Central North Island

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.

Cool facts

  • Rotorua is home to the famed Pink and White Terraces, once considered the eighth wonder of the world, but were destroyed by Mt Tarawera eruption. Parts of these were recently discovered.
  • The Huka Falls is the most visited natural attraction in New Zealand.

Must do's

  • Visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Womderland in Rotorua to see the Lady Knox Geyser that erupts daily.
  • Walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
  • Cast a line and wait for a big one in Turangi, home to the world’s largest natural trout fishery.

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KEY TOWNS AND REGIONS

Rotorua

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.

Click here to read more about Rotorua and things to do.

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.

Click here to read more about Lake Taupo and things to do.

Turangi

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.

Mt Ruapehu

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.

FACT FILE

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.

Climate:

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.

Hiking amongst volcanoes

One of the best day treks in the world, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing takes you past three active volcanoes, emerald blue lakes and steaming vents.  It’s an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Read more.

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Central North Island Accommodation

  • Absolute Lakeview Motel

    Absolute Lakeview Motel, Taupo Motels & Motor Lodges

    Absolute Lakeview Motel offers motel accommodation on the shores of Lake Taupo. Accommodation comprises of 22 quality suites including 16 studio, 5x1...

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  • Clearwater Motor Lodge

    Clearwater Motor Lodge, Taupo Motels & Motor Lodges

    Clearwater Motor Lodge offers quality self-contained motel accommodation on the shores of Lake Taupo. Accommodation includes 10 self-contained units,...

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  • Alpine Lake Motor Lodge

    Alpine Lake Motor Lodge, Taupo Motels & Motor Lodges

    Taupo's newest luxury motor lodge! Modern, air-conditioned units, featuring up-market chattels. Enjoy FREE in-room high speed wireless internet or our...

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  • Airport Motel @ Rainbow Point

    Airport Motel @ Rainbow Point, Taupo Motels & Motor Lodges

    Airport Motel at Rainbow Point is located in Taupo. It has 7 studio units and 1&2brm that guests can choose from. A conference facility for groups of...

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  • Twin Peaks Lakeside Inn

    Twin Peaks Lakeside Inn, Taupo Motels & Motor Lodges

    Lakefront location, magnificent views. 36 self-contained units, serviced daily: 20 studio sleep 2-3; 8x1brm suites sleep 4-5; 4x1brm family units...

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  • Tongariro Holiday Park

    Tongariro Holiday Park, Tongariro National Park Holiday Parks & Camping Grounds

    Tongariro Holiday Park is a Qualmark 3-star Holiday Park nestled amidst stunning bush, at the feet of Ngaruhoe, Tongariro and Mt Ruapehu. Holiday Park...

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Central North Island Activites

  • Te Puia

    Te Puia, Rotorua Culture & Heritage

    Te Puia At the core of Te Puia is the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, set up by legislation in 1963 to maintain and preserve the...

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  • Off Road NZ

    Off Road NZ, Rotorua Family Attractions

    Driven by Adventure! Off Road NZ offers an extensive range of off road vehicle based adventures for individuals, couples, families, groups and thrill...

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  • Tamaki Maori Village

    Tamaki Maori Village, Rotorua Family Attractions

    Experience the warmth of our people during an evening of ceremonial rituals, powerful cultural performance, storytelling & hangi...

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  • National Army Museum

    National Army Museum, Waiouru Family Attractions

    Remember the legends, pay tribute to the sacrifices. Stories of courage, stories of honour, stories of comradeship. From the Red Coat of the Imperial...

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  • AC Baths and Hot Pools Taupo

    AC Baths and Hot Pools Taupo, Taupo Family Attractions

    The AC Baths Taupo feature a huge outdoor leisure pool linking to an indoor leisure pool so you can swim in both without leaving the warmth of the...

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  • Rotorua Canopy Tours

    Rotorua Canopy Tours, Rotorua Family Attractions

    New Zealand's only native forest zipline canopy tour. This is an incredible 3 hour, small group eco journey mixing adventure, education and...

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