Taupo is a town with the spirit of tourism running through its veins. From its magnificent lake stretching south to where it meets the mountains of the volcanic plateau glistening in the distance, to its hub and bustle centre, Taupo knows how to thrive. It has also become a cycling hub and as mountain biking writer Graeme Simpson found out, biking has become a big part of what Taupo has to offer.
Every November, Taupo hosts New Zealand’s largest cycling event – the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. It’s a 153-kilometre circumnavigation of the lake with more than 8000 riders entering every year.
In 2012, the International Mountain Bike Association awarded the town Silver Ride Centre status – for the trails, other activities, accommodation and hospitality. Like most mountain bike hotspots it's the people who bring the trails to life and in Taupo the heart of this community is Bike Taupo.
Bike Taupo oversees the development of the Craters Mountain Bike Park north of town and the truly magnificent Great Lake Trail. It’s a real icon ride. The Great Lake Trail will hopefully, eventually do, off-road, what the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge event does, on road. Circumnavigate the lake.
And the Great Lake Trail is the perfect way to kick off your mountain bike weekend away in Taupo.
Get a shuttle from Kinloch to the start of the Waihaha-Waihora link of the Great Lake Trail. This is an epic 30km wilderness ride that follows the Waihaha River down to the cliffs above the lake. Then, follow the track around the rim of the lake from your clifftop perch before dropping down to the lake edge where you can meet your boat shuttle from Chris Jolly Outdoors. They'll get you and your bike back to Kinloch (make sure you get a few beers put in the boat for the trip back).
Still in good shape? Get the boat to drop you off at Kawakawa Bay and ride back over the hill to Kinloch.
Refuel with a burger at the Kinloch Store – you can even get a beer or two next door at the Tipsy Trout. Make sure you have a driver to get you back to Taupo. Pete at Great Lake Shuttles will be able to sort all of your transport needs.
Carbo-loading and beverages are always an important part of these sorts of away trips. Taupo has more than its fair share of great places to eat. Try the Lake House, with generous servings and a superb range of craft beers. Or try Plateau or Rose on Roberts (epic beer selection) then Finns (a backpacker bar and Taupo institution) for a night cap. What you do after that is your business ...
Kick next morning off with a big breakfast at Eruption Café, before heading out to Craters Mountain Bike Park. You can get your passes from the Hub Café over the road from the car park.
OK, time to ride, once more.
Head out on Hammer It, Tank Stand, Grinder, then down Buzzard or Col’s Killer to The Connection. From here head to Outback, onto Steam Fields and Outback, again. Make your way back to The Connection via Skunk Works and Luge or the easier Slalom. You'll be stoked, but there's still more to come.
Next, it’s up Incline and down Coaster. Repeat.
Not enough? Head up to Beagle Boys and down into SH Fun and back to the car park on Tourist Track – before coffee and a feed at Hub Café.
Relax, knowing you’ve covered the best trails in Craters MTB Park. Free-draining pumice means these trails ride well in any weather, with solid climbs to earn those fast, flowing descents.
Still not done? Try potting a hole in one on the lakefront or the bungy jump and giant swing up Spa Road. Or, soothe those aching muscles with a soak in a hot pool at De Bretts.
Bliss … thanks, Taupo.