287km (178 miles) SE of Auckland; 84km (52 miles) S of Rotorua; 155km (96 miles) NW of Napier

I've always found Taupo somewhat disappointing, but many New Zealanders practically worship this little lakeside town. Certainly, from a visitor's point of view, it makes a perfect central base from which to take in the area attractions. It's within half a day's drive of the Hawke's Bay wine region, the mountains and ski fields of Tongariro National Park, the thermal wonderland of Rotorua, the white-sand surf beaches of Bay of Plenty, and the glowworms of Waitomo.

Taupo itself also has its merits -- the vast sparkling waters of Lake Taupo are perfect for boating, water-skiing, and fishing; there are thermal pools, plenty of accommodations, some good, fast-paced outdoor activities, and a small permanent population of 30,000, which more than doubles in summer. There are also a number of new attractions and accommodations that make it a worthy stop. Make sure you take warm clothes because if it's not midsummer you're likely to freeze.