Tongariro National park
The awe-inspiring Tongariro National Park is not only New Zealand's oldest National Park, but also one of only 38 dual world heritage sites in the world (natural & cultural), additionally it is one of only two world heritage sites found on the New Zealand mainland. This is due to the Parks striking volcanic features, diverse range of ecosystems and cultural and spiritual significance to the Maori people. The park is located approximately in the middle of the North Island, south-west of Lake Taupo.
Mount Ruapehu, the North Island's tallest mountain at 2,797m is located in the Park and is a popular spot for skiing, snowboarding, hiking and mountaineering. There are three ski fields on the mountain for visitors to choose from (Whakapapa, Turoa and Tukino) that face in different directions so you can decide based in the current snow and weather conditions. The mountain itself is one of the world's most active volcanos that has had five major eruptions since 1895, however thanks to modern technology the mountain is well monitored so no need to worry!
The other major peak in the National Park is Mount Ngauruhoe, often referred to as 'Mount Doom' thanks to its role in the popular Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Ngauruhoe stands at 2,291m, a stunning conical volcano who's peak is often shrouded in cloud, one of the best ways to get up close and personal with this mountain is via the world famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Aside from these two impressive peaks Tongariro National Park is home to a staggering variety of hiking trails, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, mountain bike trails, rock climbing faces, scenic attractions and characteristic towns. Visiting the Park and all it hosts is a must do if you are travelling around the North Island! Join our North Island Pioneer tour to explore the Park including the amazing Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Our favourite things to do around the Tongariro National Park:
• Hike the stunning Tongariro Alpine Crossing
• Visit the marvellous Tawhai Falls ('Gollum's Pool from Lord of the Rings)
• Enjoy a meal or a drink in the impressive Chateau Tongariro and admire the mountain views
• Hit the slopes during winter with one of Ruapehu's ski fields!
• Walk in to the towering Taranaki Falls
• Bike along the magnificent Old Coach Road
Tongariro Northern Circuit (Great Walk)
The Tongariro Northern Circuit is one of New Zealand's spectacular 10 Great Walks, and one of only 3 in thew North Island. This marvellous hike essentially wraps around the base of Mount Ngauruhoe including climbing over the red crater and visiting the famous Emerald Lakes, it takes 3-4 days and covers 43.1km in total. Striking views of snow-capped peaks, alpine beech forests, winding rovers, cascading waterfalls, unreal alpine lakes, tussock as far as the eye can see and desert like alpine terrain are what you can expect to experience on this stunning hike.
The hike is a loop walk that starts and finishes from Whakapapa Village, located 4-5 hours from Auckland and just over an hour from Taupo, there are plenty of food and accommodation options to be found here. Most hikers do the trail in a clockwise loop:
Day One: Whakapapa Village to Magatepopo Hut - Over alpine streams, near volcanic steam vents, and through alpine forest all in the shadow of the mighty Mount Ngauruhoe (4 hours / 9.4km).
Day Two: Mangatepopo Hut to Oturere Hut - Following the Tongariro Alpine Crossing up the Devil's Staircase (not as bad as it sounds!) through South Crater before climbing up Red Crater to witness a stunning view of the Emerald Lakes on a clear day. Next the trail winds down a scree slope (be careful) to the Lakes and past active steam vents before dropping steeply down into a side valley that leads you the Oturere Hut (5 hours / 12km).
Day Three: Oturere Hut to Waihohonu Hut - Winding around the side of Mount Ngurahoe over a desert like alpine landscape before dropping down in to a beautiful beech forested valley with a river running through the middle of it where you will find the ideally situated Waihohonu Hut (3 hours / 8.1km).
Day Four: Waihohonu Hut to Whakapapa Village - Mostly rolling hills covered in ancient lava flows, tussock and with streams winding through the valleys before stopping at the towering Taranaki Falls just before Whakapapa Village. There is also a fantastic side trip to the beautiful Tama Lakes that is worth the extra walk! (6 hours / 15.4km)
During the peak season you must make a booking for the huts and campsites on the trail, and it's always best to register your intentions with the DOC office in Whakapapa Village. Be aware that this is an alpine environment and conditions can change quickly, if you are planning on doing the hike during winter you will need additional equipment, knowledge and practice. Visit the DOC webpage to plan your hike.
The Tongariro Alpine crossing is regarded as one the best day walks in New Zealand and the world, it travels through a massive range of natural environments and attractions in a short period. It's a perfect length day hike of 19.4km that takes anywhere between 6-9 hours depending on fitness, photo taking, lunch breaks etc!
The hike start from Mangatepopo Carpark and winds though tussock plains, passing alpine streams and swamplands before arriving at the base of the Devil's Staircase (not as bad as it sounds don't worry!). After climbing the staircase you arrive in South Crater, an extinct volcano crater that makes you feel like you're on the surface of the moon and around the base of Mount Ngauruhoe as it flows down to one edge of the crater.
You're next challenge is the climb up to Red Crater, the highest point of the hike at 1,886m, this is the last large uphill section of the day but do be careful as it gets very slippery when wet or icy! From the top of the crater you can be rewarded by spectacular views of the vivid Emerald Lakes below you and sometimes you can see as far as Mount Taranaki out on the west coast and Mount Manganui on the east coast! After winding your way down a slippery scree slope to the Emerald Lakes it's the perfect place to stop for lunch before carrying on across the volcanic plains past lava flows and steam vents.
Next up is the larger Blue Lake that has formed in the crater of yet another volcano, before winding down a tussock filled valley with steam vents rising high above you and stunning views north over several picturesque lakes. The final stage of the walks brings you into some stunning native forest and through old lahar zones before finishing in the Ketetahi Carpark!
There are plenty of shuttle operators in the area that can drop you off and pick you up from the start and finish of the walk, booking is essential as it can get busy at certain times of year! Keep in mind that this is an alpine crossing so if you do plan on hiking during winter you will need specialised equipment, knowledge and competency. If you are unsure or simply want an incredible stress free hike it can pay to join a guided tour, our own Tongariro Trekker and North Island Pioneer tours both include the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Visit the DOC webpage for more in depth information and to plan your hike.
Whanganui National Park
Established in 1986, the Whanganui National Park is the our youngest National park in the North Island but has fast gained a reputation for providing spectacular adventures to visitors. The park is located in the lower North Island bordering the Taranaki and Manawatu-Whanganui regions, with the Whanganui River flowing through the middle of it. The river itself provides fantastic white water rafting and kayaking, but also serene flat areas of river that are perfect for kayaking and relaxing, in fact the Whanganui River Journey (one of New Zealand's 10 great walks), utilises the river and has huts dotted all along it as part of the trail. Other activities include cycling, sightseeing, four wheel driving and bird watching.
The Park covers an area of 742km² and provides a vast sanctuary for our natural wildlife, including hundreds of species of bird such as the Brown Kiwi (our national bird). Running along the western side of the park is the Forgotten World Highway, a heritage trail established in 1990 that allows visitors to experience the unique history of the area. The area is quite rural so getting around is best done with your own transportation or by joining a tour!
Whanganui River Journey (Great Walk)
The Whanganui River Journey is one of New Zealand's great walks, however it is special in the fact that it is not actually a walk at all, but a kayak or canoe journey! The journey can be done in 3 or 5 days and follows the Whanganui River as in winds it's way through the beautiful scenery of the Whanganui National Park discovering waterfalls, riverside caves, stunning native forests, exhilarating rapids and much more.
The 5 day journey (145km) starts in Taumarunui and finishes in Pipiriki, the 3 day journey (87km) starts in Whakahoro and also finishes in Pipiriki. The following describes the 5 day journey, the 3 day version is simply days 3, 4 & 5:
Day one: Day one will see you setting off from Taumarunui as you begin your journey through the countryside, enjoying a mixture of native bush and farmland, along the way you will encounter some small rapids which make for a lot of fun! You finish the day when you arrive at the Ohinepane Campsite on the rivers edge (3 - 5 hours / 22km).
Day two: After departing the campsite you will carry on your journey, along the way passing two more campsites as you wind through the wild landscape. When you reach the junction between the Ohura river and the Whanganui River you can follow the Ohura river for a short side trip to the picturesque Ohura Falls. You then carry on and make your way to Whakahoro, where many people start out if they are just doing the 3 day journey (6 - 8 hours / 35km)
Day three: Today you truly get into the heart of the Whanganui National Park as the river winds deep into the middle of the Park, passing a number of riverside waterfalls (depending on rainfall) and Tamatea's Cave. Tamatea's Cave is a large overhang on the riverside, please be aware that this cave is sacred to the local Maori people and it is forbidden to enter the cave. Continue on and you will soon find the John Coull Hut nestled on the riverside (7 - 9 hours / 37km).
Day four: After departing the hut and continuing downriver you will pass some junctions in the river as other rivers join the main flow of the Whanganui, before arriving at Mangapurua Landing. From here you can make the 4km return walk to the stunning 'Bridge to Nowhere' if you wish, once you carry on downriver through the lush native forest you will arrive at Tieke Kainga for the night (7 - 9 hours / 29km)
Day five: On the last day of the journey you will follow the river through a spectacular gorge and shoot down the exhilarating Ngaporo and Autapu rapids (not as scary as it sounds!). To finish up your Whanganui River Journey you will paddle in to Pipiriki Village and disembark for the last time.
Please be aware that the Whanganui River can change conditions drastically through out the year, so check the weather and river forecasts, and heed any DOC warnings about the journey. You must make a booking during peak season to complete the Journey - visit the DOC webpage to plan your trip and for essential safety information.
Located in the Tongariro National Park, Mount Ruapehu is the tallest peak in the North Island, standing proud at 2,797m. The mountain is still an active stratovolcano (made up of alternating layers of lava and ash) and has been erupting for the last 250,000 years, most recently in 2007. Thanks to modern technology Ruapehu is now well monitored so don't worry!
Ruapehu is home to three major ski fields, Turoa, Tukino and Whakpapa (the largest field in New Zealand), these fields are all on opposing sides of the mountain so it is an ideal destination as you can choose a ski field depending on the conditions. The ski season on Ruapehu generally runs from June to October but can change year to year.
During the summer months the mountain is a popular hiking destination as there are a myriad of hiking trails all around the mountain, including the popular 66km long 'round the mountain' loop. there are road surrounding 3 sides of ruapehu so it is very accessible to most visitors!
Visit the Tongariro National Park with some of our spectacular multi-day tours!
Whakapapa Village is a picturesque little alpine town, dominated by a stunning backdrop of Mounts Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe and regularly has snow on the ground during winter. Nestled in the village is the impressive Chateau Tongariro, a skiing chateau built in the 1920's that now serves as not only a fantastic hotel but also a popular attraction for anyone passing through the village.
The road to the Whakapapa ski field passes through the village so it's a popular destination for skiers, snowboarders and also hikers as it is where one of our famous Great Walks, the Tongariro Northern Circuit, departs from. If you don't have an appropriate vehicle there are regular shuttles that run up to the Whakapapa ski field during winter and also daily shuttles all year round for those wanting to complete the incredible Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Some of our favourite things to do around Whakapapa Village include:
• The jaw-dropping Tongariro Alpine Crossing
• Visit the picturesque Tawahi Falls
• Hike to the fascinating Silica Rapids
• See the thundering Taranaki Falls
• Hike the incredible Tongariro Northern Circuit!
Whakapapa Village is easiest to get to by car and takes approximately 4½ hours from Auckland or 1½ hours from Taupo. Stay in the iconic Chateau Tongariro and explore the stunning Tongariro National Park with on of our multi-day tours or create your dream adventure with our custom tours!
Ohakune is located on the southern side of Mount Ruapehu and is one of the main townships for adventurers visiting the mountain, the town really comes to life during winter thanks to it's close proximity to the Turoa ski field and it's vibrant atmosphere. There are dozens of fantastic accommodation, food, bar and restaurant options to be found in the town, the iconic Powder Keg restaurant and bar is a popular spot for most visitors to Ohakune. The town has a rich cultural history dating back to the Maori tribes that have lived in the central North Island for centuries, Ohakune officially became a town in 1908 when the railway finally reached it. Ohakune is approximately 4½ hours drive from Auckland City and 3½ from Wellington.
Plan your ultimate getaway to include Ohakune with one of our custom tours!
Located on the west coast of the lower North Island, Whanganui was one of the first official towns in New Zealand established in the 1800's. The area has a rich cultural history as Maori tribes have lived in the area for 40 generations, mostly along the banks of the Whanganui River, which starts in the Tongariro National Park before winding nearly 300km to the coast. Some of the top attractions in the town include the river steam boat, jet boating, the glass school and river kayaking, the town also acts as a gateway to the beauty of the Whanganui National Park. Getting to Whanganui only takes 2½ hours from Wellington and just under 6 hours from Auckland, there is also a domestic airport that connects to most regions around the North Island.
Forgotten World Highway
The Forgotten World Highway runs along the western edge of the Whanganui National Park between Taumarunui in the Manawatu-Whanganui region and Stratford in the Taranaki region. The Highway follows a rich trail of history and culture, and it is well worth spreading the journey over multiple days to make the most of it! Along the Forgotten World Highway you will discover stunning rivers, beautiful native bush, towering waterfalls, suspension bridges and even an alpaca farm! Popular attractions include the 'bridge to nowhere', a side trip to the towering 85m Dawson Falls or one of the dozens of hiking trails to be found in the area.
Organise your exploration of the Forgotten World Highway Today and design your own custom tour!
The Timber Trail
The Timber Trail is a fantastic 85km mountain bike trail in the Pureora Forest that takes 2-3 days to complete. This stunning ride takes you through ancient native forests, through ancestral Maori lands and includes some of the highest and longest suspension bridges in New Zealand. The track is grade 2 & 3 (easy to intermediate), and well set up for multi-day cycling with accommodation options, toilets, water sources and rental facilities. You can arrange shuttles to pick you up from the end and also to meet you along the way with your supplies (food, bedding etc).
The start of the trail is approximately a 2 hour drive south of Hamilton, for more detailed information and to plan your ride, visit here. If you are a keen cyclist and want to discover New Zealand's natural beauty be sure to add the Timber Trail to your list!