Lake Taupo, New Zealand: History, Facts, and Figures

Lake Taupo
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New Zealand's Lake Taupo, touted by travel marketers as nature's ultimate playground, sits at the center of the North Island, about three and a half hours south by car from Auckland, and four and a half hours north from Wellington. The country's largest freshwater lake attracts water skiers, sailors, and kayakers, but fishing tops the list of favorite outdoor activities for many visitors.

Lake Taupo by the Numbers

Lake Taupo covers 238 square miles (616 square kilometers), making it roughly the size of Singapore. It's the largest lake in the country and has nearly twice the surface area of Lake Te Anau on the South Island, New Zealand's next largest lake.

Lake Taupo stretches 29 miles (46 kilometers) long by 21 miles (33 kilometers) wide, with 120 miles (193 kilometers) of shoreline. The average depth is 360 feet (110 meters), but the deepest point is 610 feet (186 meters). The lake holds 14 cubic miles (59 cubic kilometers) of water.

Lake Taupo Formation and History

Lake Taupo fills the caldera left by a massive volcanic eruption 26,500 years ago. It sits on top of a supervolcano and in the past 26,000 years, 28 major eruptions have taken place here, occurring between 50 and 5,000 years apart. The most recent eruption happened about 1,800 years ago, however it is possible that the lake may one day erupt again.

Taupo gets its name as the shortened version of its correct name, Taupo-nui-a-Tia. This translates from Maori as "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 that 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.

Lake Taupo Fishing and Hunting

Lake Taupo, and the surrounding rivers, is the leading freshwater fishing destination in New Zealand. With the world's largest natural trout fishery in the town of Turangi, where you can cast a fly in the lake and its surrounding rivers. The main species of fish are the brown trout and rainbow trout, introduced into the lake in 1887 and 1898 respectively. The rules of the fishery prevent you from buying fish caught there. Although, you can ask a local restaurant to cook your catch for you.

The forests and mountain areas around the lake also offer opportunities for hunting animals like wild pigs, feral goats, and deer. To fish or hunt near Taupo, you must purchase a fishing license or hunting permit.

Lake Taupo Surroundings

At the northern end of Lake Taupo, you can visit the township of Taupo (population 23,000) and find the lake's main outlet, the Waikato River.

At the southern end is the township of Turangi, billed as the trout fishing capital of New Zealand. Farther south sits Tongariro National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the country's first national park. Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro, and Mount Ngauruhoe dominate the skyline of the lake's southern end and you can see all three mountains clearly 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. To the west of the lake is Pureora Conservation Park, which is an important habitat for rare native birds and a favorite of birdwatchers.

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