If you’ve spent a few days exploring New Zealand’s barren geothermal fields and steaming mud pools, you’ll likely be glad for a change of scenery and exploring the lush Waipahihi Botanical Gardens is the perfect antidote. Ablaze with color, the 35-hectare park is bursting with over 2,000 rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, jostling for space amidst copses of native yellow-flowered kowhai trees. Planted back in 1966, the gardens are maintained by a team of volunteers, and include an alpine garden sprouting with rare plant species and a scenic walkway, with information boards detailing many of the principal plants and flowers on display.
One of Taupo’s most scenic picnic spots, the hilltop gardens offer a spectacular lookout over Lake Taupo and the distant mountains of the Tongariro National Park, but the views inside the park are just as impressive. The park is also a refuge for native birds, so keep an eye out for the Tui, New Zealand songbirds that are endemic in the gardens, along with a number of colorful rare species.