En Route to Tongariro National Park and the Ruapehu Region

This is one of the most interesting bits of road in the North Island: The 101km (63-mile) drive to National Park hugs the eastern shore of Lake Taupō and down to Tūrangi at the southern end of the lake. A short detour off the road is the rather low-key but always fetching Tokaanu Thermal Pools (tel. 07/386-8575). Even if you don’t swim, it has a good geothermal walk where you can see spluttering mud pools and steaming ponds, and the slightly warm river is full of trout.

South of Tūrangi the Tongariro National Trout Centre (tel. 07/386-8085), is both a regional museum on flyfishing and a small but well-kept aquarium with displays on endemic and introduced freshwater fish. It costs NZ$15 adults and NZ$5 for children 5 to 16 to enter and is open daily from 10am to 3pm. But unless you’re a fishing or fish enthusiast, you might want to skip it and just do the center’s river walk instead, which takes about 30 to 45 minutes and is entirely free. Tracing the path of the river you’ll see plenty of rainbow trout in their natural habitat and in fish hatching ponds—there’s even an underwater observatory. For a fee, kids can fish for a trout (from late December to late January only). Fish food for the live and captive fish is available for purchase from the trout center. From mid-November to December, you’ll also have a chance to see endangered whio (blue ducks). Part of a captive breeding program, they come here for the “hardening facility,” which prepares them for their lives on the area’s fast-moving whitewater rivers.  

You leave SH1 and take SH47, which will take you into the otherworldly volcanic region; a high plain of tussock, scoria plains, stunted forests, and awe-inspiring volcanoes. National Park Village is at the junction of SH4 and SH47 and is the entrance to the Tongariro National Park (pictured above), which gives the tiny township its rather imprecise name, but it’s 15km (9 miles) from the Whakapapa skifield.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.