Lake Taupo Facts and Figures

Interesting Things to Know About Lake Taupo, North Island

Fishing on Lake Taupo
••• Fishing on Lake Taupo. Image Courtesy of Getty Images/Ross Land
Lake Taupo Size and Dimensions
  • Lake Taupo is the largest lake by surface area in New Zealand. It is also the second largest freshwater lake by surface area in Oceania. It is second only to Lake Murray in Papua New Guinea.
  • Lake Taupo has a surface area of 238 square miles (616 square kilometers). It is roughly the size of Singapore.
  • It has nearly twice the surfacearea of Lake Te Anau in the South Island, New Zealand's next largest lake (133 square miles/344 square kilometers).
  • It is much larger than the next biggest lake in the North Island, Lake Rotorua (31 square miles/79 square kilometers).
  • Length of shoreline is 120 miles (193 kilometers).
  • The maximum length is 29 miles (46 kilometers) and maximum width is 21 miles (33 kilometers).
  • The average depth is 360 feet (110 meters).
  • The maximum depth is 610 feet (186 meters).
  • Water volume is 14 cubic miles (59 cubic kilometers).

Lake Taupo History and Formation

  • Lake Taupo was formed as the result of a massive volcanic eruption 26,500 years ago. It is essentially a type of collapsed volcanic crater known as a caldera.
  • Since then there have been another 27 recorded eruptions in the lake. The most recent occurred around 1800 years ago and was seen as far away as Rome and China.
  • The last recorded eruption was around 1310AD.

Fish and Other Wildlife in and Around Lake Taupo

  • Lake Taupo and the surrounding rivers make up the leading freshwater fishing destination in New Zealand with huge numbers of fish.
  • The main species of fish are the brown trout and rainbow trout. These were introduced into the lake in 1887 and 1898 respectively.
  • The lake is a trout fishery meaning you cannot buy or sell fish caught there. You could, however, ask a local restaurant to cook your catch for you.
  • The forests and mountain areas around the lake offer many opportunities for hunting. Animals include wild pigs, goats and deer.

Land Areas Around Lake Taupo

  • At the northern end is the township of Taupo (population 23,000) and the lake's main outlet, the Waikato River.
  • At the southern end is the township of Turangi, which has been described as the trout fishing capital of New Zealand. Further to the south is the Tongariro National Park, one of three UNESCO World Heritage sites in New Zealand and the country's first national park.
  • The skyline of the southern end is dominated by the mountains Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe. They are clearly seen from Taupo township.
  • On the eastern side is the Kaimanawa Forest Park and the Kaimanawa Ranges. This is a massive forest of original beech trees, tussock and shrublands. The Park was also the setting for the Black Gate of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings' movie trilogy. (Read more about 'Lord of the Rings' tours and locations in the North Island.)
  • To the west of the lake is Pureora Conservation Park, an important habitat for rare native birds.

Other Interesting Facts About Lake Taupo

  • It takes about ten and a half years from the time a drop of water enters the lake until the time it leaves through the Waikato River outlet.
  • Taupo gets its name as the shortened version of its correct name, Taupo-nui-a-Tia. This translates from the Maori meaning "The great cloak of Tia". It refers to an incident when the early Maori chief and explorer noticed some unusually colored cliffs along the shore of the lake which resembled his cloak. He named the cliffs "Taupo-nui-a-Tia" and the shortened form later became the name of both the lake and the town.