Nestled between the North Island main trunk railway line and State Highway 4, lies what for many travelling past would appear as an unassuming village.
From the highway, travellers will see a petrol station, pub, hotel and a few houses much like many other small Kiwi towns they pass through.
However, there is far more here than meets the eye.
At an altitude of 820 metres, National Park Village can truly claim the title of New Zealand’s top town, being the highest urban township in the country. But that’s not what makes the village a destination of choice for thousands of visitors each year.
As its name suggests, National Park Village is located on the boundary of Tongariro National Park in the Central North Island. This makes the village an ideal base for those wishing to explore the natural and cultural wonders of New Zealand’s oldest national park and Dual World Heritage Area, all year round.
Ride an active volcano
For those seeking fun and adventures in the snow – be it to ride an active volcano, Mt Ruapehu, or to just play in the snow for the first time, National Park Village is an excellent base.
The village is just a 20-minute drive to New Zealand’s biggest skifield – Whakapapa with its brand-new $25 million luxury gondola and world-class beginner’s area, Happy Valley. Conveniently, shuttle services run from the village’s newly built park and ride facility to the Whakapapa skifield throughout the season.
Whakapapa is not the only nearby skifield either. The village is also just 40 minutes from the Tūroa ski area on Ruapehu’s southern slopes. That means snow bunnies staying in the village can easily choose between the two ski areas based on which has best conditions on the day or if they feel like a change of scenery.
In addition to its proximity to the slopes, National Park Village also offers a great range of accommodation options to suit all budgets from backpackers to boutique lodges to family units.
Après-ski fun galore
Shredding snow is hungry work and so the village caters for all tastes when it comes to dining or enjoying an après-ski refreshment or two from classic pub tucker to takeaway pizza to fine dining. All eateries are family friendly and most welcome patrons with roaring log fires – the perfect way to warm up and unwind after a day in the snow!
Skiing and boarding are not the only winter adventures which lie on the doorstep of National Park Village, however. Another major drawcard is the iconic Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Arguably the biggest attraction in the Tongariro National Park during the warmer months, this classic one-day hike – regarded as one of New Zealand’s best – is still a must-do activity in winter.
Attempting the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in winter is a very different experience than during other times of the year. From May to October, snow and ice mean alpine skills and experience are essential. Therefore, the best and safest way to enjoy the Crossing in its full alpine glory is to go with guide. They know the weather conditions and how to navigate the landscape when it’s covered in snow and will have the equipment and skills to prevent a slide on icy terrain. They will also know where avalanches are a risk and how to rescue someone if an avalanche occurs.
Two Tongariro Alpine Crossing guiding companies, with decades of experience and approved by the Department of Conservation, operate from National Park Village – Adrift Tongariro and Adventure Outdoors Tongariro, and can guide you safely across this incredible, yet risky, wintry wonderland.
Staying further afield
While National Park Village is an excellent choice for those wanting the convenience of overnighting in a township with cafés, bars and restaurants a short stroll away, nearby villages cater for anyone looking to stay in more rural settings.
Raurimu, just 6km north of National Park, is home to the famous Raurimu Railway Spiral and a selection of accommodation options set among and on top of hills offering some of the best views over the park. There’s also a pub and a company offering guided quad bike and buggy tours over farmland, native bush and natural streams.
Further south along State Highway 4, lies Erua where you’ll find a mountain lodge, backpackers, motel units and access to a mountain bike park – all at the base of Hauhungatahi, one of the lesser known, yet highest volcanoes in New Zealand, at 1,521 metres.
Whakapapa Village – 16km from National Park – meanwhile lies within the Tongariro National Park and hosts the historic Chateau Tongariro Hotel, the Skotel resort hotel, a holiday park, café and tavern.
Combined these villages offer the best access to the Whakapapa ski area and wider Tongariro National Park, along with an exceptional choice of accommodation and dining options catering for all budgets and tastes.
With so much adventure waiting on the doorstep of National Park and its neighbouring villages, why travel any further for your winter escape?
Fun things to do around Ruapehu in winter – apart from skiing!
Hitting the slopes on Mt Ruapehu is undoubtedly the most popular attraction in the region in winter. However, they are by far not the only things to do in the area. Here are some other activities to enjoy near Ruapehu:
- Tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the snow
Join a guided trek of New Zealand best one-day hike in its true alpine glory.
- Ride the hills!
Feel the adrenaline rush of a quad bike adventure overlooking the Raurimu Spiral and majestic peaks of Tongariro National Park
- Bike through ancient native forests
Enjoy two family-friendly mountain bike tracks directly from National Park Village – the downhill Fishers Track or Marton Sash & Door loop along a historic bush tramway.
- Take to the skies in a scenic flight
Witness the volcanoes of the Tongariro National Park in all their glory from the air!
- Family fun
Enjoy a gentle put on the mini-golf course in National Park Village or reach for new heights at the indoor climbing centre next door.
- Eat & drink with views of majestic mountains
Soak in the spiritual significance & natural splendour of three volcanic peaks at once while enjoying one of the many local eateries with mountain views.