Tucked away in the serene southwest curve of Lake Taupo, Pukawa is one of the most beautiful bays on the lake, with stunning views across to Taupo and the Kaimanawa Ranges curved protectively around the lake’s blue waters. You can see the lights of Taupo sparkling across New Zealand’s largest lake at night, but what you hear are the serene sounds of the bush at night.
In the mornings, you’ll wake to the equally relaxing sounds of native tui's, fantails, pheasants, quails, wood pigeons and bellbirds that abound in this part of New Zealand’s bush. Days are spent boating (there’s an excellent boat ramp right in Pukawa or you can go on a charter), water-skiing in the nearby lane (or enjoying whatever water sport you like), swimming off the safe, sandy beach, mountain biking, hunting, golfing, sightseeing … in fact, pretty much what your heart desires.
Keen fly fisherman will think they’ve died and gone to heaven. Apart from the Pukawa stream, which is reputed to be rather productive, there are so many lakes and rivers to cast for wild rainbow trout they won’t want to leave. In fact, some call the Turangi-Tongariro River region the trout-fishing capital of the world.
If hiking’s your thing, you’ll feel pretty much the same as the anglers do. There are so many walks you’ll have to be careful not to wear your boots out! They range from leisurely walks along the fantastic lakeside track from Pukawa to Kuratau, in the cool beauty of Kaimanawa and Pureroa Forest Parks and around scenic Rotopunamo Lake… to one of plenty trails in the Tongariro National Park, New Zealand’s oldest national park and a dual World Heritage area, about three-quarters of an hour away.
The huge volcanic cones of Tongariro and Ngauruhoe were used as Mount Doom and Mordor in the epic ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. When you see how surreal they are in real life, you will understand how they came to be chosen. Unforgettable.
Tongariro’s Alpine Crossing has been voted the best One Day Walk in New Zealand. A 17 kilometre volcanic trail that rises to altitudes of 1,600 metres above sea level, it will lead you over ancient lava flows, up mountain summits, along scoria slopes and through craters. There’s nothing else like it in the world. Highlights include impossibly green or blue crater lakes, steaming fumaroles and massive volcanic views. Local shuttle buses make it easy to get back to your accommodation after the walk.
Mt Ruapehu, also in Tongariro National Park and just 45 minutes away from Pukawa, has a permanent cover of snow and ice, including seven glaciers and, during the winter, it becomes home to New Zealand’s two largest ski areas, Whakapapa and Turoa. With great runs for boarders and skiers, it has the highest lift-accessed snow sport terrain in New Zealand and the longest vertical drop in Australasia. And if that’s not enough to get you excited, the mountain is also an active volcano with a steaming crater lake at its summit.
Any time of year, take the kids to the Tongariro Trout Centre in Turangi (just 15 minutes away from Pukawa) to discover what all the fuss is about. Alternatively, you can arrange to go kayaking or on an eco-tour. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try white-water rafting or horseback riding.
Actually, that’s one of the really great things about Pukawa. There is so much children can safely enjoy right here. Quite apart from the bush trails in adjoining nature reserves, rock climbing and mini-golf in Turangi and thermal pools five minutes away in Tokaanu, the curving arms of the bay means the water is calm and clear, and the beach is a safe spot for even the littlies.
Reviews of the local Oreti Village restaurant are good and the lake views are superb. There is a shop and café an easy 20-minute walk away in both Kurantau and Omori. If you want a supermarket, it’s a quick 10-minute drive to Turangi. And if you have shopping fever, Taupo is only 45 or so minutes away.
It’s the kind of place you go to when you want to be far away enough from the madding crowd to totally relax… but close enough to have access to pretty much every mod-con and holiday activity you could wish for. Fiery sunrises over the water, sunsets that gild it with gentle colours. Pukawa is a picturesque, tranquil and a very, very nice place to stay.
Oreti Village timeshare exchange resort is set high between two scenic nature reserves and has magnificent views across the lake. It is an ideal retreat to either kick back, relax and unwind from the pressures of modern living or to use as a base to explore the Central Plateau region of the North Island.
Ski image courtesy of Mt Ruapehu Ski
Aerial image courtesy of Destination Lake Taupo
Rock carving image courtesy of Chris McLennan