Kinloch: a quiet paradise

Pamela Wade visits the North Island town of Kinloch, north of Lake Taupō. 

Don’t go to the wrong one. While Kinloch at the top of Lake Wakatipu is a cute little settlement and well worth a visit, the equally appealing Kinloch described here is located a 20-minute drive from Taupõ, tucked into a bay on the lake’s northern shore. 

Distraction is the main hazard while golfing at Kinloch

Seventy years ago, there was nothing here but scrub and fern but, thanks to Sir Keith Holyoake and his mates, the land was developed into a sheep station and then a holiday destination, which around 800 people now call their permanent home. Their numbers expand in holiday time, the visitors drawn by the varied attractions here.  Most famously, it’s the 18-hole, par 72 Kinloch Club Golf Course. the only one in New Zealand designed by Jack Nicklaus. He admired its setting and described it as “a heck of a test”. Opened in 2007, it’s a championship course that’s considered the best in the country and is the winner of many awards, some of them international. It’s unmissable, its entrance right on the road as you drive down towards the town. Its hilly, rolling fairways and neatly-mown greens surround a small lake where fat ducks gently paddle, while golfers work hard to avoid the 172 bunkers. They also have to resist being distracted by the spectacularly panoramic views across the lake towards Tongariro, which entrance every guest staying at the castle-like and luxurious Kinloch Manor situated on the course’s highest point. 

Kinloch Club’s course is open to visitors, but for those golfers feeling intimidated by its reputation for both mental and physical exhaustion, or unwilling to pay the $350/$500 green fee, there is also the Kinloch Village 10-hole course nearby, a steal for just $20.

The Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay carving is 14m high

Down in the town, there’s a lot to enjoy. A stroll around the private marina is an education, the number and range of boats moored there proof that the lake is naturally the prime focus for locals and visitors. Just being out on the water – Taxicat Adventures is located in the marina – enjoying the views of the mountains and getting up close to the striking 14m high Māori cliff carving at Ngātoroirangi Mine Bay is wonderful; but there’s also the fishing. Lake Taupõ is known for its trout, and while dropping a line from a boat (with local operator Fish Her Charters) is the classic, it’s entirely possible to get lucky casting a fly from the shore. A wander along the sandy beach to the right-hand end will bring you to the mouth of the Whangamata Stream, where trout tend to gather in summer, and go to spawn in winter. 

Where The Mountains Meet the Sea
Kayaking on the lake is always fun

Get walking

This is also the start of one of Kinloch’s lovely walks. Heading inland, you’ll follow the stream gently up the bird-busy bushy valley, and the sharp-eyed will spot trout in the water, or even sharper-eyed kingfishers diving for a feed. Just note that people aren’t allowed to copy them –catching trout in the stream is officially poaching, and forbidden. About halfway along there is an old water wheel, dating back to the sheep station days, picturesquely rusty but still working. There’s also a Fairy Grove to enjoy if you have children with you, or even if you haven’t. 

More challenging, but also more rewarding, is the K2K Trail from this western end of the bay. It’s named for Kawakawa Bay to Kinloch, and is part of the Great Lake Cycle Trails. The full K2K is over eight km one way, but the climb up from Kinloch to the Te Kauwae headland, almost 500m high, delivers spectacular views across the lake. 

If that isn’t enough for you, at the opposite end of the bay you can follow the W2K cycle/walking trail, which delivers 14km of exercise and views on the way to next-door Whakaipõ Bay, from where a water taxi can pick you up to return you to Kinloch. Look out for intrepid climbers tackling the crags en route. On the other hand, if that sounds like altogether too much effort, there are pleasantly undemanding strolls to take through reserves dotted around the village. Be prepared to respond to greetings from villagers you pass by. 

You’ll by now be ready for a well-deserved reward. Currently the only eatery operating is the Kinloch Store back near the marina, but its fish and chips, burgers and wood-fired pizzas are hot, fresh and tasty. Tucking into one of those takeaways down on the beach, gazing out at the lake or perhaps reading something you’ve selected from the free book and toy library there, is a satisfyingly simple pleasure. Of course, if you were lucky with your rod, you could always grill your trout on the beach barbecue. 

The beachfront library is a nice touch in Kinloch

Just up from the beach is the Domain, where on the Sunday of Labour Weekend the annual market takes place. This is a huge event, with this year over 200 stalls selling everything from a wide range of delicious food, collectibles and imaginative handicrafts right up to furniture and homewares. There’s entertainment too,  with the Free Lunch performers and the Rustic Charm Travelling Farm, whose animals include cuddly alpacas, rabbits and even a blue-tongue lizard called Lizzy. It’s a big day on Kinloch’s calendar, and well worth scheduling your visit around. 

Hundertwasser Art Centre: Art of the North

All those local crafts could well put you in the mood for some more aesthetic appreciation, so take a drive around into the next bay, Whakaipõ, where there is free camping available near its smoothly-pebbled beach. En route you’ll find Camo Chicken Ceramics, where Ani Rowell displays a wide range of pottery creations, both practical and imaginative, each piece individual and unique. If her pieces inspire you to have a literal whirl on the wheel, she runs group workshops and private classes, where you can learn the basics from scratch, or revive rusty skills. 

Keep your eyes open at l’Arte Gardens for visual treats everywhere

Gardens and galleries

Further along the road from Whakaipõ Bay you’ll find l’Arté Café and Gallery, a real treat for several of your senses. There’s the licensed café with its tempting range of things to eat for a start, but even better are all the colourful artworks scattered around the garden outside. There are sculptures large and small, metal and ceramic, stationary and kinetic — but most eye-catching of all are the mosaic works. Painstakingly created from broken tiles in bright colours, you’ll find birds and butterflies, steps and rugs and, most strikingly, furniture – there’s a whole outdoor living room – which is solid and remarkably comfortable, the cushions evidently moulded on actual bottoms. 

All this was inspired by Judi Brennan, who works with other artists to create a range of quirky and very tempting items in the garden and the gallery. You may find yourself heading home with more than just memories of your visit to Kinloch. 


Kinloch Marina has 10 self-contained sites for NZMCA members, not available at peak holiday times 

Free camping at Whakaipõ Bay Recreational Reserve (self-contained only). 

Things to do from Kinloch

Play golf 

Lake tours 

Fishing and lake tours 

Do some pottery 

Visit l’Arté Café and Gallery larte. 

More information

Destination Great Lake Taupō 


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