Explore Australasia's largest freshwater lake formed from the crater of one of the world's largest volcanic eruptions.

It lacks salt, but Lake Taupō is quickly becoming one of the favorite places to visit on the weekends. An easy 3.5-hour drive south from Auckland, Lake Taupō is Australasia's largest lake and roughly the same size as Singapore. The Romans and Chinese both wrote of seeing an immense fire in the sky when the last volcanic eruption occurred here around 1800 years ago. 

The opportunities here for paddling, fishing, hiking and photographing seem endless. The lake offers over 120 miles (193 kilometers) of shoreline, and a surface area of 238 square miles (616 square kilometers) to explore. It is a world-class destination for trout fishing and New Zealand's two largest rivers - the Waikato and Wanganui begin here. 

This past weekend I took my sea kayak, tent, and camera out for a few days exploring. The days were stunning, the nights a bit chilly and the water glassy. If there was any doubt the lake is actually the submerged crater of a massive volcano, free range pumice floats all around the place.

On the first day, I left my campsite at Motutere (see location pin) along the southeast shores of the lake and paddled around the lake's sole island - Motutaiko (-38.853998, 175.942470). From there, I was greeted with incredible views into Tongariro National Park. Each night I made the paddle back here to watch the sunset. 

On the second day, I decided to head up and launch my kayak from the town of Taupō to paddle to some Maori Rock Carvings a few bays over (-38.714834, 175.977661). I didn't have a map with me but I had seen pictures of them and figured they would pretty hard to miss. I was wrong, and 2 hours later I arrived at Kinloch (-38.663002, 175.918001), which I knew was well beyond the carvings. An hour or so into my paddle back I could see quite a few boats gathering around a concealed cliff's face, and as I got closer I finally got a view of the magnificent rock carvings. 

Access to the lake is easy and readily available from all sides. For camping, I recommend Motutere (-38.8828822, 175.9609470), it's quiet and also boasts the only shoreline camping on the lake. 

Pack List

  • Kayak, Canoe, or Paddleboard
  • Paddle
  • Life jacket / PDF / Buoyance aid
  • Tent
  • Drybags 
  • Rain gear
  • Warm clothes (weather can change quickly here)
  • Camera
  • Whiskey 
  • Maps of the lake
  • Cell phone or VHF radio
  • Water
  • Knife
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Activities Camping, Photography, Kayaking, Swimming
Skill Level Beginner
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Family Friendly
Hot Springs
Picnic Area
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole


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