46° below: Explore the Subantarctic Islands this summer
Expand the 'travel local' mantra slightly and scratch your travel itch in the Subantarctic Islands. Your passport might be gathering dust, but ...
Thrust up by the Earth’s powerful forces, the active volcanic triumvirate of Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngāuruhoe watch over the central North Island. The violent forces at work in the area’s geological past have led to a spectacular and starkly beautiful landscape that became the land of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
In winter, skiers and boarders flock to the North Island’s largest, most popular and well-equipped ski fields in the Ruapehu region. Away from the slopes, New Zealand’s National Army Museum is well worth a visit, and there are options for experiencing the region’s stark volcanic geography by land or air.
Hit the slopes on Mount Ruapehu at Tukino Ski Area, Turoa Ski Area, or Whakapapa Ski Area. Further outdoor adventures can be experienced with Adrift Guided Outdoor Adventures, in the National Park Village, canoeing with Yeti Tours in Tongariro, or get the big picture with some flight-seeing with Mountain Air in Mount Ruapehu. The National Army Museum in Waiouru offers a fascinating insight into New Zealand's military history.
A busy little café and restaurant scene has arisen in the Ruapehu region to meet the needs of the skiers that come flocking each winter. You can find more substantial fare at Basekamp, National Park Village, and first-class dining in ambient surroundings at Bayview Chateau Tongariro's Ruapehu Restaurant. For down-to-earth favourites like pizza and burgers, and a packed schedule of live music during winter, hit up Schnapps Bar, or try Station Café Bar & Restaurant (both in the National Park Village), which is a café by day and restaurant by night, housed in a stunning 100-year-old railway station. Finally, The Powderhorn at Powderhorn Chateau is a buzzing après ski hangout during the winter months.
Snow sports fans and other travellers will find a number of good accommodation options for different budget ranges in the Ruapehu region. Treat yourself at the Bayview Chateau Tongariro or Skotel Alpine Resort at Mount Ruapehu, house the family comfortably at the Peaks Motor Inn in Ohakune or save money for the slopes at The Park Hotel Ruapehu in the National Park Village or Whakapapa Holiday Park at Whakapapa Village.
The nearest airport is Taupō Airport, which offers domestic flights to and from Auckland and Wellington. International flights are not available. The nearest international airport is in Auckland. Ruapehu is in the central North Island, midway between Auckland and Wellington, on the southern shore of Lake Taupō. You can reach Whakapapa Village in 5 hours, 30 minutes by road from Auckland and in 4 hours, 55 minutes from Wellington. Scheduled coach services and shuttle services operate between central Taupō, Mount Ruapehu and popular visitor activities. To get around while you're there, try Adventure HQ or Tongariro Expeditions. Find out more at the Department of Conservation in Whakapapa Village or the Ruapehu i–SITE at 54 Clyde Street, Ohakune.