City Travels - Taupo
From Auckland, I headed to Taupo. I originally had booked my trip thinking I would still be looking for work, when instead I got hired the day before I left. So I ended up with a very relaxing week at the lake.
I was there from June 7st to June 12th. I planned the time to be used for both sightseeing and job hunting, but ended up not needing to job hunt and just relaxing.
All prices are given in New Zealand dollars.
I booked a bus with Intercity for $30 to Taupo. I originally was planning to leave Auckland on the 6th of June, but because of the Queen's Birthday (a national holiday), bus tickets were extra expensive, and were still slightly inflated the day I left. It made more financial sense to stay an extra day in Auckland than waste the money on the increased bus fare.
The bus ride took me through several cities, including Hamilton, and the scenery was fairly interesting to watch out the window. I also spent some time talking to people on Facebook (courtesy of the bus's wi-fi) and reading Bossypants by Tina Fey. The bus left at 12:30 from SkyCity and arrived in Taupo at 5:45, dropping me off at the i-site. From there it was a 10-minute walk to my hostel.
A Place to Stay
I stayed at the Haka Lodge in Taupo. The hostel is located a little behind the town center, but its location makes it easy to head to the city center, the lake, or spa park.
I was in an 8-bed mixed dorm, and the beds were the same as the beds in Auckland. Each of the beds has curtains, an outlet and a reading light. The bunk beds are made out of solid wood and they don't shake at all. The beds are all grouped into clusters of 4-5 beds, with walls between the clusters. This gives more privacy than may be expected . The walls in the hostel are fairly thin, and I was alongside the wall to the kitchen. However, they have quite hours after 10:30, so any kitchen noise didn't bother me during sleeping hours.
The hostel provides a clean, well-supplied kitchen. They have several sinks available for washing dishes and a surplus of cookware and serving supplies. They have two small tables, and two long tables with chairs and benches to eat at. They also have two outdoor picnic tables right outside the kitchen door. The hostel, however, does not provide any meals.
Like a traditional motel, the various rooms at the hostel are connected via outdoor decks. The decks themselves have a roof over them if it rains, but the stairs are not covered. The kitchen is upstairs, while there is a TV room downstairs. Each floor has a bathroom, and some rooms are ensuite. Depending on the time of year, the ensuite may have more value for you, but I didn't really have an issue with having to go outdoors at night.
The bathrooms had two toilets, two shower stalls, and three sinks. The showers and toilets had similar stalls, and some of the doors were hard to push shut. The shower stalls were long enough where there was enough room to keep your stuff and change without it getting hit by the shower water. However, there was no division between the shower and the changing area. The bathrooms were cleaned multiple times a day and stayed very neat.
The hostel also free wi-fi that works very well, and a tv room. While I was still in love with the wi-fi, I did go into the TV room at this hostel. It was kept very warm, and there were large, large blankets if the heater wasn't enough to warm you up. There was also a hot tub you could sign up to use for free. At night, there were fairy lights around the hot tub, and it was just very cute and relaxing. The hostel also has many windows with beautiful views, especially from the kitchen/dining area.
I would absolutely stay here again, and recommend you do as well. But, I'm somewhat of a brand loyalist.
The main attraction to Taupo is the hikes, especially to Huka Falls. Huka Falls doesn't fall very vertically, but a ton of water moves through it at a fast pace. There is a trail to the falls through Spa Park that takes about an hour one-way. the trail traces the path of the river and there are no forks where one could get off-trail. The trail is unpaved and goes up and downhill, but isn't very strenuous. I saw a couple walking while carrying a baby on it, and I wasn't concerned. However, they wouldn't have been able to use a stroller-- the path is uneven and has deep divots in it at some points. Easy on foot, but being on foot is key. Bikes are also not allowed on this path, but I saw many people breaking this rule.
When you walk back from Huka Falls, you can stop at Spa Park. The main attraction of Spa Park is the hot stream right at the entrance to the Huka Falls trail. Although there are no changing rooms, there's nothing stopping you from going swimming in the warm stream. I didn't go swimming, but several people were resting in the stream on the way back.
There are also warm water spots along the coast of the lake. There is a paved, stone trail following the shores of Lake Taupo that I'd recommended you walk along. There are several warm streams that are too hot to touch before you even reach Hot Water Beach. I stuck my hand into the water at the beach and it was about 85-90 degrees. It would have been awesome place to swim if it wasn't misty that day. The walk alongside the beach is good rain or shine, and is a not-miss trail.
You can also walk up to the park right next to the city center, but it's skippable. It does have an awesome-looking playground, but I'm 26 and was not brave enough to see how awesome it really is. They also have a free giant chess set to play with, and a small garden. The town also has a small museum in this park, but it cost $5 and I decided to save the money. Right next door, however, there is a rose garden that was fun (and short) to walk through, even in winter.
The town has a very nice pool system called the AC Baths. It's really just two lap pools and a large, outdoor kiddie pool, but the kiddie pool is naturally, geothermally heated to be warm like a hot tub. The other pools are also geothermally heated, but aren't kept as warm. The pools and a sauna are available for use for $8. I visited while it was raining, and still enjoyed using the outdoor pools.
The town also has a fairly large botanical garden. While a nice walking trail with lovely trees, it is clearly not a place meant for winter. There are large sections where flowers should be blooming that simply don't blossom this time of year. I think the gardens are a good thing to check out, but may be skippable in the winter.
You'll see in the tourist brochures they recommend you go to the McDonalds. I do as well! It is the nicest McDonalds I've ever been in. You order on a giant touch screen, and it sends the order to the employees. It's also really clean, and has wi-fi. However, because my phone is deactivated when I'm here, so I couldn't use the wi-fi. They wanted to send me a text message to use the wi-fi, but I don't have access to text messaging so...I wrote this blog post instead :D In fact, I'm writing it right now from the plane they have attached to the restaurant.
Otherwise, the town is filled with small clothing stores, and restaurants. It's a small, summer themed town, but a safe, beautiful place to live.
You will likely need to either rent a car or walk everywhere, however, as little as it is pointed out, there is a bus. The bus is called the Taupo Connector and it cost $2 one-way or $3 round-trip. It runs infrequently, but it is an option. I think they should point it more out to tourists.
I, of course, walked everywhere, but I also couldn't get to some spots, like Craters of the Moon because of that. If I wasn't afraid to drive on the 'wrong side of the road,' I probably would have rented a car for at least a day.
It takes a half-hour to walk most places if you're centrally located, but usually it's a very pretty walk along the side of the lake. It was rainy most of the time I was here, but I had an umbrella and the rain was manageable. I waited until sunshine to do the Huka Falls walk, and I'm glad as I wouldn't want to walk that trail if it was too slippery.
I did eat at the local McDonalds. I got a medium McChicken, a Fanta Shake, and a salad for $5 as a combo meal. They were out of the Fanta shake I originally ordered (lime), but addressed the error right away and let me choose a different flavor (sherbet). I really liked the flavor, I wasn't sure I would. Not bad for a fancy place and five bucks.
There is a Pak 'N Save and a Countdown in town, both of which are full-sized. If you do go to Pak 'N Save, note that they charge for bags. Also note that giant pile of boxes at the front of the store. Those are free! I bought a loaf of bread, 4 packs of instant tomato soup, 2 things of yogurt, a brick of cheese, a small jar of peanut butter, two bananas and too much candy. I also ended up buying bagged pasta, and chicken kiev because I ran out of food. The total came to about $35.
I also bought a Hawaiian pizza at Pizza Hut for $5, which was large enough to be two meals. Dominos has a similar deal, but I haven't gone there yet.
I regret not stealing a blanket from the hostel. I could wrap myself twice in that thing and become a living mummy. I liked it; I liked it too much.
I kinda wished I checked out the nicer pool in town, but it was just too far of a walk.
It really is a summer town. The botanical gardens would have been better at a different time of year, but this is the time I had.
I stayed in the town a bit too long, but I don't think I would have felt that way if I was still job searching like I was originally planning. Honestly, I needed the break after two weeks of traveling.