Introducing The Central Plateau
Named for nearby Tongariro National Park, this tiny outpost lies at the junction of SH4 and SH47, 15km from the hub of Whakapapa Village. In ski season the township is packed, but in summer it’s sleepy – despite being a great base for activities in and around the park.
Daily shuttles leave from here to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Whakapapa Village in summer, and the ski area in winter. If you can’t decide between two ski fields, it’s only a short drive further on to Ohakune and nearby Turoa. It is also a base for other adventures, such as canoe trips on the Whanganui River.
And as you’ll discover, it’s railway country around here. About 20km south on SH4 at Horopito is a monument to the Last Spike, the spike that marked the completion of the Main Trunk Railway Line between Auckland and Wellington in 1908 (the train chugs on through to this day). Five kilometres north from National Park, at Raurimu, is evidence of the engineering masterpiece that is the ‘spiral’. Trainspotters will marvel, while nontrainspotters will probably wonder what the hell they’re looking at it (there’s not much to see).
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park (797 sq km) lies in the heart of the North Island. Its major landmarks are three active volcanoes – Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. These form the southern end of a chain that extends northwest through the heart of the North Island, past Taupo and Rotorua, to finally reach Whakaari/White Island.