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12 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Tongariro National Park

12 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Tongariro National Park

New Zealand is celebrated for its natural beauty, adventurous outdoor activities, and Maori culture – you’ll find all that (and much more!) when you visit Tongariro National Park.

As one of the best national parks in New Zealand, there is a ton to see and do here. Tongariro is a natural volcanic area, so you know what that means: dramatic landscapes, unique flora and fauna, and lots of beautiful North Island hikes

And with 3 active volcanoes, an unpredictable weather pattern, and Lord of the Rings credentials, it’s safe to say that a visit to Tongariro National Park will be an unforgettable experience. 

Since the park is huge and there’s so much to do, you definitely need to read up on it before you go. That’s why I’ve put together this complete list of everything you need to know before visiting Tongariro National Park! 

1. About Tongariro National Park 

Bailey walks along a boardwalk on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand
Mt Doom!
Green volcanic lake on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand
The volcanic lakes!

Tongariro is actually the oldest national park in New Zealand, and it was only the 6th in the world to be established.

It was created in 1887 and now holds dual world heritage status, recognizing both its significance in Maori culture and religion, as well as its diverse and dramatic volcanic landscape. 

The park covers 80,000 hectares of land, which is 796 square kilometers (307 square miles). To put this into context, it’s roughly the same size as New York City! However, instead of skyscrapers, you’ll find glaciers, ancient lava flows, rivers, cascading waterfalls, alpine lakes, and even ski fields here.

There are three active volcanoes in the park: Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu. The summits of Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu are both sacred Maori sites, and the whole national park is of huge cultural and spiritual significance.

This striking and widely varied landscape is why Tongariro National Park was chosen as a filming location for several of the Lord of the Rings movies. In fact, Mount Ngauruhoe was actually used for Mount Doom in the film (with some digital alterations, of course). Meanwhile, among other locations, Mount Ruapehu was the setting for Emyn Muil and two waterfalls were used for Gollum’s Pool. 

In addition to its spectacular scenery, there’s so much to do in Tongariro National Park that it would be pretty much impossible to ever get bored. Thanks to its insane variety of landscapes, you can go skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking, as well as explore ancient forests, crater lakes, and rugged peaks.

Related read: LOTR fans can’t miss out on a trip to Hobbiton! It’s less than a 3-hour drive from the park and you’ll be in the Shire.

2. Where is Tongariro National Park? 

Birds eye view of Tongariro National Park, NZ
Tongariro National Park is in the volcanic center of the North Island!

Tongariro National Park is in the central part of New Zealand’s North Island. It’s 354 kilometers (220 miles) from Auckland, and it takes about 4 hours to drive between the two. 

The closest popular tourist town is Taupo, which is 91 kilometers (57 miles away). The drive takes about an hour and 20 minutes along State Highways 1 and 47, so you can easily take a day trip to Tongariro National Park from there.

3. When is the best time to visit Tongariro National Park? 

A road leads towards Mt Doom in Tongariro National Park
What a place!
Taranaki Falls in Tongariro National Park
Volcanoes and waterfalls!

It all depends on what you want to do there! 

For most outdoor activities, the summer is definitely the best time to go. There are a ton of hiking routes, including the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Plus, you can enjoy rock climbing, mountain biking, and river rafting during the warmer months. 

It doesn’t get super warm in the park during the summer, with average highs of 16°C (60°F) and lows of 5°C (41°F), which is pretty mild – meaning you won’t overheat on a long hike!

However, for snow sports, winter is the ideal time. The ski season usually lasts from late June to October, so if you want to ski and snowboard then this is when you should visit. 

4. Is it safe to visit Tongariro National Park?

Kiwi crossing sign in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Remember, this area is surrounded by Volcanoes!

Visiting Tongariro National Park is generally considered safe, but it’s not without risks. 

For one thing, the park is home to 3 active volcanoes, and eruptions can happen with practically no warning. The most recent eruption happened in 2012, but fortunately, no one was hurt.

The risk of injury from an eruption is much higher when you are close to a volcanic vent. The park is closely monitored and there’s a warning system in place, but ultimately you need to check this beforehand, consider the risk, and plan carefully. You should also check the conditions at the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre before heading out on trails.

Also, many of the activities on offer in the park do have risk factors involved. Things like skiing and hiking are never totally risk-free, but this is true wherever you are in the world. 

5. Is it free to visit Tongariro National Park?

People walk up the highest point of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand
The famous alpine crossing!

Yes! 

What’s awesome about New Zealand is that none of its national parks have entry fees. Just another reason to love this beautiful country! 

The only time you will have to pay to be in Tongariro National Park is if you want to stay overnight in one of the backcountry huts or camping accommodations, but taking a day trip is free.

Related read: Some of the best hot springs in New Zealand are also free to visit!

6. Where are the best towns to visit Tongariro National Park from? 

Chateau Tongariro Hotel at Whakapapa Village, New Zealand
Chateau Tongariro Hotel at Whakapapa Village, New Zealand

Whakapapa Village

Whakapapa Village is the best place to stay when visiting Tongariro National Park. It’s an alpine village at the bottom of Mount Ruapehu, so it’s actually inside the park itself. In fact, this is where you’ll find the Tongariro National Park Visitor Centre, which is super convenient. 

From Whakapapa Village, you’ll have easy access to The Tongariro Circuit, as well as natural attractions such as Taranaki Falls, Tama Lakes, Whakapapa Ski Field, Tawhai Falls, and Silica Rapids.

The drive to Whakapapa Village is pretty easy and the roads are in good condition. Even so, it’s a good idea to have snow chains with you if you’re going there in the winter, especially if you’re in a 2WD car since the roads can be icy as you get closer to the village. If you don’t have any, you can purchase or rent them in Ohakune, the southern gateway to Tongariro National Park.

Accommodation in Whakapapa Village is limited, so book in advance if you can. The best options include:

  • Chateau Tongariro Hotel – a heritage hotel that looks a bit like the huge house from Home Alone. Here, you can enjoy a spa, a plunge pool, amazing views of Tongariro’s 3 volcanic peaks, and a very elegant high tea. 
  • Skotel Alpine Resort – this locally owned and operated resort offers a variety of accommodation types, from private bunk dorms with shared facilities to family suites and gorgeous rooms with beautiful views of Tongariro or Ngauruhoe.
  • Whakapapa Holiday Park – this popular holiday park has non-powered tent sites and powered sites for caravans and RVs. There’s a shop, clean drinking water, hot showers, and drop toilets.
  • Forest and Bird Lodge – here you have the choice between cabins and cottages, both of which sleep 4 people. It’s nestled in an evergreen forest which is amazing for birdwatching and you can even spot samango monkeys.
  • Discovery Lodge Tongariro – located just outside of Whakapapa Village, it has tent sites as well as self-contained motels and chalets. If you’re on a budget, this is a great place to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of the area.

Ohakune

Known as the “carrot capital” of New Zealand, Ohakune is famous for its amazing veggies. But it’s also a great base for adventurous activities in Tongariro National Park. It has good access to the Turoa Ski area, as well as Mangawhero Falls, Waitonga Falls, and the Hapuawhenua Viaduct. 

It’s also a good spot for Lord of the Rings fans to stay, as Mangawhero Falls was used as the filming location for Ithilien and Gollum’s Pool. 

Again, accommodation here is limited so it’s best to arrange it in advance if you can. The best options are:

  • Mangawhero DOC campsite – managed by the New Zealand Depart of Conservation, this camp has 12 first-come, first-served unpowered tent sites as well as a toilet and tap. 
  • The Hobbit Motorlodge – this budget-friendly motor lodge offers the choice between shared dormitories or private rooms, all of which are equipped with cozy electric blankets. Sadly, it’s not really Lord of the Rings themed beyond the name, but there is a hot tub on site where you can relax and warm up after a day of outdoor adventures.
  • Rocky Mountain Chalets – these cute self-contained chalets will make you feel right at home, and have full kitchens. They’re also within easy reach of Okahune’s shops and restaurants. 
  • Night Sky Cottage – this romantic, 5-star cottage is nestled within an evergreen forest, so you feel like you’re right in the middle of nowhere. During the day, you’ll enjoy beautiful views and after dark, you can gaze up at the stars through the skylights. 

Taupo

Lake Taupo view, New Zealand
Lake Taupo view, New Zealand looking into Tongariro National Park

Taupo is a popular tourist town about an hour and 20 minutes away from Tongariro National Park, so you can easily make a day trip. It’s best known for Lake Taupo – the largest lake in New Zealand with a surface area as large as the entire country of Singapore!

If you’re coming from Rotorua, take the awesome Rotorua to Taupo road trip full of fun stops along the Thermal Explorer Highway. Drop off your stuff at a hotel in Taupo and take a day trip to Tongariro National Park.

The best options for accommodation in Taupo are:

  • Taupo Debretts Spa Resort – great for families with the option to stay in the lodge or book an entire cabin. The hot springs, pools, and waterslides on site are a huge bonus too.
  • Baycrest Thermal Lodge – just off the main road opposite Lake Taupo gives you stellar views from your room. You can choose between ground-floor apartments that include private hot thermal pools or first-floor apartments with a spa bath and balcony.
  • Hilton Lake Taupo – high-end accommodation treats you to views overlooking the valley and Lake Taupo with spacious junior suites or apartment-style rooms available. You’ll love the extra living space and walk-in showers along with furnished private balconies.

Turangi 

There are more accommodation options in Turangi than in some of the other towns and villages inside Tongariro National Park, and it’s close to the departure point for the Tongariro Crossing shuttles which is very convenient. 

It’s 4 kms (2.5 miles) away from Taupo Lake, and just a 10-minute drive from Opotaka, which is the birthplace of the Haka. The Tokaanu Thermal Pools are also nearby, and the ski fields are around 35 minutes away by car. 

Some of the best accommodation in Turangi includes:

  • Turangi Bridge Motel – this is one of the cheaper options in Turangi, but it still has a spa pool and sauna for guests to enjoy. There’s also a restaurant on-site, coin-operated laundry facilities, and some rooms have their own kitchenettes.
  • Parklands Motor Lodge & Holiday Park – this park offers self-contained 1-bed apartments with a kitchenette, and there’s also a restaurant on-site where you can ask the chef to cook any trout that you catch. 
  • Oreti Village Resort – a swanky resort overlooking Lake Taupo which offers apartments that come fully equipped with kitchens, laundry facilities, central heating, and private parking. There’s also a pool, a spa, and a great restaurant. 

7. Can you visit Tongariro National Park in winter? 

Mount Ngauruhoe in winter
In winter, expect cold conditions and lots of snow!

Yes, you can. In fact, if you want to go skiing or snowboarding, winter is the best time to visit New Zealand and Tongariro National Park.

You can also visit many other attractions we’ll detail in this guide. However, trekking the Tongariro Crossing or Northern Circuit is very dangerous at this time of year, as these are difficult hikes that shouldn’t be undertaken when there’s snow or ice on the ground. 

It’s best to stick to the park’s alpine attractions during the winter, and come back in the summer for the adventurous hikes! Trust me, Tongariro National Park is definitely beautiful enough to merit visiting twice.

Related read: Spending time on the South Island in the colder months? I love all the epic winter activities in Queenstown!

8. What ski fields are on Mt Ruapehu?

Whakapapa Ski Field on Mt Ruapehu
Whakapapa Ski Field on Mt Ruapehu
Whakapapa Ski Field in Tongariro National Park
Ski on an active volcano!

Tukino Skifield

Tukino Skifield is a quiet, family-friendly ski field. Located on the eastern slopes of Mt Ruapehu, it covers over 170 hectares and has over 300 meters (985 feet) of vertical drop, so it’s relatively small compared to Mt Ruapehu’s other two ski fields, but it also feels less commercial. It’s well sheltered from the wind with consistent conditions throughout the day, and a friendly atmosphere. 

This ski field is run by the Tukino Mountain Clubs Association, which primarily consists of the Aorangi, Desert Alpine, and Tukino Alpine Ski Clubs. It’s open from 9 am – 4 pm daily from July until October. 

You’ll need 4WD to get to Tukino Skifield, or there’s a shuttle from the base of the mountain. A return trip costs $30 NZD for adults or $10 NZD for children, and it’s best to book your ride the day before via the Tukino Ticket Office.

Whakapapa Ski Field

Whakapapa ski field is divided into three areas – 25% of the field is for beginners, 50% for intermediate skiers, and 25% for the pros. There’s also the Happy Valley area here if you want to take lessons or jump on a toboggan and sled down the slope. It’s open from late June to early October.

Usually, the main ski area opens in the first or second week of July and closes in late October, but exact dates vary from year to year. 

The ski field is run by Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, and you can access it via the park-and-ride shuttle service, which leaves from the parking lot along Station Road in Whakapapa Village. 

Whakapapa ski field is the largest in New Zealand, with over 550 hectares of skiable area. Its peak elevation is 2,300 meters (7,545 feet) and 670 meters (2,198 feet) of vertical drop. 

Turoa Ski Field

Turoa ski field is another large ski field with 500 hectares to carve up and 699 meters (2,239 feet) of vertical drop. It has two beginner areas, as well as lots of intermediate and advanced trails to enjoy, so there’s something for everyone here!

Like Whakapapa, Turoa is also operated by Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, and your lift ticket allows you to access both fields, and you can cross over from one to the other if you like. 

Turoa has a slightly shorter season than Whakapapa, usually closing a few weeks earlier than its neighbor. Of the two, Whakapapa tends to be more beginner-friendly, while Turoa is more catered to intermediate/advanced skiers, although there are trails for everyone to enjoy in both fields.

What’s especially awesome about Turoa is that if you’re an advanced skier, you can hike to the top of the mountain and enjoy beautiful views of the crater lake below, before skiing or snowboarding all the way down. 

9. 12 BEST Things to do in Tongariro National Park

Hike the Tongariro Crossing 

Bailey looks down at the valley on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand
But the views are worth the effort!
Mount Ruapehu or Mount Doom on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

This is one of the best and most popular day hikes in New Zealand and it crosses over the volcanic terrain of Mount Tongariro itself. Over 150,000 people complete the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike every year, and it will definitely wow you with its wild and rugged beauty. 

The trail is 19 kilometers (12 miles long), so get ready for a full day of hiking. It takes between 6-9 hours to complete the trail, and it’s not a loop, so you will need to arrange transport to either the start or the end of the trail because doing it twice is way too much for one day! 

Summer is the best time to hike the Tongariro Crossing. It can be downright dangerous during the winter and it’s often closed due to bad conditions.

This is a strenuous hike and not without its dangers – there have been casualties in the past and a small handful of people need to be rescued every year. Most people complete it safely but remember to be cautious, take your time, and know what you’re getting into. 

Bailey walks along a boardwalk with a view of Mount Ruapehu or Mount Doom on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The trek begins at the Mangatepopo car park, but there’s a 4-hour limit here, which isn’t enough time for even the fastest and most experienced hikers to complete the trail. If you do want to take your own car, I recommend parking at the end point of the hike at the Ketetahi Car Park and booking this shuttle service. For $45 NZD, they will pick you up from the end of the trail and drive you to the start. Then when you’re finished hiking, you’ll be back at your own car and can drive away!

If you’re coming from Taupo, you can book this return shuttle service for $100 NZD. It drops you off at the Mangatepopo car park at 7 am and picks you up from Ketetahi at the other end of the trail at 3:30 pm, which gives you plenty of time to complete the hike.

Or, if you’re staying in Turangi, you can book this return shuttle. It departs once an hour between 5:30-8:30 am and then picks you up either on the hour between 2-4 pm or at 5:30 pm, so there’s lots of flexibility. That way you can hike at your own pace without worrying about missing your return journey. 

Hike the Tongariro Circuit

Camping on the Tongariro Northern Circuit
Camping on the circuit!
Bailey stands at the sign for the Tongariro Northern Circuit
Ready to start the circuit!

The Tongariro Circuit is a 45-kilometer (28-mile) loop, which is basically an extended version of the Tongariro Crossing that I talked about above. This route tends to be much quieter once it deviates from the popular Tongariro Crossing trail, but it’s still fairly in demand. You’ll need to reserve your spot on the circuit in advance online – this is one of the Great Walks in New Zealand, after all. 

The Tongariro Circuit usually takes 4 days and 3 nights, or 3 days and 2 nights, to complete. It begins and ends in Whakapapa, and you can either stay in hut accommodation or camp along the way. Huts cost $37 NZD per person per night for New Zealand citizens and $56 NZD for international visitors. Meanwhile, campsites cost $16 NZD per person for citizens and $24 NZD for foreigners.

Under 18s can stay in the huts and campsites for free but booking is still required. This can be done in advance via the DOC website.

Note that the accommodation is only available during the Great Walk season, which usually runs from late October until the end of April – it’s not possible to do the Tongariro Circuit during the winter.

The first day takes you from Whakapapa to Mangatepopo, and it starts off pretty easily with a 9-kilometer (5.6-mile) walk along a flat gravel path. Along the way, you’ll be able to soak in the beautiful views of Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro. You can then spend the night in either a hut or the campsite next door, which has toilets and running water.

Bailey on the Tongariro Circuit
On my way!

The second day is more difficult. You’ll cover 12.8 kilometers (8 miles) as you pass between Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe. This will take around 5 hours, and there is a steep uphill section that lasts for just under a kilometer. However, your effort won’t go unrewarded as the highest point of the hike affords you amazing views of the Emerald Lakes. 

You’ll then spend your second night in Outrere before completing a fairly easy 7.5-kilometer (4.6-mile) walk through valleys and forests to reach Waihohonu. This takes roughly 3 hours and then you can choose to either stay the night here or continue on for an additional 14 kilometers (8.6 miles) to get back to Whakapapa. Again, this is a fairly easy hike. 

If you do the whole last leg in a single day, it will be a full day of walking which is pretty tiring, but it’s definitely doable so long as you’re reasonably fit.

You can even do the circuit in 2 days and 1 night by skipping the first day of hiking and starting from the Mangatepopo car park instead of Whakapapa. 

Go white water rafting

White Water Rafting at Tongariro River New Zealand
Photo credit: Rafting New Zealand

For adrenaline junkies, white water rafting in Tongariro National Park is a must. This rafting tour takes you to the Tongariro river to go paddling through 50 Grade III rapids, which is a pretty heft upper body workout, let me tell you! 

You’ll get gorge-ous (sorry, couldn’t resist that one!) views as you zoom down the river, and then afterward you’ll have time to jump into calmer waters from high rock faces.

This tour takes around 4 hours and includes hotel pickup and drop-off from either Taupo or Turangi. You’ll need to be reasonably fit and active as this is pretty tiring, but you’ll be rewarded with a hot dog and a beer, soda, or glass of mulled wine at the end.

Related read: For another adrenaline-pumping activity, why not try skydiving in New Zealand?

Visit Taranaki Falls

Taranaki Falls in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
The walk to Taranaki Falls is a must-do!

Taranaki Falls is one of New Zealand’s seriously impressive waterfalls that’s made even better by the surrounding views of the national park’s 3 volcanic peaks.

The falls are found along a fairly easy 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) return track that should take you around 2 hours to complete. It starts and ends at the Whakapapa Visitor Center, taking you through forests and past pretty streams, gorges, and waterfalls.

You can walk to the falls by yourself or you can join this guided sunset walk to learn all about the history and geology of the park as you admire its varying landscapes. The $133 NZD cost also includes a glass of local wine as you watch the sunset over the falls. Count me in!

Or, try out this half-day guided walk where you’ll see some of the most impressive features in the park, made famous in the Lord of the Rings movies! It’s perfect for travelers short on time as you can choose a morning or afternoon tour. You’ll see Taranaki Falls, the Whakapapanui River, and enjoy spectacular views over the volcanic wilderness. The guided hike is $220 NZD per person and can be booked here.

Go skiing 

Falling over at Coronet Peak Ski Resort
Sometimes I fall over one too many times!

Tongariro National Park is home to some fantastic ski fields, as we discussed earlier. Ski season in Tongariro National Park usually lasts from late June/early July until the end of October.

Whether you’re a total beginner or a seasoned pro, the three ski fields on Mt Ruapehu will have a track for you to enjoy! 

Cycle the Ohakune Old Coach Road

TCB Ski Board Bike Old coach Road
Photo credit: TCB Ski Board Bike

Back in the day, the Ohakune Old Coach Road was used to connect two rail heads before the North Island trunk line was finished. Passengers and goods were transported across by horse-drawn coaches until the completion of the line in 1908 rendered it obsolete. The route then became submerged by forest until it was rediscovered in 2002, and now it’s a popular walking and cycling track. 

The terrain varies between dirt, smooth pathways, and cobbles, so although you don’t need to be Lance Armstrong to complete it, you should be confident on a bike. 

The Old Coach Road also takes you across the Hapuawhenua Viaduct, which was once the largest curved wooden railway bridge in the world. As you cross, you’ll enjoy scenic views of the forested valley below. 

The road takes you from Horopito to Okahune and takes around 4 hours in total to complete. This self-guided tour will shuttle you from Ohakune to Horopito where you will then begin to cycle back to the starting point. For $55 NZD, it’s a great deal as it also includes your bike and helmet, and you can download a free app to guide you if you like. 

Hike to the Tama Lakes

If you’re worried about the difficulty of the Tongariro Crossing hike, the Tama Lakes Track is a great alternative. It’s a 17.6-kilometer (11-mile) return trek to two beautiful crater lakes that are between Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Nguauruhoe, and it takes around 6 hours to complete. 

The walk is actually an extension of the Taranaki Falls hike that I talked about above. After you reach the falls, you continue through herb fields and countryside, and then trek uphill for 1.4 kilometers (0.9 miles) to a viewpoint that will give you beautiful views of these incredible, bright blue lakes.

Although this walk is definitely easier than the Tongariro Crossing, the last section is still pretty challenging and there are some loose and uneven rocks along the way, so you’ll still need to be fairly fit and take care with your footing.

Visit Tawhai Falls (Gollum’s Pool)

Tawhai Falls (Gollum’s Pool)
Tawhai Falls (Gollum’s Pool)

This is a must for Lord of the Rings fans! Tawhai Falls was used as one of the filming locations for Gollum’s Pool, where he was captured by Frodo and Faramir. As a result, they have become an iconic sight! 

The trailhead is just a 5-minute drive from Whakapapa Village, and there’s a small car park. From there, it’s an easy 10-minute walk to Tawhai Falls – no hiking boots required! 

The falls are 13 meters (42 feet) tall, but what they lack in height they more than make up for in beauty. The pool at the base of the falls is clear and bright blue in color, and you can even swim here – although the water is freezing, so you probably won’t stay in for long! 

Check out Silica Rapids

Silica Rapids are known for their creamy white color, which comes from the aluminum and silicate minerals in the water. You’ll find them along a 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) track which begins at the Whakapapa Visitor Center and takes you through beech forest, swamps, and tussock country.

Along the way, you’ll see lots of interesting vegetation and enjoy views of Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Ngauruhoe in the distance.

High Tea in the Chateau Tongariro

Chateau Tongariro Hotel High Tea
Photo credit: Chateau Tongariro Hotel

Even if you don’t stay at the Chateau Tongariro, you should definitely drop in for high tea. You can sit back and pretend to be a member of the aristocracy as you enjoy scones, finger sandwiches, and gourmet teas in the hotel’s classy Ruapehu Lounge. 

High tea is available every day from 11 am until 5 pm, and it’s pretty popular so it’s definitely best to book in advance. It costs $49 NZD per person, or $58 NZD if you upgrade to add a glass of sparkling wine. You can even go one step fancier and enjoy Drappier champagne and macarons for $76 NZD.

Related read: For more date ideas, check out the top romantic getaways in New Zealand!

Get geeky at Mangawhero Falls, aka Gollum’s Pool & Ithilien

Mangawhero Falls, aka Gollum’s Pool & Ithilien
So cool!
Close up of Mangawhero Falls, aka Gollum’s Pool & Ithilien
I love visiting the film locations!

Mangawhero Falls was the second waterfall used for Gollum’s Pool in Lord of the Rings, and it was also used to depict Ithilien. If you’re feeling particularly geeky, you can even reenact the scene of Gollum fishing!

This plunging waterfall is 25 meters (82 feet) tall and it feels pretty eerie when you visit on an overcast day. The trailhead is located at the car park along Ohakune Mountain Road, and from there it’s a 5-minute walk until you get your first glimpse of Mangawhero Falls.

After you arrive and snap some pictures of the falls from below, you can then follow the trail for another few minutes up to a lookout point that offers an even better view.

Go ATVing with Ruapehu Adventure Rides

Ruapehu Adventure Rides
Photo credit: Ruapehu Adventure Rides

ATVing through Tongariro National Park is an experience like no other! This is an amazing way to soak up the beauty of the park while enjoying a hair-raising adventure. Plus, you can enjoy this activity in pretty much all weather conditions. 

Ruapehu Adventure Rides provide top quality ATVs and all the necessary safety equipment, as well as a training session to make sure you know what you’re doing before you head out to explore. 

An hour session costs $125 NZD per person, while it’s $155 NZD for a 90-minute session or $195 NZD for 2 hours. 

You need to be at least 16 years old to drive an ATV, but those under 16 can also join in the fun with a buggy ride, which costs $59 NZD for an hour. Or if you’re over 16 but just don’t feel comfortable driving, buggy rides start at $89 NZD per adult. 

10. How long do you need to visit Tongariro National Park?

Bailey stops for a break on a steep path on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand
I was over the alpine crossing at this point lol!

We’d say that 3+ days is the perfect amount of time to visit Tongariro National Park.

The Tongariro Crossing is the ultimate must-do activity here, and it takes an entire day in itself. So you could take a day trip here and only do the crossing, but it would be a shame to miss out on all of the other attractions and activities that are on offer in the national park.

If you narrow down what you want to do here, you could stay nearby for a single night and spend 2 days exploring the park, but in general, we recommend at least 3 days, and even a couple more if you have the time!

11. What will you find at the Tongariro National Park Visitor Center?

Tawhai Falls (Gollum’s Pool), New Zealand
Tawhai Falls (Gollum’s Pool), New Zealand
Chateau Tongariro, New Zealand
What a magical place!

You can find a ton of useful information at the Tongariro National Park Visitor Center. It’s open from 8 am – 4:30 pm every day except for Christmas Day and is located in Whakapapa Village.

Here, you can get advice on all of the activities on offer in the park and the staff can help you to plan your visit. It’s also the starting point for several of the park’s best hiking trails.

You can also find out about the weather and conditions elsewhere in the park, and check current safety messages or avalanche warnings. It’s always a good idea to do this before you go hiking or head to one of the ski fields. In fact, the foyer has 24-hour access, so you can check weather conditions and track information at any time of the day (or night!), even if the visitor center is closed. 

This is also a great place to get an introduction to Maori history and the conservation efforts being undertaken in Tongariro National Park. There are exhibits on Maori mythology, as well as the volcanoes and the local wildlife

If you want to reserve a hut for the night or book your spot on a Great Walk, then you can do it through the visitor center. You can also pick up maps and brochures here, as well as souvenirs like postcards and clothing. 

12. Is visiting Tongariro National Park worth it?

a lady stands on a rock with the view of the grren lake on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand
Come and explore Mordor!

A big, emphatic YES.

This is one of the most visited places in New Zealand – in fact, around a million people per year flock to Tongariro National Park to experience its wild, rugged beauty. The Tongariro Crossing is widely regarded as one of the best single-day hikes in the whole of New Zealand, and even the world! 

Whether you like hiking, skiing, Lord of the Rings, or just want to check out some beautiful views, you’ll definitely fall in love with Tongariro National Park, and you won’t regret your visit for a second.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

A motorhome by the beach
Me and my trusty campervan!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to book a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (DTRAVEL5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
  • Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey smiles at the camera on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand
Thanks for reading!

I hope this blog has given you lots of information and inspiration for your trip to Tongariro National Park! This is such a gorgeous area of New Zealand and with so many things to do in the park, you won’t regret dropping in and staying a while.

While you plan your New Zealand trip, let me be your tour guide! Have a browse around my other blogs for ideas and tips for destinations on both the North and South Islands. If you have any questions, just drop me a comment below!

10 Things to KNOW About Catching a Ferry to the South Island

5 BEST Motorhome Rentals in Auckland

33 EXCITING Things to do in Rotorua, New Zealand