Opepe Bush Historic Reserve

The Opepe Bush Historic Reserve, which is a short drive from Taupō, has scenic bush walks to explore.

IMG_3444

The Opepe Bush Historic Reserve bisects the Napier Taupō Highway (SH5). There are carparks on both sides of the road.

The southern walking track is a 3 km loop walk. I did the northern walking track, which is a 30 minute, 1.5 km loop bush walk. The walk leads through mature podocarp forest, which are rare in the Taupō region because these forests were destroyed by the Taupō eruption, fires and milling.

IMG_3457

IMG_3464

Totara

Totara

Matai

Matai

Rimu

Rimu

Opepe is most noted as a site of an attack in the 1869 New Zealand Land Wars. On June 7th 1869 members of Te Kooti’s party attacked the Bay of Plenty Cavalry, who were camped there. 5 of the 14 members of the cavalry escaped. The nine soldiers that were killed are buried here. Later residents of Opepe and the Armed Constabulary are also buried here. It is a 10 minute return walk to the cemetery.

Opepe Bush Historic Reserve is located on the Napier Taupō Highway (SH5), 17 km from Taupō.

IMG_3511

IMG_3513

IMG_3516

IMG_3519

Huka Honey Hive

Huka Honey Hive located in the Wairakei Tourist Park is New Zealand’s largest showcase of honey products.

IMG_0600

Pohutukawa Honey on display at Huka Honey Hive

Huka Honey Hive is located 65 Karetoto Road (off Huka Falls Road and SH1). It is open daily from 9am to 5pm in the summer and 10am to 5pm in the winter.

On the left side of the store is an educational area with live bees in glass hives and a variety of displays on bees and the honey making process.

Glass hives

Glass hives

IMG_0616

Antique beeswax press

A large part of the space is taken up with very well presented displays of the various honey and bee related products they sell.

Undoubtedly the most popular attraction at the Honey Hive is the free tastings of honey, and mead wine and liqueurs. There is a limit to tastings but there is no pressure by staff to buy.

There is also an onsite lounge that serves honey flavoured ice cream and hot and cold beverages. I had a Lemon Drone for $7, which is a spider (Charlie’s Honest Fizz Lemonade poured over Kapiti Pohutukawa Honey Ice Cream). Single scoop ice cream is $4, double scoop $8, and ice cream sundaes are $7.50.

Free honey tasting

Free honey tasting

IMG_0623

Candles

IMG_0628

Buzzy bee toys

Bee soft toy display

Bee soft toy display

Taupo Volcanic Activity Centre

Taupo’s Volcanic Activity Centre is an interactive educational centre where visitors can learn about the earth’s volcanic forces and the Taupo Volcanic Zone located in Wairakei Tourist Park.

IMG_0647

Taupo’s Volcanic Activity Centre

The Taupo Volcanic Zone is an area 350 km long by 50 km wide from Tongariro National Park through to Rotorua and out to the Whakatane submarine volcano just past White Island.

Taupo’s Volcanic Activity Centre is located at 114 Karetoto Road (at the T intersection). It is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and weekends 10am to 4pm. The centre is closed Christmas Day, Good Friday and ANZAC Day morning. Children (5-15) are $7, adults $12 and seniors and students are $10.

There is parking outside the centre. Alternatively the Taupo Connector bus departs from Taupo I-SITE and Visitor Information Centre and arrives at the Volcanic Activity Centre.

Taupo Volcanic Activity Centre

Taupo Volcanic Activity Centre

When I visited few of the buttons on the interactive displays did not work, so some of the displays are in need to some maintenance but other than that it has interesting well presented informative displays.

There are models that show a live geyser and tornado. Visitors can control the tornado to make their own twister.

Visitors can also an earthquake equivalent to 6.3 quake on the Richter scale in the earthquake simulator. 6.3 was what Christchurch earthquake at 12:51pm on February 22nd, 2011 was on the Richter scale.

Earthquake stimulator

Earthquake stimulator

There is a also cinema, which is regularly running short films, such as footage from the Christchurch earthquake and Mt Ruapehu erupting.

There is also a gift shop, which sells a variety of books, DVDs, puzzles and posters. They also sell gems and rocks.

Spa Park to Huka Falls

Spa Park – Huka Falls Walkway is a two hour return walk that follows the Waikato River to the Huka Falls.

Spa Thermal Park Huka Falls Walkway

Spa Park – Huka Falls Walkway

The walk starts at Spa Thermal Park, which is at the end of County Ave (off Spa Road). Gates are locked between 8pm and 7am.  At 41 hectares the park is one of Taupo’s largest parks. There is an excellent children’s playground onsite.

It’s approximately a five minute walk across Spa Park to the start of the track.

Spa Thermal Park

Spa Thermal Park

It is a 2.6 km easy track that is approximately 50 minutes one way to Huka Falls. Cyclists are not permitted on the Spa Park to Huka Falls walkway. Cyclists are recommended to take the Rotary Ride track.

Near the start of the track is a bridge that crosses Otumuheke Stream, a natural hot stream that follows into the Waikato River. Residents and visitors visit to soak in the natural hot pool.

Otumere Stream follows into Waikato River creating natural hot pool

Otumuheke Stream follows into Waikato River creating natural hot pool

The walk follows the Waikato River offering views of Reid’s Farm Recreation Reserve and Huka Lodge. Two very different forms of accommodation – Reid’s Farm, a free camping site and Huka Lodge, a luxurious lodge that attracts royalty and movie stars.

The Waikato River is New Zealand’s longest river running 425 km through the North Island. It drains at the north eastern edge of Lake Taupo, later creating the Huka Falls and then flowing northeast across the Waikato plains and draining into the Tasman Sea at Port Waikato.

Waikato River

Waikato River

View of Huka Lodge

View of Huka Lodge

The Huka Falls is formed when the Waikato River, which is normally up to 100 metres wide, narrows to just 15 metres causing a large volume of water to collide as it passes through a narrow gorge of hard volcanic rock. Approximately 220,000 litres of water passes per second creating an impressive waterfall.

The word Huka means foam in Māori – you can see where it got its name from when you see the falls.

IMG_0582

IMG_0553

Huka Falls

Huka Falls

Riverside Park Taupo

Riverside Park is located within the Tongariro Domain on the banks of the Waikato River.

IMG_1002

Riverside Park 

Riverside Park officially opened in November 2007 on the site of the former Taupo Motor Camp, which closed in 2006 after the lease expired. Public opinion was divided when the camping ground closed, as it had been a popular camping site since the 1930s. Today Riverside Park is popular with locals and visitors.

The park has plenty of seating, tables and green space for picnicking and relaxing. There are a mature beech trees in the park that were donated from former mayor Clayton Stent’s own property.

IMG_1031

Riverside Park

There is a large boardwalk that runs alongside the Waikato River. The boardwalk turns into a concrete pathway, which makes for a nice short walk. Visitors can exit the park and cross the road by Control Gate Bridge and continue along the banks of the Waikato River to Spa Thermal Park or walk along Tongariro Street to the main shopping district.

Boardwalk, Riverside Park

Boardwalk, Riverside Park

Riverside Park

Riverside Park

In the park carved into three stones are words from the poems ‘Waikato River’, ‘A Preference for River’ and ‘My Poems’, from Rowley Habib’s poetry collection The Raw Men – Selected Poems 1954 – 2004. Habib’s mother was of Ngati Ruingarangi hapu, a sub tribe of local iwi Ngati Tuwharetoa and Habib grew up in Taupo and attended Taupo Public School.

Poetry from Rowley Habib

Poetry from Rowley Habib

The Unison Amphitheatre is grassed amphitheatre that provides seating for up to 15,000 people and is used for outdoor concerts and events during the summer months.

Also held every Saturday from 10am to 1pm is the Riverside Market, which has various stalls selling produce, breads, crafts, art, clothing, jewellery, cosmetics and more.

Riverside Park

Riverside Park

Ernest Kemp Cruises

Ernest Kemp Cruises offer two hour daily cruises on Lake Taupo to the Māori Rock Carvings.

Ernest Kemp

Ernest Kemp

The Ernest Kemp was built in 1980 and is a replica of a traditional steamboat. It 48 feet in length and can travel at speed of 9 knots. The vessel is named after the great grandson of early settlers and missionaries James and Charlotte Kemp.

The vessel is located at berth 2 at the Taupo Boat Harbour. Tickets can be purchased the Fish Cruise Taupo booking office or the Taupo I-SITE Visitor Information Centre.

The cruise departs 10:30am, 2pm and 5pm. The 5pm cruise is only offered October to April.

I am not sure the number of passengers Ernest Kemp can take but they definitely fill it to the brim during the summer months. It felt like sardines, which dampened the enjoyment of the experience a bit.

The skipper will provide live commentary pointing out interesting landmarks and make recommendations on activities to do in the area.

Out on the lake

Out on the lake

We passed the Barbary, a 1926 recently refurbished yacht that once belonged to actor Errol Flynn. Legend has it that Flynn won the yacht in a card game.

The highlight of the cruise is of course the Māori rock carvings at Okuta Bay (also known as Mine Bay), which can only be viewed from the water. Ernest Kemp Cruises claim to be the boat that gets you closest to the carvings. Although a kayak would probably be the best option for one wanting the closest experience to the carvings.

IMG_0860

Maori Rock Carvings

Māori Rock Carvings

Some visitors may be disappointed to learn that the carvings are not hundreds of years old. Work on the carvings began in 1978 by carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell as a gift to the people of Taupo.

The main cliff carving at 10 metres in height is of Ngatoroirangi, a Māori navigator who guided the tribes of Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa to Taupo over a thousand years ago.

Children are offered an opportunity to skipper the vessel and receive a certificate. They also offer complimentary tea, coffee or hot chocolate with a cookie. Complimentary beer, wine or soft drink is offered on the 5pm cruise.

Taupo Boat Harbour

Taupo Boat Harbour is located on Redoubt Street at the mouth of the Waikato River.

Taupo Boat Harbour

Taupo Boat Harbour

The Boat Harbour is the departure point for cruises and fishing charters on Lake Taupo. But even if one does not wish to go out on the lake it is still a nice walk along the marina looking at the boats.

Lake Taupo with a surface area of 616 square kilometres is New Zealand’s largest lake by surface area. It is the second largest freshwater lake in Oceania area after Lake Murray in Papa New Guinea. The lake is drained by the Waikato River, New Zealand’s longest river.

IMG_0769

Fish Cruise Taupo booking office (sometimes referred to as the Wharf Office) can provide information and assist with bookings for fishing charters and cruises on Lake Taupo. They can also assist with bookings and information on other activities, such as Taupo Float Plane, Taupo Bungy, jet boating, skydiving and river cruises.

Fish Cruise Taupo booking office

Fish Cruise Taupo booking office

Taupo Boat Harbour

Taupo Boat Harbour

Taupo Rose Gardens

The Taupo Rose Gardens are located in South Tongariro Domain adjacent to the Taupo Museum.

The Rose Garden was established in 1979 when 800 rose bushes were initially planted by the Taupo Rose Society.

Taupo Rose Garden

Taupo Rose Gardens

In December 2007 the garden was renamed The Joan Williamson Rose Gardens in honour of Joan Williamson-Orr, to recognise her 30 years of service to the Taupo District. Joan Williamson was the Mayor of Taupo Borough from 1986 to 1988 and Taupo District from 1988 to 2001. Later she served on the Lakes Health District Board from 2001 to 2010.

Visitors can walk through the gardens to a path that leads down to the Taupo Boat Harbour. There are no gates to the gardens so visitors are free to visit as they wish.

The centrepiece to the garden is a large gazebo, which is perfect to sit and relax. Within the rose gardens there are also fountains, bird baths and a sundial.

Gaezbo

Gaezbo

Sundial

Sundial

Tongariro Domain

Tongariro Domain (Tongariro South Domain and Tongariro North Domain) is a park located between Lake Taupo, the Waikato River and Taupo’s business district.

A large trout sculpture proudly stands on the Tongariro Street and Ferry Street corner of the South Domain. The sculpture was erected in 1999 to replace a previous trout sculpture built in 1985 for the Dawn Walker Trout Fishing Tournament.

IMG_1060

Trout sculpture

The South Domain is excellent park for families with plenty of green lawn space for picnics, sculpture and flower gardens, a children’s playground and an outdoor chess board. One of the main attractions is the Taupo Pakeke & Lakeland Lions Cobb & Co Express, a monorail train that runs through the park. This train began operating in 1993. Tickets are $2.00 per person for 3 circuits.

IMG_1073

Taupo Pakeke & Lakeland Lions Cobb & Co Express

Taupo Pakeke & Lakeland Lions Cobb & Co Express

The North Domain is outdoor green space that is used for outdoor exhibitions and special events, such as the Christmas Carnival and Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge.

At the end of the North Domain is the old courthouse building. This building, which was built in 1881, is the oldest surviving wooden building in Taupo. The building was originally used as a theatre and meeting hall. It was later converted into a magistrate’s court. The building is now managed by the Historic Places Trust and currently used as a childcare centre.

Old Taupo Courthouse

Old Taupo Courthouse

Nearby is the sail and viewing platform, which looks out over the Taupo Boat Harbour and Waikato River.

IMG_0998

Sail and viewing platform

Between the South and North Domain is the Taupo Police Station, Taupo District Court, The Great Lake Centre, Taupo Library and Taupo i-SITE Visitor Centre. The Great Lake Centre is a theatre and exhibition complex that opened in 1992 to replace the Taupo Nui A Tia Memorial Hall, which was built in 1953.

The Taupo i-SITE Visitor Centre is a good place for new visitors to the area. The I-SITE is open every day (except Christmas Day and Anzac morning) from 8.30am until 5.00pm.

Taupo Museum

Taupo Museum is located on Story Place between the Domain and the Rose Gardens. It is open daily, except for Good Friday and Christmas Day, from 10am to 4.30pm. Adults are $5 and seniors and tertiary students are $3. Entry is free for children, Taupo residents and ratepayers.

When you enter the museum to the right are two art gallery rooms, the Main Art Gallery and the Niven Room, which have changing exhibitions. When I visited in December the Main Art Gallery was exhibiting work from senior students from Wanganui Glass School, and the Niven Room had a photography exhibition featuring the works of Peter Beazley, Adam Wallis, Jeremy Bright and Steve Sherburn.

In the foyer welcoming visitors to the museum is a wharenui, a traditional Māori meeting house. The meeting house is name Te Aroha o Rongoheikume, which means the love of Lucy Reid. The meeting house was carved by Tene Waitere between 1927 and 1928.

Te Aroha o Rongoheikume meeting house

Te Aroha o Rongoheikume meeting house

After visiting the meeting house follow the museum around to the right to see a series of exhibitions on the Taupo area including displays on timber mills, trout fishing, and Taupo’s volcanic area.

Visitors can climb inside a New Zealand made Anglo Imp caravan, which has been decorated like a holiday caravan from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Kiwiana Caravan

Kiwiana Caravan

The Busy Corner Store screens a 10 minute short film about the Taupo District and its history.

In the Tuwharetoa Gallery is a 14 metre long waka made from a Kauri log. It was found in 1967 in a bush in Opepe and is believed to be around 150 years old.

Outside in the courtyard is the 100% Pure New Zealand Ora – Garden of Wellbeing, which won a gold medal at 2004 Chelsea Flower Show. The garden opened at Museum Spring 2007 and the following year was accorded Garden of National Significance status.

IMG_0956

IMG_0954

IMG_0943