The Taupo volcanic province stretches to White island in the Bay of Plenty and includes Tongariro national park, Taupo, Tarawera, Rotorua and Edgecumbe. Tongariro National park (New Zealand's first) contains three volcanic peaks - Tongariro, Ngarahoe and Ruapehu. Ruapehu is a 2797 meters high volcano and the highest mountain in the North Island of New Zealand. The oldest rocks on Ruapehu are dated at around 200,000 years, although the earliest activity on the site could date back as much as a million years.
This is one of the most active provinces of its kind in the world. White Island, for instance, smokes continuously. Taupo erupted massively in AD 186 (according to references in Roman and Chinese literature) leaving a massive crater lake, Lake Taupo, which covers an area of 616 square kilometres. The last recent major eruption in the province was that of Tarawera in 1886, which destroyed the world's largest silica terraces, with smaller eruptions of Ngaruhoe in 1967, and the 1995/1996 events at Ruapehu.
The high level of activity means that much of New Zealand's electricity can be generated from geothermal power.
According to legend, there used to be many mountains in the area, all males except for beautiful Pihanga. All of them of course loved Pihanga, but she favoured Tongariro. The other mountains fought Tongariro but were defeated and were banished. Taranaki hurried westwards, into exile on the coast, gouging out the path of the Wanganui River as he went. His tears for his love still remain in Tangariro National Park as the Taranaki Falls. Tauhara and Putauaki both set out for the Bay of Plenty. While Putauaki got as far as Kaingaroa Plain, Tauhara only managed to reach the north-eastern shores of Lake Taupo.