Our visit to Lake Taupo was extra special because we were visiting our crew member from the sail down to New Zealand. David Otway lives with his mother and father on the north shore of Lake Taupo when he is home which isn't often. David's parents, Peter and Rosemary, live in beautifully architected and situated house on a ridge overlooking the lake. The main room has a view from 2 sides which we call in California a "million dollar view".
We had the good fortune to spend several days as their guests. They plan to leave the area in a year or 2 as they want to move to the Coromandel Peninsula. The house will be for sale shortly and it will cost less than US$1million though more than NZ$1million. A bargain from our perspective but we are not up on local real estate.
The house is part of a gated development which also provides parking and launching facilities for trailer boats. This is great for Peter's tour operations. Peter is a well known Volcanologist (right?) with a long career studying volcanoes in New Zealand, Antarctica, Hawaii and Washington State. In retirement he has taken to offering tours by land, air and water, of the volcanic areas around Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo is a very large volcanic crater and the lake tour takes you to interesting sights around the North side of the lake. In addition to geological points of interest you will also see some attractive waterfalls which fall into the lake.
One of the most interesting sights are the Maori carvings. These are not ancient but they are carved in the traditional manner. They have had some additions over the years. They lie just off the launch ramp where the lake tour begins so you see them coming and going which means that you will get two chances at a picture with good light.
Peter offers this lake tour plus several other tours by 4WD, seaplane and conventional airplane to visit volcanoes all around central North Island.
You can learn more by visiting their web site Taupo Volcano Tours. Be sure to check out the profile on Peter because he is a very interesting person and a great person to have as a tour guide. You may notice the resemblance to our web page. I put it together for them while we were visiting. We got to go through many of his slides and it was truly amazing. I hope I did it justice.
You can also tour Lake Taupo by speed boat and cover most of what you will see with Peter in half the time with 1/4 the explanation for about the same price. It is more of an adrenaline rush but my advice is go with Peter.
The Lake Taupo area has many more attractions and we didn't see nearly all of them but David took us out to see some of the highlights.
Huka Falls is impressive not for the height of the drop but for the volume of water going over. A deep gorge with fast moving water explodes out of the rocks to fall into a churning pool.
David then took us off the beaten track to "tramp in the bush" kiwi style. David has studied as an outdoor guide and he introduced us to much of the native plants and trees in a reserve which is unfortunately one of the few remaining areas of untouched native bush.
This was our first exposure to the New Zealand Park system and we were impressed with the level of maintenance and development. The path we followed was well developed and easy to walk. The bush was cut back which showed recent maintenance. This is common in New Zealand. We came across a swimming hole with a rope swing that was put in by the park service. On this swing you had to hold on until you were swinging back or you would end up on the rocks on the other side. Could you imagine the law suits in the US? In New Zealand you are expected to be responsible for yourself. Liability lawsuits are almost unheard of and I believe that medical or injury liability is not allowed due to government medical support. Refreshing (unless you are a lawyer).
David showed us Silver Ferns (The New Zealand National Plant), Fern Trees and ferns of all types. We saw many edible plants, though we couldn't get David to eat them. He showed what plant to use to build a shelter in case the Holiday Park was full. Maybe he was disappointed that we weren't the back woods types but we rough it enough at sea and when we are in a civilized place we like to be a little more civilized. We did learn a great deal on the walk with David as our guide.