Taupo, a little wonder in the North Island’s center
Taupo is a favorite of mine. Surrounded by Lake Taupo and not so far from the gorgeous Tongariro National Park’s volcanos, Taupo seems to be taken out of a postal card. This city can be visited in one or two days. As for me I spent two weeks there when we were doing some helpX. I really enjoyed to be able to spend more time in this city. I found myself calm and relaxed in this place. Maybe as the results of the surroundings!
Moreover it is a very wheelchair friendly city.. The main part of the town is flat, the pavement is well-maintained and there are some curb-cuts to go in. No problem to do some shopping or to go for a coffee in town. Only some residential neighbourhoods are located on the hills but anyway, they are too far away for the center to go there by walking.
So if you decide to come in Taupo, here are some ideas of what you can do :
A walk around the lake
If you like to stroll, the « Great Lake Walkway », following the lake, is a really good one. This walk starts near the Yacht Club all the way to « Five Mile Bay », which is about 10km. This walk will give you an incredible view at the Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu mounts. I could have stay there during hours gazing at those majestic volcanos raising behind this so calm looking lake.
For people using a wheelchair it is possible to go as far as « Wharekawa point » without any problem. The pathway is fitted out and flat most of the time. There are just some rises but they are quite easy. The ground is made of flat cobblestones so this is not too shaky. After « Wharekawa point » there is a small section of the path which has nor concrete nor cobblestones on it. After that the path is fine again Benches can be found regularly. There are also toilets, a playground for the kids, a picnic area and a barbecue at « Wharekawa point ».
The Huka Falls
You cannot visit Taupo without going to see the Huka Falls. This waterfall is one of the most famous in New Zealand. there is nothing surprising about that: it’s really impressive! They are not high but they are so powerful! The flow is as important as only one minute would be enough to fill five olympic pools! 220 000 litres of water flows from this waterfall every second!
The Huka Falls are wheelchair accessible. There is a car park just near and the way from there to the falls is easy to go through in a wheelchair. So there is no reason not to enjoy this show!
For the nature lovers, you might want to go for the walk along the river starting at the waterfalls. You just have to follow the path at the right after the bridge when you come from the car park. This walk will take you about two hours return. You will walk at the border of the bush and, at the same time, along the Waikato river which ends in the Huka Falls. It can be the right time to discover or rediscover the New Zealand ’s silver ferns and even maybe to catch sight of some endemic birds species, like the fantail.
Regarding the accessibility this walk is more difficult than the « Great Lake Walkway ». The pathway is maintained but there is no concrete on it. There are many steep slopes which are impossible to manage alone for someone in a manual wheelchair. They are too abrupt and sometimes there is almost no flat area between two of them. However with a healthy person to help this is possible. We made it one way in one hour but not without efforts! Despite the difficulty I appreciated this walk.
The all-natural hot pools
The hot pools are one of my favourite things in New Zealand. I love them! This is awesome to have a bath in a natural hot water in the wild! So I was not to miss my chance to bath in Taupo’s hot pools during the winter.
The city is located in a high geothermal activity area caused by the surrounding volcanoes. The hot pools are situated in the spa park, near the end of the walk we just talked about. This is really a must do during your time in New Zealand!
Unfortunately Taupo’s hot pools are natural ones which means that there is not accessible. It is possible to get close to them as there is the walk pathway passing there but going inside the pools is much more complicated. There is no slopes or even stairs to go inside. We are in the wilderness: you have to walk on rocks to enter in the water. Once you succeeded to be in the pool you need to stay alert because of submerged rocks under the water that you cannot see. For someone who is not able to walk this is clearly impossible. For someone with mobility issues it is possible with the help of another person but you have to be really really careful. It is easy to fall. As for me I managed to go in by sitting on the rocks and with Franck’s help.
Another simpler solution is to go at the Wairakei Terraces. These are hot pools filled with natural hot water and they are fitted out. The entrance to the Wairakei Terraces costs $25 and this is not in the wild. Nonetheless you will be able to enjoy a natural hot water bath without the risks. Nevertheless the layout is not perfect: only the first pool is accessible with a slope. If you want to go in the others you will have to use the stairs equipped with handrails.
Apart from the accessibility issues, to bath in those pools is very pleasant. The place is very quiet as the minors are not allowed. There are three pools of different temperatures. We didn’t succeed to go in the hottest one but we had a good laugh at the people trying to go in there. That seems to be almost impossible to put more than the toes as the water is really hot! During our time at the Wairakei Terraces nobody succeeded to enter in this pool.
Well, if you like thrills, Taupo is the perfect place. The city is the skydiving’s world capital! It is also possible to do jet boats but we decided to wait until our trip to Queenstown to be frightening!
You want to travel all around New Zealand? Find many ideas of awesome destinations in north island and south island in my other articles as well as wheelchair accessibility tips.
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