Heading South – First Stop Taupo

We had planned that our next trip would head south with the idea to explore places that we hadn’t seen or been too for a number of years. I had told Sarah that I didn’t want to drive any further than Taupo on the first day although if she wanted to stop elsewhere on the way that was OK with me as well. Sarah remembered an article in a recent edition of the Motor Caravanner that mentioned a DOC camp just north west of Taupo at Whakaipo Bay. (#3333 in directory) The article shows a large open camp with nobody there close to the great lake.

We decided that we would head there since we have already stayed at both 5 Mile Bay and the NZMCA Park. The article mentions that the road down to the camp isn’t the greatest. Yes it is unsealed with the odd lump and bump but it has recently been graded and according to the locals we spoke too in a lot better condition than it used to be. Another reason for choosing to stay here is that fur babies are OK and we are again traveling with Mr Blobby (our 20 year old cat).

The camp is a long strip of land that runs parallel to the lake with a huge camping area to the right of the road and parking for day trippers on the left hand side. The first night here (Thursday) there were only 5 vans here it was hard to believe that we could be this close to one of the most popular tourist destinations in NZ and there be so few people here. It’s only a 15 minute drive into the main shopping centre.


We managed to squeeze between a couple of other campers located at either end of the reserve (no worries about 3 metres here) and get the awning out for a bit of shade from the sun. With barely a breath of wind and temps in the high 20’s it was like a mid summers day.


There was a group from one of the local schools staying at the Girl Guide Camp located here and they were all down at the beach enjoying a swim when we arrived. By the sound of the squeals of delight they appeared to be having a great time.

It was hearing the kids that gave us confidence to test the waters. I have never swum in this lake and Sarah thinks it’s probably 40 plus years since she has but it just looked much to inviting not to take the dip. The water was much warmer than either of us expected and a very relaxing dip was had. The only negative is there is an infestation of algae covering the lake floor which when disturbed floats to the top of the water. However once in and out a bit deeper it wasn’t really a concern.

I missed getting a photo of the magnificent sunset the first night just getting to the beach as the redness was vanishing from the sky.


As well as being an area for campers this is also a recreation reserve with walking and cycling tracks located at the far end of the reserve. There was a steady stream of traffic heading to and from the track creating quite the dust storm on the pumice based road.

Not having used the bikes for some time and both having lost a lot of fitness whilst I recovered from my chest biopsy we decided that now was the time to get back into it and broke the bikes out of the back of the motorhome. All I can say is that we were both very pleased to have E bikes to assist with the hill climb, although there weren’t any very steep uphill sections it did continue to climb for most of the 7.8kms to the top. We didn’t need to use the power coming downhill though!!

The ride itself is a very pleasant track on a well formed trail that is shaded by the forest almost all the way. This does have to drawback that views of the lake are restricted to not much more than a peep here and there. Even the viewing area at the top is a bit overgrown reducing what would have been a magnificent view.

Had we been fitter we could have ridden all the way to Kinloch and whilst we would have made it there we wouldn’t have made it back. That can be a ride for another day when we are both a lot fitter. I should mention that although there was a lot of people coming and going we rode the whole ride without meeting anyone coming the other way.

We had initially planned to spend just the one night here but ended up staying three we both really enjoyed the place and although it got busier each night with 21 vans on the Saturday night there was space everywhere. What I don’t understand is when there is space everywhere why do some people insist on parking within a couple of metres of our vehicle, arriving after sunset and then talking in the loudest possible voices until 10pm. I guess we should be thankful they shut up when they did!

Whakaipo Bay

Proximity to Attractions

You can camp within 20 metres of the lakefront with the cycle and walking trail running right past you. All here in the one place.

Nearest Supplies/Town

It's a 15 minute drive to Taupo or 10 minutes to the nearest dairy so make sure you come prepared.

Ground Surface

A bit lumpy and bumpy but it's a large campground so find a place to suit.

Proximity to Water/Dump Station

Nearest water and dump station is in Taupo a 15 minute drive away so arrive with full water and empty waste tanks.

Outlook from Camp

If you park at the back of the camp you get water views otherwise it's a very pleasant rural aspect.

Noise during Day and Night

Silence except the gentle lapping of waves.

Cellphone Signal

Good signal here


There is one long drop toilet (bring your own paper) with no shower.

Walking/Cycling Tracks

Really nice walking/cycle track that runs past the front of the camping area.

Pets welcome

No problem with pets here - Lots of people had their dogs unleashed.

Overall Rating:

What a find only 15 minutes from Taupo and almost no one here. We will stay again. Even though it\'s a DOC camp it\'s free to stay here.

Would we recommend that you stay here – Absolutely!!!

To view the places we have visited click here to see them on Google maps. You can click the links to read the blog about that area.

To view the Ratings we have done for places we have stayed click here 

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7 thoughts on “Heading South – First Stop Taupo

  1. Oh no – you’ve mentioned our favourite place. We too can never understand why more people haven’t discovered it and why they park so close when there’s room for Africa. And weirdly we didn’t know about the other walk…something to discover next time. Really enjoy your informative posts. Thank you.

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed your post from Taupo – good idea to check out the Equestrian Centre on the way home. Love from SP

  3. What an excellent report of Whakaipo Bay and area. We live about 5 minutes drive from the bay and it’s a lovely place in summer for swimming. As you say the W2K track is really nice for riding and also walking. There’s also a good approx 20min walk (1 way) at the other end of the bay that goes through bush and ends up at a nice place on the lake.

    1. Colleen thanks for the comments we took that walk as well and I thought about including that in the story but decided to let people discover that for themselves. Also the sign on the walk says 45 minutes and although thats a bit long it does take more than 20 mins

  4. Hi John & Sarah, nice to know about this one, I had it on my list but got slightly diverted. We are currently staying at the Equestrian Centre here in Taupo (a new one for us), very nice it is too. Happy Trails to you both,

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