How to Spend 3 Days in Tongariro National Park
Adventurous travelers who enjoy the great outdoors love the central North Island’s Tongariro National Park. Geologically important and culturally significant to the local Maori, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is like nowhere else in New Zealand. Here are some ways to spend three active days in and around the park.
Day 1: Cycle the Ohakune Old Coach Road
The small town of Ohakune is a good place to base yourself while exploring the park. Rent a mountain bike, then head to the Old Coach Road, constructed in 1906 to connect two ends of the North Island’s main trunk railway line. Revived for recreational purposes, the trail features a cobbled road, steel viaducts, dense native bush, and views of the Central Plateau. Take your time cycling the easy-to-moderate 2.5-hour route—or walk it, if you prefer.
Day 2: Tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the most popular day hikes in the country. Your efforts are rewarded with views of the ancient volcanic landscape (including Ngauruhoe, Tongariro, and Ruapehu mountains) and bright turquoise sulfur lakes. Anyone with a moderate level of fitness can attempt the hike, but be prepared for unpredictable weather. Go independently or with a guide.
If you’re not quite up for the full hike, shorter journeys are available. On a sunset tour, for example, you’ll get the spectacular views without the physical challenge that a full-day trek requires.
Day 3: Raft the Tongariro River
To complete an adventure activity trio, spend your third day white-water rafting on the Tongariro River. There’s a range of routes, from beginner/family-friendly to more advanced—depending on how confident you are in the water and how wet you want to get. The more advanced courses run up to 60 rapids. Trips usually depart from Taupo or Turangi, and accommodation pickups are often available from other towns in the Tongariro area. You’ll see rare birds and other animals, native bush, gorges, and more.