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Tongariro National Park

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Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia New Zealand North Island Tongariro National Park

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Introduction

Tongariro Lakes

Tongariro Lakes

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Home to the highest mountain on New Zealand's North Island, the 2,800-metre-high volcano Mount Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park is one of the highlights of any visit to New Zealand. Centered on the highest village in the country, Whakapapa, the region is a paradise to lovers of the outdoors all year round. Tongariro is the name of one of the 3 massive volcanoes the dominate the area, the others being Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe which made an appearance in "The Lord of the Rings" as Mount Doom.

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Geography

Tongariro National Park covers approximately 795.98 km2 stretching between 175° 22' and 175° 48' East and 38° 58' and 39° 25' South in the heart of the North Island of New Zealand. It is just a few kilometres west-southwest of Lake Taupo. It is 330 kilometres south of Auckland by road, and 320 kilometers north of Wellington. It contains a considerable part of the North Island Volcanic Plateau. Directly to the east stand the hills of the Kaimanawa range. The Whanganui River rises within the park and flows through Whanganui National Park to the west.

Most of the park is located in the Ruapehu District (Manawatu-Wanganui Region), although the northeast is in the Taupo District (Waikato Region, or Hawke's Bay region to the north).

Tongariro National Park stretches around the massif of the three active volcanoes Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe, and Mount Tongariro. The Pihanga Scenic Reserve, containing Lake Rotopounamu, Mount Pihanga and the Kakaramea-Tihia Massif, though separate from the main park area, is still part of the national park.

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Main Centres

On the park borders are the towns of Turangi, National Park Village and Ohakune. Further away are Waiouru and Raetihi. Within the park borders, the only settlements are the tourism-based village at Whakapapa Village which consists solely of ski accommodation. Two Maori kainga (settlements) Papakai and Otukou are not part of the park but lie on the shores of Lake Rotoaira between the Pihanga Scenic Reserve and the main park area.

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Sights and Activities

  • Hiking - or tramping as it's called here - is a major activity in the park and the best known outing is the Tongariro Crossing, a tough walk across the mountains from Mangatepopo Hut to Lake Rotoaira. For New Zealand's highest tramping route there is the ascent to the Ruapehu Crater for spectacular views of the crater lake and most of North Island. These are primarily summer outings though with a guide they can be tackled at any time as long as you're not averse to snow! There are many easier and shorter walks in the region though, the tourist information office in Whakapapa provide excellent maps and guides.
  • Winter and spring bring the skiers and the Ruapehu Ski Area is the largest in New Zealand. Accessed by the Bruce Road from Whakapapa, the lifts will take you from the "Top of the Bruce" to over 6,600 feet where there are a choice of runs of all standards.
  • For the less energetic, Mountain Air who are based between Whakapapa and National Park Village, offer spectacular flights over the 3 volcanoes - not to be missed!

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Weather

Like the whole of New Zealand, Tongariro National Park is situated in a temperate zone. The prevailing westerly winds gather water over the Tasman Sea. As the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park are the first significant elevations that these winds encounter on the North Island, besides Mount Taranaki, rain falls almost daily. The east-west rainfall differences are not as great as in the Southern Alps, because the three volcanoes do not belong to a greater mountain range, but there is still a noticeable rain shadow effect with the Rangipo desert on the Eastern leeward side receiving 1,000 mm of annual rainfall. At Whakapapa Village (1119 metres) the average annual rainfall is about 2200 mm, in Ohakune (610 metres) about 1250 mm and in higher altitudes, such as Iwikau Village (1770 metres), about 4,900 mm. In winter there is snow to about 1,500 metres. Temperatures vary dramatically, even within one day. In Whakapapa, they can fall below the freezing point all year round. The average temperature is 13 °C, with a maximum of 25 °C in summer and a minimum of -10 °C in winter. In some summers the summits of the three volcanoes are covered with snow; on top of Mount Ruapehu, snow fields can be found every summer and the summit is glaciated.

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Getting There

The nearest towns to the park are National Park Village, Ohakune, Raetihi, Turangi, and Waiouru. These can be easily reached by car, as they lie on the four highways encircling the park. State Highway 1 (SH 1) goes through Turangi and Waiouru, over the Desert Road in between to the east of the park. State Highway 4 passes west of the park through National Park village and Raetihi. State Highway 49 forms the southern link, connecting SH 4 several kliometres north of Raetihi with SH 1 at Waiouru via Ohakune. State Highway 47 forms the northern link, from SH 4 at National Park to SH 41 at Turangi, with a short section of SH 41 through Turangi to SH 1. There is also SH 46, which forms a shortcut between SH 47 and SH 1 south of Lake Rotoaira. Whakapapa village is 6 km up SH 48, a spur branching off SH 47.

National Park village and Ohakune can also be reached by train, on the main trunk line between Wellington and Auckland.

The nearest airport is at Taupo, 50 kilometres north of Turangi.

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Getting Around

The Department of Conservation (DOC) no longer likes people to leave their cars at the Mangatepopo end of the Tongariro Crossing due to a high number of thefts, so the shuttles from Ketetahi at the end of the day do not drop people off at the Mangatepopo carpark. They will only drop you on the main road which is 7 kilometres from the carpark. Instead DOC is trying to encourage people to leave their cars at Whakapapa Village and get a shuttle to the start of the track and the shuttles from the end drop you back to Whakapapa village for $15.

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Eat/Drink

When hiking the Tongariro Crossing, bling plenty of drinks and food along the way.

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Sleep

With its Department of Conservation (DOC) campsite and hotels including the rather imposing looking Grand Chateau Hotel, Whakapapa is a good place to base oneself. Being able to watch the sunset over Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe is good enough reason anyway. Other centres are National Park Village, Ohakune and Waiouru reached along the so-called Desert Road to the south. Turangi by the shores of Lake Taupo is a larger town with more shops and accommodation options but is also further from the centre of the park.

View our map of accommodation in Tongariro National Park

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Accommodation in Tongariro National Park

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Tongariro National Park searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Tongariro National Park and areas nearby.

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This is version 17. Last edited at 11:53 on Aug 11, 17 by Utrecht. 8 articles link to this page.

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