The Hidden Valley, 30km from Taupo, is reached from a side road linking Highways 1 and 5.The area is thought to be one of the countries best thermal areas but due to its location, receives few visitors.
To reach the thermal field it is necessary to take a boat across the Waikato River. Part of the area was flooded by the damming of the river in 1961, but this does not interfere with the walkway round the geysers, sinter terraces, mud pools and hot springs. The finest feature is the Great Golden Fleece, a range of sinter terraces 38m long and over 4m high.
Turangi, New Zealand
At the south end of Lake Taupo is Turangi (pop. 4500), once a quiet little holiday resort, which has developed rapidly since construction began on the Tongariro hydroelectric scheme in 1964. Farmers and forestry workers have settled here as well as construction workers and technicians. Turangi has also become a center of the timber industry. Above all, however, the town has gained from tourism: it is a good base not only for exploring the surrounding area but also for excursions to Tongariro National Park.On the way from Turangi to Tokaanu the pipelines of the Tongariro hydroelectric scheme can be seen on the hillside above the road. Under the scheme the Whanganui, the Tongariro and other rivers are linked by channels and underground tunnels. Before the water flows into Lake Taupo it drives the turbines of another power station. Since the water level of Lake Taupo can thus be controlled, the output of the eight hydroelectric stations on the Waikato River can be optimized. During the construction of this complex system, care was taken to ensure that the flow of water in the Tongariro River was maintained in order to avoid endangering its stocks of trout.
Tongariro National Trout Centre
Over Turangi looms Mount Pihanga (1325m), which in Maori mythology, as the only 'female' volcano, is courted by the 'male' volcanoes in the surrounding area. From the Pihanga Saddle Road Viewpoint there is a marvelous view of Lake Taupo. Near here is the idyllic Lake Rotopounamu.
The little township of Tokaanu, 5km west of Turangi, is known for its thermal springs (spa establishment open daily). St Paul's Church (Anglican) has an appealing Maori-style interior.
Kaimanawa Forest Park
Southeast of Turangi is Kaimanawa Forest Park (760 sq.km), with magnificent southern beeches. It lies immediately east of Tongariro National Park, separated from it by Highway 1 (Desert Road).