If New Zealand were a cinema, Central North Island would be its blockbuster film, starring some of the country’s biggest attractions – Great Lake Taupo, Rotorua, Tongariro National Park and Mount Ruapehu. As one of the world’s most lively fields of volcanic activity, the region is abundant with crystal clear lakes, bubbling mud pools and geysers and snow-capped mountains. Take your pick from one of the many heart-racing adventure activities in the region, immerse yourself in the Maori culture or soak in a naturally-heated thermal pool to rejuvenate your body.
KEY TOWNS AND REGIONS
Home to our captivating Maori culture, hot springs, 18 lakes and various boiling mud pools, Rotorua and the surrounding region offer a mix of natural attractions and heritage. From crystal-clear streams and magical forests, to epic biking trails and explosive geysers, Rotorua has it all. The city offers a raft of attractions and experiences for everyone from adventure-seekers to those just looking to unwind. It is a fisherman’s dream with trophy trout to be had year-round. Just five minutes from downtown Rotorua, Whakarewarewa Forest, known to locals as ‘The Redwoods’, is a perfect playground for walkers, hikers, horse riders and mountain bikers.
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Great Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo was created nearly two thousand years ago by a volcanic eruption so big it darkened the skies in Europe and China. What remains is the largest fresh water lake in the Southern Hemisphere, almost the size of Singapore. Lake Taupo’s Mine Bay is home to Maori rock carvings, which can only be seen from the water, and make for a great boat trip or kayaking excursion. Just a 20 minute drive from the Taupo township is the cosy settlement of Kinloch with more spectacular views of the lake and the mountains of Tongariro National Park. Just north are the spectacular Huka Falls, New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction. The town centre offers boutique shopping, top-notch cafes and a vibrant nightlife.
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Well-known for its fly fishing on the Tongariro River, Turangi is nestled on the southern shores of Lake Taupo. It is the gateway to Tongariro National Park and Kaimanawa Forest Park. Being only 40 minutes from the Whakapapa ski field on Mount Ruapehu, it is a popular base for anyone planning to hit the snow in winter. It is also used as a base to walk to the spectacular Tongariro Alpine Crossing. After the active exploration of the region, soak in the nearby Tokaanu’s hot pools.
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest national park and a dual World Heritage area, rich both in cultural identity and awe-inspiring natural scenery. The region was formed by numerous volcanic eruptions over thousands of centuries, creating surreal colours and landscapes. The volcanic mountains Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro are located in the centre of the park. It is also home to the world-renowned 19.4km Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Spanning the length of Mt Tongariro, it is considered one of the best day hikes in the world.
The Ruapehu region is defined by three volcanoes that sit in the middle of the Tongariro National Park. Snow-capped Mt Ruapehu is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, with a deep crater lake nestled in its peaks. The Whakapapa Ski Area sits on the north-western slopes of Mt Ruapehu, and is New Zealand’s largest ski area, attracting visitors from around the world every winter. On the south-western slopes is the Turoa Ski Area, which has Australasia’s longest vertical descent and New Zealand’s highest lift, the “Highnoon Express”. The smaller cone of Mt Ngauruhoe is famous for depicting Mt Doom in The Lord of the Rings films, while the Tongariro Alpine Crossing traverses over Mt Tongariro, which offers craters, coloured lakes and volcanic rocks.
Getting to and around (Lake Taupo, Tongariro National Park):
Air New Zealand operates daily flights to and from Taupo Airport.
Lake Taupo is located at the crossroads of SH1 and the Thermal Explorer Highway, easily accessed from all main centres and with a good roading network.
It is connected via scheduled bus services to Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Gisborne, Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Napier and Wellington. Bus/Coach tours are available.
Car rentals are readily available with taxis available to get around Taupo for those without a car.
Shuttles are available to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and many walking or mountain biking tracks in the region.
Getting to and around (Ruapehu):
The nearest domestic airport to Ruapehu is Lake Taupo. From these airports you can connect with scheduled bus services or via rental car to drive into the region. It is also two to three hours from Rotorua and Hamilton airports.
The Ruapehu region is also serviced by the Overlander train service between Wellington and Auckland. The train stations in the region are at Taumarunui, National Park and Ohakune.
There are many local tour and transport operators providing links between the towns in the region as well as scheduled bus services.
A vehicle gives you the greatest flexibility to explore the region.
Getting to and around (Rotorua):
Rotorua is serviced by an international airport.
It has a good roading network and well connected to all major North Island cities via scheduled bus services and coach tours.
Rotorua has a comprehensive public transport system so getting around is easy.
Spring (Sep-Nov) – warming up, occasional rain showers, 8-17 °C; Summer (Dec-Feb) – dry and sunny, 17-26°C; Autumn – rain likely, 8-18°C; Winter – heavy rainfall, snow on the mountains, 0-11°C.