Kia ora: Turangi

The Tongariro Crossing offers great mountain views.
The Tongariro Crossing offers great mountain views.

Origin of name: It stems from the name of Turangitukua, a Maori leader who was an important figure in the area.

Population: 3500 (recent estimate) but was up to 9000 in the 1970s when the hydro dam was being constructed.

Where is it: In the Waikato region, in the Taupo district, 50km southwest of Taupo, 325km south of Auckland, 322km north of Wellington and just off the Desert Rd.

Town slogan: Trout fishing capital of the world, and before that " naturally the centre of outdoor adventure", and before that " adventure central". Sometimes also called "top of the lake".

Town mascot: The trout, but they've yet to erect one in the main street.

Famous anglers: Zane Grey made the area famous by writing about it in the 1920s; since then the Queen Mother has fished there, as have Jimmy Carter, Larry Hagman and Robert Mitchum, to name a few.

Best local website: turangi.co.nz or greatlaketaupo.com

Main employer: Forestry and tourism.

Town fiesta: Turangi Colours Festival - an art and food celebration held in autumn taking advantage of the region's deciduous trees. There's also the River Wild Raft and Run Team Challenge, and cycling and mountain bike races.

Best reason to stop: The National Trout Centre is hard to beat. Trout are reared and put in ponds for kids to catch. There's also a museum that looks at everything trout related, from 1898 to the present day. Every book written on fishing is there, as well as audiovisual presentations and a fresh water stream/aquarium - educational and fun.

Best place to take the kids: Burn off energy going for a walk round the loop track from the Major Jones swing bridge down to the main road.

Best place to get a drink: If you like whiskey, Parklands Motor Lodge has an astonishing selection. Turangi Tavern has been revitalised recently, or go to Tongariro Lodge for something swanky. Lakeland House looking over the, you guessed it, lake, is good too.

Best food: Tongariro Lodge and Lakeland House are both highly regarded.

Best flat white: The coffee cart at the Bruce Rd off the main road, or Licorice Cafe if you like your coffee stationary.

Best bakery: Turangi Bakery and Cafe wins prizes for its pies. The beef curry is jolly good, ditto the steak and cheese pie.

Best art gallery: Tree Trunk Gallery and the Tongariro Art Group run a gallery in the centre of town. Both sell super souvenirs, trinkets and the works of locals and artists from further afield.

Best mini golf: Adventure Mini Golf is a lot of fun, with a course based around things you can do in the central North Island. Putt over the Tongariro Crossing, through the Waiourou Army Museum and around the Chateau.

Best walk: The Tongariro Crossing is a wonderful hike. Or stroll round Lake Rotopounamu, the historic Tokaanu thermal pools has a sweet little 20 minute wander. Or go on one of the great walks at the end of Kiko Rd. You'll want your sensible shoes.

Best view: Splash out on a scenic flight and marvel at the views over Ruapehu, Tongariro and Lake Taupo. Or, with your feet on the ground, the views from Mt Tongariro are hard to beat.

Best mountain biking: There's a new river track that hooks up from Red Hut Swing Bridge back to Turangi to Major Jones swing bridge - this is a great ride that anyone who can ride a bike can manage. Then there's also Tongariro River Track, Tree Trunk Gorge, Fischers Track, Moerangi Station and 42 Traverse.

Best adventure: Rafting with Tongariro River Rafting. They do everything from family trips a 3-year-old could go on to 13km of grade-three fun - you can even stop and fish.

Best place to pull over: Stump Bay at Turangi yacht club is hard to beat, or pull over at the lookout above Turangi on the Saddle Rd.

Best playground: At the moment it's Taupehi Reserve but a fancy new park - with a skate bowl - is on the agenda.

Best kept secret: Scenic Bay on the lake is really neat and aptly named.

Best swim: The Genesis Energy Pool is super cool and lavish, and of course there's also the lake, the river and the hot pools - bring more than one pair of togs.

Wildlife: Aside from the trout, the endangered whio or little blue duck is enjoying a population boost. Five years ago a trust was established to trap pests in the bush around the river's edges, and that initiative has seen blue duck numbers increase in the lower 7km of the river. Indeed, all the bird life has benefited from that programme and the volunteers who run the traps deserve major pats on the back.

Make sure you: Get up super early to see the sunrise form the Tongariro River delta - stunning.

Visitors say: We should have come for longer.

Locals say: I came to Turangi for a season - 20 years ago.

Thanks to Garth Oakden from Turangi River Rafting for spilling the beans on the area's charms.

- NZ Herald

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