Lake Taupo is the Southern Hemispheres largest lake and a major tourist & holiday destination for many New Zealanders / Australians and International travellers alike. Trout fishing, boating, skiing, mountain walks, thermal pools, vibrant cafes / restaurant and a vast array of hotels / motels/ backpackers make the Lake Taupo region an exciting holiday destination in both winter and summer. Visit the Tongariro National Park or walk the Tongariro crossing know as one of the worlds best one day walks.
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Welcome To Turangi - Top Of The Lake

Welcome to the Turangi - Tongariro region. Four hours drive from either Auckland or Wellington and only 40 minutes from Taupo, the Turangi – Tongariro region is the natural centre of the North Island, world renowned as ‘The Trout Fishing Capital of the World’, and covers an area of 2273 sq. kilo meters.

Built on the banks of the wonderful Tongariro River, Turangi and it’s surrounding countryside offers challenging hunting, fishing, mountain biking, hiking or leisurely bush walks, white water rafting, kayaking, sight seeing and much more.

Turangi is the ideal base for excursions into the Tongariro National Park, Kaimanawa Forest Park, Pureroa Forest Park as well as being only a 40 minute drive to the Whakapapa ski area on Mt Ruapehu.

Several small picturesque settlements are close by. Kuratau, Omori, Pukawa and Whareroa are lakeside settlements a short drive off the Western Bays Highway, while other delightfully situated villages from Motuoapa to Hatepe are passed on State Highway 1 driving north from Turangi to Taupo. Well worth a visit is historic Tokaanu with it’s thermal activity pools and power station.

About Turangi
The Turangi/ Tongariro area has numerous attributes that include:

  • Central location in the North Island and proximity to State Highway One – with a 4,720 vehicles per day market at Turangi’s doorstep [1997 figure]
  • The Tongariro River – world famous for trout fishing
  • The picturesque Tokaanu Hot Pools complex and the adjacent natural thermal area
  • 4 large areas of native bush, exotic forest and natural scenic beauty
  • Close to Tongariro National Park, our oldest National Park which has been internationally recognised as a natural world heritage area and also a cultural world heritage area - one of only 15 such sites in the world. This park contains the marvellous andesite volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.
  • An area rich in Maori history which is the tribal home of the Ngati Tuwharetoa people
  • Close to the numerous walking tracks of the Tongariro National Park that includes the
  • Tongariro Crossing which is the most popular one day walk in New Zealand
  • Close to the largest ski area in New Zealand – Whakapapa Ski area which caters for 10,000 skiers per day
  • Close to the largest lake in New Zealand – Lake Taupo
  • Numerous outdoor recreational pursuits available including: rafting, kayaking, skiing, fishing, trekking, boating, golfing, tramping, climbing, flying, horse riding and scenic drives. All these activities are supported by an infrastructure of accommodation, restaurants, transport and information
  • Population of approximately 4,300 people – and growing
  • Low cost real estate, housing and commercial rents
  • Available work force
  • Range of community assets – library, parks and swimming pools.

Turangi - An Historical Summary

The Maori of the Lake Taupo region are descendants of those who came to New Zealand on the double-hulled Te Arawa canoe. They settled in the Bay of Plenty on the East Coast and gradually moved inland to investigate the forested heart of the central North Island. These explorers and their descendants became known as the Ngati Tuwharetoa tribe. Maori settled around Taupo Moana – ‘the inland sea’ – from the 16th century. Ngati Tuwharetoa encountered and conquered the inhabitants of the interior and established a new tribal domain. Their sons, in turn, established and marked out the sub-divisions of their territory.

Origin Of The Name "Turangi"
The town of Turangi is located near the head of Lake Taupo alongside the Tongariro River. The town takes its name from the Maori leader, Turangitukua, who was an important figure in the history of the south Lake Taupo area. After many battles, Turangitukua and his followers occupied land near the Tongariro River and he, along with several other Chiefs, assisted the Ngati Tuwharetoa people to become established in the Taupo region.

For some time, Turangitukua was the keeper and guardian of the tribal God Rongomai. His name was adopted as the name of the local sub-tribe, or hapu, of Maori people in the delta region of the Tongariro River. It remains so today and the culture centre of the people of Ngati Turangitukua is the Hirangi Marae in Turangi.

Fishing Village
It was not until the 1830’s that the first Europeans reached the isolated centre of the North Island of New Zealand. They noted there were about 2,000 inhabitants in scattered settlements around Lake Taupo. The largest Maori community close to the Turangi area was located at Tokaanu and consisted of about 300 people. It was not until the turn of the century that Europeans began to settle in Turangi. This followed the introduction of brown and rainbow trout into the lake and rivers of the area in the 1880s and 1890s.

The building of a bridge over the Tongariro River in 1891 and the establishment of a major north – south road link through the heart of the North Island also assisted the growth of a small trout fishing settlement close to the bridge. A few cottages were built on sections nearby and angling camps, with tents and some huts, were built at fishing pools along the lower Tongariro River. In the 1920s only the pools below the road bridge were fished intensively as access was still difficult above the bridge. Most visitors stayed at hotels in Tokaanu until the 1920s when ‘Hatch’s Camp’, later known as ‘Taylor’s Lodge’ was built in Turangi in an area near the river known as Taupahi.

At this stage, the fledgling settlement was called by various names: Tongariro Bridge, Tongariro Junction and Taupahi. However, when a Post Office opened in 1931, local Maori elders named the settlement Turangi, which is an abbreviated form of both the ancestral name Turangitukua and the name of the local hapu.

In the 1920s two prison farms were opened at Rangipo and Hautu because of the isolated nature of the area. The Tongariro River had gained an international reputation for its fishing. Several Crown sections were auctioned in the 1930s to become the nucleus of a small village. The Bridge Lodge was built near the road bridge at Turangi and opened in 1933.

In the 1950s, Turangi was still a sleepy fishing hamlet. By 1960 the population of this essentially rural Maori community had reached 500. Settlements stretched along the riverbank on what is now known as Taupahi Road (formerly the main north – south highway) and along the old State Highway 41 (now called Hirangi Road).

The Tongariro Power Development
A growing demand for power in the North Island led to the proposal of an ambitious power scheme – the Tongariro Power Development. This massive scheme involved collecting water from a number of catchments, including Tongariro National Park and diverting the water into Lake Taupo. In this way, maximum storage could be maintained as well as increasing the outflow from the Lake by 25% and in so doing, increase the generating capacity of the eight hydro-electric stations on the Waikato River which flows out of Lake Taupo.

Life was to change irrevocably in Turangi after the Tongariro Power Development was given the go-ahead in the 1960’s. The new hydro town was built here to house and provide services for the construction workers employed on the hydro project. The area selected for the site of the permanent township lay at the cross roads of State Highway 1 and State Highway 41. This was ancestral land of the Ngati Turangitukua, sub-tribe of Ngati Tuwharetoa.

The New Town
Construction on the power development and the new town began late in 1964. Progress was rapid and a boom town atmosphere was created. By May 1966, the population of Turangi had jumped from 500 to 2,500 people and by 1968 the population reached a high of 6,500. The rural countryside around the old Turangi village was rapidly transformed into an urban landscape. Even today, the township still bears the distinctive marks of the Ministry of Works planners and the Government who invested $16 million in the development. A model town with curving streets and cul-de-sacs, uniform houses, pedestrian shopping centre, parking lots and separation from the traffic on the main highway was created. Following the withdrawal of the Ministry of Works at the completion of the power scheme in 1985, the Turangi/Tongariro area has been through a period of retrenchment. By the late 1990’s the town has entered a new era, having consolidated and diversified as a tourism and service centre for the southern end of Lake Taupo. Today, tourism and forestry are the mainstay of the community with the Justice Department’s two prisons, the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand, the Department of Conservation and farming being the main employers. In the years since 1964, the appearance of Turangi has mellowed and thousands of trees have grown to maturity. In spring, the roads are lined with cherry blossom and in autumn the leaves are beautiful. Project homes have changed to private ownership and many have been modified. More than 30 years on, Turangi has now evolved into a more settled community but retains a distinctive character imposed by the physical and economic domination of the power project. The prediction made in the mid-60’s that ‘Turangi will become a centre for farmers, tourism, forestry, fishing and hunting and the holiday trade in general’ has largely come true. Post-power scheme population estimates were also near the mark – with Turangi’s current population being just over 4,000 people.

Local attractions, in and around Turangi, include:-

A small settlement that includes tennis, boat ramp, fishing, swimming and picnics.

15kms from Turangi on State Highway 41. Picnic, swimming, walks, fishing, boat ramp. A lot of lakeside holiday homes make this a busy and popular holiday area.

Lake Otamangakau & Dam
0.7km east from State Highway 47 – Lake Rotoaira Road junction – 5kms from the main road. This lake is extreemly popular for fishing as it has developed a reputation for producing large trophy trout - boat ramp.

10kms north of Turangi on State Highway 1. Motuoapa has developed as a holiday settlement for people living in the lower North Island. In more recent years the village has developed as an area for permanent dwellings with people working in either Turangi, Taupo or retiring to the settlement. Large subdivisions have seen a boom in building and Motuopa has grown to be a substantial holiday area of it's own.
Prior to the 1950’s, the settlement had a main highway of pumice road, a camping ground on the northern corner of main highway and Arataha Street and a store on the southern corner which also contained the original Echo Cliffs Restaurant - now relocated in Taupo. The store used to be where the landliners would stop for tea breaks for their passengers. There were several small fishing huts located between Maniapoto Street and the present pump station - these have since been removed. There are also hot springs on the Lake edge in this area.

    During the 1950’s, there were many developments:-
  • The main Highway was sealed.
  • The Marina was initially developed with fill coming from the cliffs behind Motuoapa Village in 1958.
  • National Youth Hostel Association had a hostel just south of the garage. The buildings are now privately owned.
  • 1955 the Motuoapa Garage was built.
  • The old store was burnt down and relocated to the Shaw property on the lakefront - Motuoapa Esplanade and later moved to the present site with the building being transferred from a mill on the Western access.
  • During the 1950’s, the Fishing Lodge was built by Mr Jack Thorburn. The idea coming from Mr Bill Sutherland - an American. This was the first Motel to be built in New Zealand as a change from Hotels. The motel units had coal fired stoves as power didn’t arrive until the 1960’s. This has since been replaced with the present Motuoapa Lodge on the same site.
  • The 1960’s saw the rubbish dump at the southern boarder transferred up to the pumice pit site and the old site is now a Dept. of Conservation reserve.
  • Power came in the same era.
  • The 1970’s saw the loss of partyline phones to individual lines.
  • The planting of the forest behind the Village.
  • The most significant change in the 1970’s was the expansion of Motuoapa Village. Mr John Asher and family sold land for subdivision that was opened up in stages and is still expanding.
Motutere Bay
20.8kms north of Turangi on State Highway 1. Picnic, swimming, fishing, boat ramp, water ski lane, 20 minute walk from motor camp, scenic views.

Mount Maunganamu
4.1kms from Turangi via State Highway 41 – turn right after the Tokaanu tailrace. 30 minute return walk, camping, picnic, fishing.

Okupata Caves Difficult to find. Seek advice from the Dept. of Conservation office in Turangi.

15kms from Turangi on State Highway 41. Picnic, swimming, walks, fishing, boat ramp. Another popular lakeside holiday area.

Opotaka Village
11kms from Turangi. Historic, scenic, picnic, Rotoaira/Tokaanu intake, boat ramp.

11kms north of Turangi on State Highway 1. Fishing, swimming.

18.3kms from Turangi on State Highway 41. Boat ramp, swimming, picnics, walks. Another popular lakeside holiday area.

Stump Bay
7kms north of Turangi off State Highway 1. Swimming, picnics, yacht club, toilets.During the summer this is one of the best safe swimming areas with a nice pumice sand beach.

Tokaanu was the site of an Armed Constabulary in the 1870’s and has a Maori history prior to this. Tokaanu township was surveyed and proclaimed as a Native Township in 1897 and vested in trust. The land was auctioned for lease in 1898. The original town survey plan envisaged a relatively extensive and self-contained settlement and provided sites for a town hall, library, school, public buildings and a market.

    In 1920 the following problems were identified with Tokaanu:-
  • bad access road
  • large areas periodically flood
  • inferior accommodation to travellers.
Tokaanu’s development was further hindered by early concentration of development on the Eastern lakeshore following completion of the eastern access in 1922.
Pre 1950’s Tokaanu
    In 1942, the Waikato River control gates were installed raising the Lake Taupo level by four feet and this had a major effect on Tokaanu ie.
  • dwellings were abandoned
  • house sites were abandoned
  • loss of hot springs and beaches
  • raising of the swamp level.
All the above rendered Tokaanu useless for economic purposes. Restrictions on land-use were imposed because of effluent entering the Tokaanu Stream and lake water.
Post 1950’s Tokaanu
Up to the 1950’s tourism relating to trout fishing was significant in the early years. Tokaanu boasted a good range of commercial activities and community activities.
In the 1960’s the township of Turangi was established and this impacted heavily on Tokaanu. THC built a motel at the foot of the Thermal Baths in the early 1960’s.
Present Day Tokaanu
There have also been investments in activities linked to tourism with boat services, retail activities and upgrading and development of the thermal park.
Growing residential demands have resulted from:-
  • continuing demand for holiday homes
  • accommodation needs of those establishing new enterprises
  • desire of local Maoris to return to their ancestral home.
National Trout Center
5kms south of Turangi on State Highway 1. Fantastic displays of fishing memrobillia and interpritive center, underwater viewing chamber, children’s fishing days – one Sunday per month [May to September] National Trout Center Website

Turangi Township
Built by the Ministry of Works in the mid-1960’s to house the thousands of workers employed on the Tongariro Power Development, Turangi was a classic ‘hydro town’. The township was built beside a small but long-established and world renowned trout fishing settlement, in close proximity to a number of tourist attractions. However, one characteristic in particular distinguished Turangi from other hydro towns - namely, its permanence. A special piece of legislation, the ‘Turangi Township Act’ of 1964, embedded the future of Turangi, ensuring that the township would subsequently be incorporated into the framework of the Taupo County Council.
The relatively short history of Turangi township is inextricably linked with the construction of the Tongariro Power Development. The 1960’s and 1970’s were known in New Zealand as the ‘great hydroelectric era’. Shortages of both water and power capacity were the norm in New Zealand’s postwar years and power outages were commonplace.
The Tongariro Power Development in the Turangi area was built in four stages between 1964 and 1983. The workforce employed by the Ministry of Works (MoW) on the Tongariro project enjoyed a good industrial relations record, largely because of the excellent relationship between the Ministry and the New Zealand Workers’ Union. In addition to the MoW workforce, various sub-contracting firms worked on the Tongariro Power Development. These included such firms as the Italian company Codelfa-Cogefar, Downer and Associates and Sir Alexander Gibbs and Partners.
Hydro settlements in New Zealand have historically been intimately linked with Welfare Associations. The Tongariro Welfare Association (TWA) was an extension of the previous success enjoyed by the Waikato Hydro Welfare Association in Mangakino and was established in 1964 with the benefit of the Waikato Association’s experience.
Hydro development in the Turangi area was completed by 1984. A change to the nature and direction of the Tongariro Welfare Association was required in order to survive beyond this completion date. The TWA radically altered its constitution in 1977 to meet this challenge, writing out much of its hydro character. This change in attitude coincided with the transfer of MoW assets operated by the TWA into Taupo County Council ownership. The TWA continued to exist until 1997, but its activities were greatly reduced. Despite its many achievements, the TWA was unable to survive with any real substance outside the hydro town environment.
The direct paternalistic influence of the Ministry of Works (known as ‘Uncle MoW’) has long since passed. However, MoW’s footprints clearly remain as a defining feature of Turangi. The utilitarian design so typical of the Town Planning Division of the Ministry of Works can be seen in Turangi’s buildings and layout. Most importantly, the legacy of MoW remains in the people of Turangi. Many of the hydro workers bought their houses from MoW and made Turangi their permanent home.

Waihi Village
7.5kms from Turangi via State Highway 41. Scenic, historic. Private Maori villagewith no public access.

12.6kms north of Turangi on State Highway 1. Swimming and fishing.


  • Waituhi Saddle Lookout
    35.4kms from Turangi on State Highway 41, turn off to the right at the summit (sign posted)and follow access road (steep) 0.1km to lookout and carpark. Picnic and scenic. This is a spectacular view covering the central North Island.
  • Pihanga Saddle
    Another awesome view close to town. Take state highway 41 and turn off a few klms out of town to follow the saddle road to Mount Ruapehu. Before reaching the top you will see a sign posted road to the lookout. Views looking up the lake towards Taupo Township.
  • Waihi Hill
    A great view close to town of the Southern end of the lake. Take state highway 41 past Tokaanu to the top of the Waihi hill. Turn off just before reaching the top - you will see a sign posted road to the lookout. Views looking up the lake towards Taupo Township and down on the Tongariro river delta area.
  • Whareroa
    15kms from Turangi on State Highway 41. Picnic, swimming, walks, fishing, boat ramp. Another popular lakeside holiday area.

    Taupo District Council
    The town of Turangi comes under the jurisdiction of the Taupo District Council but has its own Community Board called the Turangi/Tongariro Community Board. This group of elected representatives meets twice a month at the Council’s offices in Turangi to consider local matters.

    Turangi/tongariro Community Board
    The Turangi region is administered by the Turangi/Tongariro Community Board under delegated powers from the Taupo District Council. This ensures that all locally important decisions are made by local residents.
    The area is represented by three district Councillors and six elected members, giving a Community Board membership of nine.

    Turangi Community Board
    Most rates income from Turangi/Tongariro property owners is spent within the area, except for a contribution to district overheads. The rating area is administered from a Service Delivery Centre at Turangi managed by an Area Manager – Mr John Campbell. This ensures that activities such as roading, water, sewerage, building inspection, community services, dog control and visitor services are readily available to residents through the Centre and enables reporting direct to the Community Board..

    Sister City Relationship
    The Turangi/Tongariro Community Board has a Sister City relationship with the village of Kitashiobara, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.
    This friendship relationship was signed on the 7th of November 1997.
    The two ‘Sister Cities’ have a Friendship Pledge that fosters,through the mutual exchange,first of all of culture in every field, will deepen friendship and understanding, and in addition, wish to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world, and pledge, herewith, to link together, as cities of friendship, and agree as follows:-
    1. The two authorities shall use their best efforts to promote understanding between the two communities specifically and the people of Japan and New Zealand generally. The two authorities will consult on a regular basis to establish the best methods of achieving these objectives and promoting sufficient action to ensure an enduring and viable Sister City relationship.
    Specific exchanges, activities and other actions will be as from time to time agreed between the two parties, in writing.

    The Mainstreet Programme In Turangi
    The entrance to the Turangi Shopping Mall Project Pounamu is the name of the on-going project to revitalise the Turangi Town Centre and surrounding areas. Council will continue to provide this service.

    Project Pounamu Stage I
    Turangi was built by the Ministry of Works in the mid 1960’s. The town centre was designed as a pedestrian mall surrounded by car parks. The mall was draughty, shaded and depressingly characterless. Cold south-west winds from the mountains often funnelled through the mall making it unpleasant. The central feature was a planter box which had long ago been concreted over and nicknamed ‘the tomb’.

    ‘Project Pounamu’ was a ‘Mainstreet’ type programme which means it involved a collaborative process to revitalise the town. The name ‘Pounamu’ was chosen for the project because the community regard the area as something precious. The ‘Mainstreet’ programme began in 1994. A special ‘Mainstreet levy’ was introduced on businesses to help pay for the project.

    Following a series of early planning sessions drawing community groups and individuals together, a vision statement was put together as the brief for the design consultants: Isthmus Group Landscape Architects and Rewi Thompson Architects.

    The two primary design tasks were to improve the micro-climate and to create a sense of place.

    A glass canopy was built over the central part of the mall. Automatic doors at the two southern entrances to the mall also help screen out the wind. The canopy uses laminated glass. This allows the sun and light through and has created a comfortable central meeting place. It also provided the opportunity to create sand-blasted patterns onto the glass. Artist Te Maari Gardiner of Turangi designed the pattern representing Tawhirimatea - God of the Wind. This repeating design is projected by sunlight onto the ground plane as a strong pattern.

    Te Maari also designed beautiful stained glass panels for each entrance to the mall. These panels represent landscape features and are located to face toward these features: Mt Pihanga and the peaks of Tongariro National Park; the Tongariro River and Lake Taupo.

    Connections Within the mall the emphasis is on expressing Turangi’s sense of place in terms of its natural setting and cultural context.

    Rocks from a Taupo quarry were cut into slices and laid in a meandering path through the mall. These were set in a matrix of small river stones. Remaining areas of concrete were acid etched to remove the top surface and expose some of the aggregate. The design intention was to reflect the colours, textures and patterns of the nearby Tongariro River. The seats and small stage were also inspired by the image of logs floating on the river. The centre-piece of the mall is a carved rock from Whanganui Bay on the western shores of Lake Taupo given by the Ngati Te Maunga hapu of Tuwharetoa. It was carved by local master carver Louis Kereopa and expresses the origins of Turangi.

    Project Pounamu Stage II Project Pounamu Stage II covered the northern approaches to Turangi. It was extended to cover the area from the Tongariro River bridge to the Shell/Burger King complex, Pihanga Street and Ngawaka Place.

    Stage II connected the town centre with its setting - the alluvial flat around the town which has been created by the Tongariro River. The big site for this project, covering almost 6.5h, was landscaped to bring the town centre and the river closer together.

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