Ruapehu is located in the central North Island, and getting there in your rental car will take you about 4 hours. It makes a good weekend away or if you have more time you could spend a few days, exploring around the mountain. If you love the outdoors there are plenty of walking and cycle tracks here from easy short walks you can do with the children to day hikes, and if it’s winter then take advantage of the snow. Remember to book your car rental from us in advance over the busy periods such as summer, public holidays and school holidays.
Hike The Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is described as New Zealand’s greatest day walk and something that every person should do once in their lives. View lava flows, an active crater, steam vents, bright emerald green lakes and spectacular views on this track. You can walk the track in either direction, but the more popular option begins at Mangatepopo Valley. This is best done November to May.
Ski/Snowbaord Whakapapa or Turoa
Ski, snowboard or taboggan at Whakapapa, home to New Zealand’s largest ski area. Learn to ski in Happy Valley which is the country’s best beginner facility, with a rental complex and ski school meeting area which is seperate from those more advanced skiers and snowboarders. There is 550 hectares of incredible terrain with vast intermediate and advanced trails.
Turoa is located on the south western slope of Ruapehu and is home to nations longest vertical drop at 722m. The High Noon Express takes you to the highest lifted point in New Zealand with panoramic views aross the North Island. There are plenty of gullies, drops, natural hits, world class terrrain parks and wide trails, while most of the landscape resembles frozen waves. Turoa is great for intermediate and advanced skiers and snowborders.
High Tea at Chateau Tongariro
Treat yourself to High Tea at the Chateau Tongariro, this beautiful historic building sits at the base of the Tongariro National Park. Enjoy scones, sandwiches, sweet treats and tea or coffee in the Ruapehu Lounge with plush velvet chairs, twinkling chandeliers and a crackling log fire.
Sky Waka to Knoll Ridge
Ride the Sky Waka gondola at Whakapapa and cruise above the mountain to 2020 metres above sea level to Knoll Ridge chalet. The Sky Waka seats 10 people, travels 1.8 kilometres and you will have floor to ceiling views of waterfalls, lava flows, taking in the scenery of the surrounding mountains of Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. This is an amazing “must-do” experience to do in winter or summer.
Tongariro River Trail
Follow the banks of the Tongariro River alongside farmland and through native bush and urban areas, and enjoy magnificent river views. This is an easy, mainly flat track with multiple entry points and great for kids. There is only one major climb on the trail, up to the Tongariro River Lookout at the northern end of the loop, but worth the effort when you reach the top and take in the view of the river, against the backdrop of the mountains in the Tongariro National Park. To complete the 15km trail, it’s best to start the trail at the Tūrangi i-SITE and use the underpass under the road where you’ll join the trail at Taupahi Reserve. However there are shorter options within the trail including the Waikari Reserve loop and the Taupahi Reserve track on the town side of the river, and the Lookout track and Tongariro Walkway on the far side. Pop into the Tongariro National Trout Centre along the way.
National Army Museum
The National Army Museum in Waiouru makes an excellent day out and is located just off State Highway 1 at the foot of Mount Ruapehu. Explore New Zealand’s military history and participation in conflict worldwide, with an extensive military collection of equipment, photos and memorabilia and education facilities for the kids.
This unique landscape is surrounded in waterfalls, however there are some must see ones. A short 20 minute stroll though mountain toatoa and beech forest will take to you to the Tawhai Falls (13 m), these falls tumble over the edge of an ancient lava flow. If you are a Lord of the rings fan, the Tawhai Falls is also the filming location of Gollum’s pool where Faramir and his archers are watching Gollum fish.
Walk to Taranaki Falls (20 m) and enjoy excellent mountain views and a range of land forms on a loop track, the track is in Whakapapa Village on SH48. It starts 100 m below the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre.
Waitonga Falls (39 m) is Tongariro National Park’s highest waterfall, it is reached via a well-formed track through mountain beech and kaikawaka (mountain cedar) forest. On clear days there are fantastic views of Mount Ruapehu and the surrounding countryside. You can see reflections of the mountain in the Rotokawa pools, part of an alpine wetland area.
Ohakune Old Coach Road
Take a trip back in time and learn about New Zealand’s rail heritage while you walk or cycle the Old Coach Road. The road was used to carry passengers and goods between two railheads on the North Island main trunk link before they were linked in 1908. Heritage features on the trail include a unique cobbled road, massive steel viaducts, a curved tunnel, railway bridge remains, and old campsites. This journey also takes visitors through some beautiful stands of native forest with sweeping views across the district. Access the Ohakune Old Coach Road from Ohakune or Horopito.
Tama Lakes Walk
A popular alternative to the better known Tongariro Alpine Crossing, this day walk takes in the stunning surrounds of Tongariro National Park. Loaded with beautiful scenery and jaw dropping landscapes, it’s an extension of the Taranaki Falls Walk. The Tama Lakes track crosses undulating tussock country and alpine herb fields to reveal the beautiful alpine lakes that occupy several old explosion craters on the Tama Saddle between Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. An incredibly peaceful walk that escapes the crowds. A 17km return trip, the track boasts imposing viewpoints of the lower lake at around 1200m, then climbs steeply to the upper lake viewpoint at around 1400m. There are no formed tracks down to the lakes themselves and the descent to both is via steep gullies. Tama Saddle also acts as a funnel for prevailing westerly winds and windproof clothing is recommended.
A guided horse trek is a special and unique experience, the horse owners will also share their deep love and respect for the animal along with some of the better kept secrets that the Ruapehu bush has to offer. There are few operators in the area and offer trail rides suitable for all levels of riders, the scenery varies from native bush canopy to pine tree forests, ridge top tracks and mountain views.
Main Image: Photo by Kishan Modi/Unsplash