect a huge influx of backpackers and tourist to take advantage of the outdoor activities it has to offer.


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The Breakdown

Taupo | New Zealand

Taupo New Zealand


9.0 out of 10


While being known as a tourist town, it still has a small-town vibe to it. The locals are very accommodating and understand tourism heavy affect their economy. Like most of New Zealand ‘Kiwi’s’ have a laid-back approach and always like going with the flow. They are always open into meeting people from overseas as most have traveled themselves.

Location Review - Taupo New Zealand

Quality Of Life

9.0 out of 10


Locals in Taupo have it pretty good. Clean facilities and nature at their fingertips. The Weather is also pretty consistent (over 20degrees) in summer and not too cold compared to the South Island in Winter. The only negative is if you’re between the ages of 18-35 then it is hard to meet people your own age due to the lack of work opportunities. Which ties into our next point…

Wellington New Zealand Location Review Wellington Location Review Affordability


7.0 out of 10


Taupo can be expensive for commodities like food, accommodation, and petrol. As mentioned above, younger people tend to move to bigger cities such as Wellington and Auckland for work. Which is why the people who take advantage of the city the most are established families with young kids who can afford a few luxuries like boats and jet skis.

To save money on food, stay away from the waterfront restaurants which will easily charge $30+ for a main dish. Pak n Save is New Zealand’s cheapest supermarket and Taupo is fortunate to have one. Stick to shopping here if on a budget.

For accommodation, there are freedom camping options which we will dive into on the next section.

Tip: For some award-winning pies check out Classic Bakery café located on 15 Tamamutu St. They have awesome bakery food and generally is cheaper than most restaurants.

Taupo New Zealand


9.5 out of 10


Your budget and style of living are massively going to dictate where you will stay in Taupo. Due to a large demand for travellers, there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from. Especially mid to high-end hotels, apartments, and lodges. Generally, you can expect to pay top dollar for accommodation on the waterfront

Then you have your typical backpackers and freedom camping options if your traveling New Zealand in a van or have camping equipment.

Comfort and Luxurious | Prime Locations | Higher Price

You have your traditional high-end hotels on the waterfront with amazing views. Private luxury self-contained apartments will be in and around the city. These privatize apartments are definitely more luxurious than Airbnb so expect to pay a premiere for them.

High-end accommodation away from the lake tends to get cheaper. These two options are most popular with couple getaways, big families or groups.

We recommend:

Hilton Lake Taupo, Sacred Waters & Quest

Check the resources and articles section in Helpful Information for more options.

Top Accommodation | Big groups | Amazing Facilities

Luxury lodges and homes can also be found which sleep larger groups. They tend to be further out of the city but are super cool if you can plan and arrange to get one.

Some of these homes you can expect to be on interior design and lifestyle magazine. If you want to ball out with a group, get crazy views and relax in a spa then why not? You only live once right?

Our top 3 picks:

Te Moenga Lodge, The Point VillasAcacia Cliffs Lodge

Self-Contained | Cooking Facilities | Price Depends on Season

This is a good middle-tier option. Cheaper than the hotels and more privacy than backpackers or freedom camping. If you don’t have a vehicle then just make sure the house is walking distance to the town. Generally, anywhere you choose will be close to all the activities.

Prime Location | No Frills | Party Atmosphere

Most of the backpackers in Taupo are in town so getting around will be a breeze. If you’re up for meeting young travellers across the world at a cheap rate then I’m sure you can explore this.

If you don’t want to be stuck in a big dorm room then we recommend booking early. Especially over the New Years period. Apart from that, if you just want a roof over your head then the majority of the time will be fine.

Tip: The Taupo Urban Retreat Backpackers is known for having the cheapest bar in town. With a cool indoor/outdoor flow it’s a good spot for a few drinks before town. Just note the bar does close earlier compared to the traditional bars.

Taupo Urban Retreat, & Rainbow Lodge Backpackers


Free | Basic facilities | Camping Equipment Needed

The major benefit of freedom camping is there are no costs! Yes, you heard me. Of this one reason alone, it attracts a huge amount of New Zealand and overseas travellers. There are Freedom Camping spots all across the country which have different rules and facilities handy.

Below we will link the ones closes to Taupo. There are two types of campgrounds. Non-self-contained (tenting & self-contained vehicles) and self-contained vehicles only. Please read the rules of each campground. All of them have a maximum stay limited and require you to be self-sufficient.

Campground facilities will depend on where you are as some are run either locally, by the city council or DOC (Department of Conservation). Make sure you take ALL rubbish will you and don’t overstay. Fines are known to be given out to people abusing this.

Taupo freedom camping spots are:

Reids Farm, Mangakino Recreation Reserve, Five Mile Bay

For more information on freedom camping please check out the helpful information section at the bottom of this page.

Taupo New Zealand


6.5 out of 10


Since Taupo is such a small city, there really isn’t too many options for a night out here. While they do have traditional bars and restaurants there are no particular places that are special compared to the rest of the country. If you are here during summer then you have a much better chance of meeting other travellers.

Social Dinners | Expensive | Lakeside views

If you walk down the main road (Lake Terrace), there are loads of options to choose from which overlook the lake.

During a summers day they can be a great spot to park up to enjoy some food and drink with a view. Take note most of these places will be on the more expensive side.

Lone Star | The Deck | Pub n Grub

Random age group | Typical Bar Scene | Limited Options

All of the bars are located a block from the waterfront, on Tuwharetoa Street. The most popular being Finn MacCuhal’s Irish Pub which has a nice outdoor area and Element Bar which is more of a nightclub.

The good news, since they are so close you can bar hop from one to another. We can’t promise how busy they will be but you can try.

Finn MacCuhal’s Irish Pub | Element Bar | Pitch Sports Bar

Taupo Sign


9.5 out of 10


The Global Peace index rated New Zealand as the fourth safest country in the world. Like we have mentioned above, Kiwi’s are generally relaxed and safe people. As long as you follow common sense then you should be fine. The key thing to note is the liquor ban in the city so try to avoid drinking in public. No one wants to be charged a hefty $250.00 fine unnecessary.

If you do decide to go freedom camping, make sure your valuables are locked inside your vehicle. Never leave them inside your tent, thieves are known for taking advantage of these spots with backpackers.

Our Summary


Taupo really is a city not to be missed when traveling to New Zealand. If you are road tripping around the country then most likely you are going to drive through it anyway. We highly recommend stopping for a few days and taking advantage of the natural aspects in and around Taupo. It’s the perfect place to unwind and really has a lot of options regardless of your spending budget.

Overall Rating

8.4 out of 10


Helpful Information

Day Activities

» Huka Falls

» Spa Thermal Park

» Reids Park Farm (Swim in Waikato River)

» AC Baths & Thermal Hot Pools

» Debretts Hot Springs

» Kerosene Creek (45-minute drive)

» Tongariro Crossing (1 hr drive)

» Hikes & Walks

» Pureora Forest Park

» Climb Mount Tauhara

» Hole in One Challenge

Skiing & Snowboarding

» Mt Ruapehu is the main mountain broken into four sections:

  • Whakapapa
  • Turoa
  • Tukino
  • Happy Valley

Adventure Sports & Activities

» Taupo Bungy

» Skydive – Skydive Taupo or Taupo Tandem Skydiving

» Jetboating – Rapid’s Jets, NZ River Jets and Hukafalls Jet.

» Paddle Boarding

» River Floating

» Parasailing

Freedom Camping

» Download the App CamperMate. This is an essential tool for any backpacker traveling in New Zealand and Australia. What it does it shows you where there are campgrounds, what facilities are included and any cost or rules involved in staying in these locations. The brilliant thing is they update the app regularly and backpackers like yourself can comment on the location to let others know how it was.

» Freedom Camping rules – Taupo District Council

» www.freedomcamping.org/  – Rules across New Zealand

» Affordable camping equipment can be purchased at:

  • Kmart
  • Bunnings
  • The Warehouse
  • Kathmandu (high-quality/more expensive)
  • Rebel Sport