An essential itinerary for a short summer getaway to Tongariro National Park

Want somewhere different to explore these summer holidays? Come escape to the wide-open spaces, fresh air and majestic scenery of Tongariro National Park.

Best known as the home of the world-famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing and the ski areas on Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand's oldest national park has plenty to offer year-round for a short getaway.

With its famous volcanoes, alpine terrain, and pristine rainforests, Tongariro National Park offers a unique combination of terrains and eco-systems making for a perfect post-lockdown getaway destination.

Here's a suggested itinerary for spending a few days in Tongariro National Park:

Day 1:

To make the best of what the area has to offer, we recommend staying for at least two nights. So, on arrival on the first day, come check in with us and relax in your warm and comfortable suite after your drive.

If you're staying in one of our self-catering suites, come prepared to make your own dinner. Otherwise, there are plenty of dining options in the village. The local pub, Schnapps Bar, is great for larger meals (the ribs are excellent!) or order a takeaway pizza from Macrocarpa Cafe to enjoy in the comfort of your suite. But before heading out, be sure to wind down with a pre-dinner drink at our garden bar of course!

Day 2:

After filling up on our hearty breakfast, it's time to head out to the Park. With a full day ahead, there's ample time to enjoy one of our favourite longer hikes:

Soda Springs or the Red Crater

In warmer months, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing would be our top recommendation for a full-day activity. However, from May parts of the track can already be under snow or ice. Joining a guided trip is then the best and safest option. We can help you arrange this with one of the excellent local operators.

However, if you prefer a more relaxed day out, a good alternative is to hike the first portion of the Crossing as far as Soda Springs, or, weather and track conditions permitting, all the way to the Red Crater ridge - the highest point of the Crossing from where you can see the Emerald Lakes. The hike up to Soda Springs takes you along the Mangatepopo Valley - carved out by glaciers and partially in-filled by ancient lava flows from Mt Ngauruhoe, and offers a great sense of what makes the full Tongariro Alpine Crossing such a popular experience. The valley ends at the foot of Mt Ngauruhoe, where you're treated with up close and personal views of this iconic volcano. From here, the climb up the Devil's Staircase starts, while a short side track leads to Soda Springs where clear, cold water cascades into a small stream. If time and the weather allow, ascend the over 1000 steps up the Devil's Staircase to the saddle between Ngauruhoe and Tongariro for excellent views across the central North Island. Keep an eye on the western horizon along the way to see if you can spot Mt Taranaki. If you choose to carry on to the Red Crater, allow another hour to cross the flat, moon landscape of the South Crater and to climb the very steep ascend to the ridge. If the weather is bad or there's snow or ice on the track, turn around. 

Duration: 3 hours return to Soda Spring; or 6-7 hours return to Red Crater.

Other alternatives if you've already done the Crossing are the Tama Lakes and Tupapakurua Falls tracks - read more about them here.

Day 3:

Before you head home, enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then make the 15 minute drive to Whakapapa Village where you can visit the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre with excellent information and displays on the volcanoes, Maori mythology, flora and fauna. From here, explore one or more of these shorter hikes:

Taranaki Falls

A firm favourite for locals and visitors looking for a short, but beautiful, loop walk, the Taranaki Falls track is perfect for families and travellers of all ages and fitness levels. The track offers an excellent glimpse of the varied scenery and landscapes the Tongariro National Park is known for - taking in tussock, bush and ancient lava flows, as it leads to a stunning waterfall. Pack a picnic and enjoy spectacular views of Mt Ruapehu and Mt Tongariro, surrounded by native plants and birdsong. The track also starts and ends in Whakapapa Village. 

Duration: 2 hours return

Silica Rapids

This highly varied walk travels through mountain beech forest and alongside a cascading stream to arrive at the creamy-white terraces of the Silica Rapids. A range of vegetation types, including subalpine plants, amid a mixture of swamp and tussock country, feature around the track. On a clear day, the walk offers spectacular views of Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. The track begins 250 metres above Whakapapa Village Visitor Centre and returns along Bruce Road for 2.5km - or return along the same track. 

Duration: 2 hours return

Tawhai Falls
Be sure to stop at this easy walk through mountain toatoa and beech forest to the impressive Tawhai falls. The falls tumble over the edge of an ancient lava flow into a deep rock pool - a favourite swimming spot for locals. The walk is accessed off SH48 - 4km from Whakapapa Village. 

Duration: 15 minutes return

With so much to see and do in our area, you might be tempted to stay a few more days and we are more than happy to help you plan your time here. So, get in touch and start planning your summer Tongariro National Park getaway!