The holidays are coming and the kids want to go camping. But all you’re thinking of is sitting at a pool bar, sipping on cocktails, enjoying some peace and quiet. Sounds like the impossible dream, right? When things sound too good to be true, they usually are. But not in this case.
In the middle of New Zealand’s North Island is the town of Taupo. Best known as home to the country’s biggest lake, it offers a multitude of outdoor activities and sightseeing, and is located close to the popular tourist town of Rotorua and the ski fields at Mount Ruapehu. Although undoubtedly a great spot for experiencing some Kiwi tourist attractions, I was still dubious about whether it was really possible to experience the “impossible dream” holiday here.
Driving into the Lake Taupo Top 10 Holiday Resort, I felt a wave of excitement creep over me. Usually, a campsite pool is the token small rectangular type, crowded with kids, and with the odd parent who is brave enough to climb in and try to pretend they are enjoying it. To say the pool at Top 10 is big would be a massive understatement. Trying not to get ahead of myself, I parked the car and went inside to announce my arrival. Maybe they’d tell me I was in the wrong place and that my campsite was the one down the road (with the token small rectangular pool).
To my relief, they not only checked me in and showed me where our tent site was, but they also told me which kids’ movies were going to be playing on the – get this – big screen at the pool! And they also wished me a lovely stay while camping. By this point, my kids were skipping around with excitement, the check-in staff had become my new favourite people in the world, and I was already a happy camper.
Did I mention the pool is big?
By some miracle, we managed to get the tent up, and it roughly resembled the photo on the box, so this holiday was off to a flying start. Time to hit the pool. This thing is not only huge, it’s also thermally heated, and it has a four-metre deep underwater cave (complete with pretend glow worms on the ceiling!), which you can dive down into to discover a treasure chest! This place had “hours of fun for kids” written all over it.
And there they were: the pool bar and the drinks menu. I sat down, ordered my cocktail, looked around to see my smiling kids sitting in the water watching Monster’s Inc. on the giant screen, and I knew I’d found my happy place. The cafe at the pool offers really good meals at very reasonable prices, so we ate breakfast there every morning; and, due to the fact that the kids refused to leave the pool until the movies were over, which was usually around 9pm, we ate dinner there while camping most nights as well!
Seriously good fun
When the kids were not splashing around contentedly, we had loads of fun with the other activities at the resort. There’s a huge jumping pillow, a playground, beach volleyball, basketball, two trampolines, tennis courts, bikes, as well as a games room with air hockey and foosball. We also hired the three-wheeler pedal go-karts and cruised around the resort – great fun in one direction (downhill!), but rather thigh-burning coming back the other way. Once the 30-minute rental was up, I could totally justify all those cocktails and great local food, so it was well worth the effort.
This camping holiday was a win-win for the whole family. We had a really fun, relaxing time, and the kids had a blast, so you can’t ask for much more than that. If sleeping in a tent is not your thing, the resort also offers cabins and self-contained units, which can sleep up to 10 people. It also has Wi-Fi, but in all honesty, why would you need it? You’ll be too busy relaxing and sipping on cocktails. And when people ask why you couldn’t keep in touch, just tell them you’ve been camping. After all, camping is “roughing it”, right?
6 must-do experiences in Taupo
1 Huka Falls: This 11-metre high waterfall, with 220,000 litres of water per second thundering through the rock face, is New Zealand’s most photographed natural attraction. The water is a stunning aqua colour, and there are plenty of walking tracks and viewing platforms that enable you to get close.
2 Hukafalls: Jet If looking at the falls from a distance isn’t exciting enough for you, hop on the jet boat and zoom past sheer rock cliffs and experience 360-degree spins, as you head towards the base of the falls.
3 Taupo Bungy: If jumping off a 47-metre-high cliff is your idea of fun, then you’re in the right place. You can even ask them to dip you in the water, just for an extra thrill!
4 Lake Taupo: Take a stroll along the waterfront of Lake Taupo. Snap some photos, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the stunning landscape that surrounds you.
5 Orakei Korako: Experience geysers, hot springs and bubbling mud pools in this geothermal park, just north of Taupo.
6 Take a day trip: Just an hour’s drive from Taupo is the well-known town of Rotorua, where you can visit the Maori cultural centre, Te Puia. Here you’ll experience Maori culture, watch art-and-craft exhibitions, visit a live Kiwi enclosure and see more than 500 natural geothermal wonders, including the world-famous Pohutu Geyser.
Looking for more travel inspiration? Read about other fun destinations in our travel section.