Go Travel New Zealand - - Contents - By Adele Thurlow

A fam­ily get­away in Great Lake Taupō is up­sized from a sim­ple break to an

in­vig­o­rat­ing ad­ven­ture.

Our pri­mary pur­pose while on hol­i­day, whether it’s for two days or two weeks, is to get a much-needed dose of rest and re­cre­ation. But there’s only so much “rest­ing” two young chil­dren will tol­er­ate, and be­sides, we also want to take home some en­dur­ing mem­o­ries. The in­clu­sion of a few spe­cial ac­tiv­i­ties – and they needn’t be ex­pen­sive – can turn an or­di­nary break into an amaz­ing es­cape.

So on a re­cent stroll around Taupo’s town cen­tre, we looked be­yond its bou­tique re­tail stores and award-win­ning cafes and found in­trigu­ing lay­ers of art. Al­ley­ways and once plain block walls have, in re­cent years, be­come can­vases for large-scale art­works. The al­fresco mas­ter­pieces are cre­ated by a col­lec­tion of New Zealand’s best street artists as part of the town’s an­nual Graf­fi­ato Fes­ti­val which draws crowds who watch the work un­fold.

Wan­der­ing to­wards the lake, we find a grow­ing col­lec­tion of sculp­tures dot­ted through­out the CBD, nearby parks and on the lake­front – there are at least half a dozen within a kilo­me­tre. Many of these in­trigu­ing works are in­spired by the re­gion and tell sto­ries that re­flect the land­scape and spir­i­tual back­ground of the lake, the cen­tral plateau and moun­tains. The dy­namic shapes make for some great photo op­por­tu­ni­ties too – par­tic­u­larly the struc­tures which the kids can climb on, in or over.

Fol­low­ing the sculp­ture trail to the Ton­gariro South Do­main, we aim for the Taupo- Mu­seum and its lo­cal his­tor­i­cal col­lec­tion. Even more to my lik­ing, is the mu­seum’s art gallery which reg­u­larly fea­tures ex­hi­bi­tions of emerg­ing and es­tab­lished New Zealand artists. The mu­seum is also home to ‘100% Pure New Zealand Ora – Gar­den of Well­be­ing’ – the only liv­ing exhibit I can re­call see­ing at any mu­seum. This im­pres­sive gar­den was de­signed to show­case the essence of the cen­tral North Is­land for the 2004 Chelsea Flower Show in Lon­don where it won gold. It was then of­fered to the mu­seum in 2007 so it could be en­joyed in its place of ori­gin and has since re­ceived clas­si­fi­ca­tion as a five-star Gar­den of Na­tional Sig­nif­i­cance.

Across a tree-lined car park from the mu­seum is Taupo- Li­brary, which clev­erly com­bines art with in­fra­struc­ture. As the kids race each other up and down the ramp at the en­trance­way (and I pray their shrieks can’t be heard in­side), I ad­mire the stain­less steel handrail, which fea­tures a proverb in English, Maori and Braille: “Seek the trea­sure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty moun­tain.”

I’ve since learnt that Tu­rangi Li­brary at the south­ern end of the lake boasts etched glass win­dows de­pict­ing the Bat­tle of the Moun­tains – a Maori le­gend trans­lated into glass art­work by Ngati Tuwhare­toa artist Te Maari Gar­diner. Pub­lic build­ings are so much more mean­ing­ful with these kinds of unique el­e­ments in­cor­po­rated into the build.

Fol­low­ing our cul­tural ex­plo­ration, we were ready for some­thing more phys­i­cally in­vig­o­rat­ing. The re­gion is well known for its tracks which ex­tend al­most from town to moun­tain. Do we choose a lake or river trail, or one with geother­mal or his­toric sig­nif­i­cance? Moun­tain views or a bush ad­ven­ture? On pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions, we’ve en­joyed the short walk through Craters of the Moon’s lu­nar-like land­scape, with steam vents and boil­ing mud pools. It’s al­ways as en­joy­able for us as it is for the kids. This time we’ve had a rec­om­men­da­tion to ex­plore the Opepe South­ern Track along­side the Napier-Taupo- Road. It’s a trip through his­tory which in­cludes relics of an old town­ship from the 1800s.

We also check out Whakaipo

Bay which, aside from a mam­moth stretch of peace­ful lake­front to ex­plore, has a flat, fam­ily-friendly track at the eastern end. We have fun dodg­ing tree roots, duck­ing un­der the odd fallen tree and we mar­vel at the moun­tain-view we’re re­warded with at the end. In a few years, we’ll at­tempt the na­tion­ally renowned W2K at the western end of the bay – it’s a 13km na­tive bush track over the head­land be­tween Whakaipo Bay and Kin­loch with supreme scenery. We’ve also had word that the Ma­para Walk­way through na­tive plant­ings in Aca­cia Bay in­cludes a glow-worm cave and have made a note to check that out in the fu­ture.

Per­haps the re­gion’s best-known track, the Ton­gariro Alpine Cross­ing takes walk­ers through the rugged land­scape and dis­tinc­tive scenery of the in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised Ton­gariro Na­tional Park. The Cross­ing is con­sid­ered one of the best day walks in the world and is rife with Maori cul­tural and out­stand­ing vol­canic fea­tures. With the right knowl­edge, equip­ment and per­haps a qual­i­fied guide, the Cross­ing can be com­pleted by al­most all ages with a rea­son­able level of fit­ness. For now, we’ll leave any alpine ex­pe­di­tions un­til the lit­tlies are slightly older, though I do know of a seven-year-old who com­pleted the Ton­gariro Alpine Cross­ing with en­ergy to spare!

We’re also look­ing for­ward to the day we can take the kids raft­ing down the Ton­gariro River – a prime lo­ca­tion for spot­ting Whio (en­dan­gered Blue Ducks) and other na­tive birds in their nat­u­ral sur­round­ings. The Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and Gen­e­sis En­ergy’s Whio For­ever Project aims to dou­ble the num­ber of Whio breed­ing sites and boost pest con­trol, mak­ing this river habi­tat even more spe­cial. For now, we’ll get our river wilder­ness ex­pe­ri­ence from the con­ve­nience of the nearby Ton­gariro Na­tional Trout Cen­tre. I snap some hi­lar­i­ous pho­tos of our el­dest child com­ing eye to eye with mas­sive trout in the un­der­wa­ter view­ing cham­ber. School-age chil­dren also have the op­por­tu­nity to catch a rain­bow trout in the fish­ing pond be­fore hav­ing it fil­leted and smoked us­ing manuka bark ready for a one-of-a-kind pic­nic lunch.

Let’s not for­get though, that we’re here pre­dom­i­nantly for R&R, so we fin­ish the week­end with a soak in a geother­mal hot spot on the lake edge. There is also a very pop­u­lar nat­u­ral hot pool at Spa Ther­mal Park. Just look for the steam or ask a lo­cal if they can point you in the right di­rec­tion. Great Lake Taupo is a re­gion where the wa­ter and wel­come are both so warm!

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