Taupo is the largest freshwater lake in Oceania stretching for over 600 square kilometres and set amid some of the most spectacular volcanic landscape New Zealand’s North Island has to offer. Unsurprisingly around such a vast lake there are numerous stunning scenic drives to choose from. If you arrive from the North on State Highway One you will encounter two of the region’s natural marvels before you even catch a glimpse of the lake.
Firstly on your left, are the thunderous Huka Falls which mark the beginning of the mighty Waikato river as it drains from Lake Taupo. The Huka Falls are not significant because of some dizzying drop but because of the sheer force of the river as it courses through a series of slender ravines. Each narrowing acts like a funnel and the water plunges through like a pressure jet.
On the opposite side of the main highway is the eerie volcanic park, Craters of the Moon; aptly named for its resemblance to its celestial counterpart. Steam rises from a multitude of cracks in the park’s barren surface and a wooden walkway lets visitors amble through the prehistoric volcanic park; with the sulphurous smell and the supernatural fog, it’s easy to imagine yourself in a world millions of years ago surrounded by dinosaurs.
State Highway One continues through the small bustling town of Taupo – a great place to stop and refuel your car and yourselves – before skirting the eastern and southern shores of the lake. The road gradually climbs from the lake’s shores into the foothills of the Tongariro National Park at which’s centre lies Mount Ruapehu, one of the largest active volcanoes on the North Island and winter sports’ Mecca.
The higher you get the better the views get and there are numerous jaw-dropping viewpoints on the way. By the time you reach Turangi – best known for its fantastic trout fishing rivers – you will be exhausted from all of the awe-inspiring scenery. From here you can decide whether to continue your journey south along the famous Desert Road or climb still higher toward Tongariro and Mount Ruapehu’s epic peak and crater.
Editorial by Jooles Clements