It really depends on your interests and expectations. Rotorua, known locally as Rotovagas has 101 things to do and is a total tourist town - you either love it or hate it! Taupo is more laid back & is popular with NZers who own holiday homes on the lake. There are some nice walks & a few drives. It is closer to Tongariro NP if you are not going that way later & want to make a day trip there .
Rotorua has more activities, probably more appealing to young families, younger and more energetic travelers and those looking for adventure. Taupo is more scenic, laid back and relaxing, probably better for a bit older travelers seeking less adventure activities and more quieter lakeside environment.
Overall, we like Rotorua but we love Taupo. Both are great additions to the long list of places worthy of visitation on the North Island.
Here are reviews (w/pictures) for both Lakes if of interest and/or useful to future visitors of this discussion thread.
Ideally, visitors will be able to visit both locations!
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