Whether you're seven months pregnant (ahem) and in no condition for a skydive, or you're simply after an easy-going getaway, this Taupō itinerary isn't throwing anyone's back out, writes Anna Sarjeant
Day one: Cocktails in the pool
Three words. Swim-up bar. Thanks to Lake Taupō Holiday Resort, and the only place in New Zealand to offer such a luxury, mojitos (including those of the virgin kind) can be enjoyed while submerged in 32-degree water. Once you've rocked up to camp late afternoon, pitched a tent and thrown on your togs, the large pool lagoon invites you to come hither for a cocktail. Just remember to top up your bar credit at reception or pop a card behind your sunnies for easy pool payment.
If you're not yet a parent, scamper before the 5pm kids' movie is aired on a giant, poolside screen and drive all of five minutes into Taupō. An endless assortment of waterfront dining establishments tempts the hungry traveller, but if the sun's still shining, pick up a bag of fish and chips from Catch 22 and dine lakeside on the grass. Easily the best-fried fish you've had this century, it's cooked fresh-to-order and the wait time only confirms one thing: with such a steady flow of locals, it's the best of the rest by far.
If you simply can't resist the pull of the water, no one has ever regretted a late Lake Taupō dip, at least not in summer. Really clever folk buy giant lilos and float idly until sundown - with a chilled pack of Pals by their side.
Day two: Cruisey beginnings
No need to be "up and at it" when Sail Barbary cruises don't leave until 10.30am. Departing from Taupō Boat Harbour, which is a fun little hub in itself, passengers can – for want of a better word - lollop on the boat's open deck, beneath enormous white sails and a music speaker. Something that's actually required to break the silence, because your vessel, in all her 12-metre, 14-ton glory is powered solely by battery. She barely gurgles.
Lake Taupō, notoriously as large as Singapore, is bookended by Mt Ruapehu and Mount Tauhara. The latter is also known as "Pregnant Lady Mountain" and she too likes a good rest. It's a beautiful landscape and one that's left mercifully unperturbed when you're travelling electric.
While Barbary glides, Chris, your skipper for the excursion provides a steady supply of commentary that includes just the right amount of factual information and anecdotes about Australians. By the time you reach the Ngatoroirangi Mine Bay Māori Rock Carvings and swim in the lake's sapphire water, you'll have completely forgotten that you're frolicking in the crater of the world's biggest volcanic eruption in 70,000 years. Still, no sharks in these parts so that ups the relaxation factor.
Back in central Taupō for 1pm, lunch should be taken in the form of a picnic at 5 Mile Bay, a small and sedate sliver of pebbles and shaded trees that lends itself to shallow lake swims and an afternoon nap. But wake before four because Lava Glass Taupō closes at 5pm.
For all those who find glass blowing irresistibly hypnotic, Lava Glass Taupō, on the town's outer fringes showcases glass blowing demos throughout the day - crafted by molten-glass wizard, founder and resident artist, Lynden Over. If you're a magpie around pretty things, throw your wallet into the furnace now: the onsite shop is a Mecca for the ornament-inclined.
Before leaving – no doubt laden with breakables in multiple bags – take a stroll around the sculpture garden. From giant glass flowers to a rainbow waterfall, it's a kaleidoscope of manmade meets nature-made colour.
Sun-fatigued and all shopped out, there's a swim-up bar back at base – and a frosted beer has your name on it. Day two is done.
Day three: Pedalos and moon walks
Victoria's Cafe Kitchen Bar is the one with a giant red cup above its door. With a modern interior that spills out on to the pavement, it's the ideal stop for an alfresco brunch. Fuel up on hot buttery croissants before making tracks to 4 Mile Bay, where pedalos and ridiculous-looking water trikes wait to be pedalled across the lake. A 30-minute time slot (book ahead to avoid disappointment) allows for an entertaining romp on the water: racing ducks and avoiding the menacing approaches of a wily black swan.
Back on dry land, pop your bare toes into a pair of trainers and head over to Craters of the Moon Thermal Walkway. For just $8 per person, lunar-like experiences are a whole lot cheaper than booking with Jeff Bezos. Allow at least 40 minutes to ramble across this relatively flat hinterland marred by great gashes of steaming thermal activity. It's less gluggy than Rotorua but the misty plumes erupt with tenacity. Eerily quiet and veiled in only the most determined of plant life, barren may seem like an unfair description, but there's beauty to be found in its desolation.
With the threat of Sunday chores beckoning, make one last skedaddle into the town centre and stock up on fudge for the journey home. Fudge It Taupō is located on Te Heuheu St, with freshly made flavours ranging from creme brulee to custard slice – a personal favourite. It's guaranteed to be devoured before you're done with SH1, but it does make slow-moving traffic that little bit sweeter.
For more travel inspiration, go to newzealand.com/nz.
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