Tongariro National Park Travel Answers

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Taupo and Tongariro

by Redcat255 Online Now Dec 23, 2012 at 8:29 PM

I'm planning a (relatively) whirlwind tour of Australia and New Zealand. 14 days on the ground (17 days total, including flights).

We're a young, active couple in our twenties and looking to see as many natural wonders as possible. (Less concerned with seeing the cities.)

We're flying into Auckland and want to head straight to the Taupo/Tongariro area for probably 3 days (1 day to get over jetlag and 2 days to see the sites).

First off, if I can find a cheap flight, is it better to fly to Taupo or take a bus to the area? I'm seeing flights for NZ$89 right now, which seems not that much more than the buses, and the buses require connections.

Second, if we do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, is one day enough to see all of the highlights in the park, with a second day in Taupo proper seeing the falls and other nearby attractions? Or, are we better off skipping Taupo proper and just spending two full days in the park (plus a day perhaps in Taupo at the beginning to get over jetlag).

Finally, is it alright to stay in Taupo for all of this, or worth getting a hotel down closer to Tongariro? I have a ton of Hilton points from business travel, so I could get as many free nights as necessary at the Hilton in Lake Taupo. Worth paying out of pocket to stay in/near the park?

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5 Answers
  • Abbeythekat's Profile Photo

    Re: Taupo and Tongariro

    by Abbeythekat Online Now Dec 23, 2012 at 9:35 PM

    I know that there are other NZ VTers that will give you more detailed info...But if I may...can I give you some advice....One day is not enough to get over jetlag when you are coming to NZ. As you are going "Forwards" in terms of timezones it will really take it out of you.
    So can I suggest that were ever possible you fly or bus...and dont drive at all if you are planning on hitting the ground running etc. We had a young USA Honeymoon couple$ this year...try for the same thing...and it had a sad outcome not far from Waitomo.
    My recommendation...if you have a short timeframe is to (if the flights work out) fly to Taupo straight off (it will save you a 4-5hr road trip. (Longer by bus)The Flight will only be 40- Minutes) Then you can sleep when you get there and recover from your Jet lag by taking it easy in Taupo looking at the falls etc. and then do the crossing.Check out www.Grabaseat with Air NZ for cheap flights.
    Buses in NZ can be slow as they stop off everywhere.89 dollars sounds Okish...but you may get some cheaper flights if you keep an eye out.

    Tongariro will need to allow the whole day for that walk. So perhaps allow two nights down that way...or maybe even three.
    You can get a schuttle from Taupo if you want so you can base yourself in Taupo...its a nice chilled out spot with amazing views of the mountains.
    There is lots to do in Tongariro (nature wise) but Taupo would give you a bit more things to do. (e.g jetboats, Mountain Biking, Bungey etc)
    The Hilton is a little bit out of the main Taupo CBD but is next door to my favourite De Bretts Hotpools...which would be a nice treat after doing the crossing. I reckon if you have the points....use them. :-)

    I would also recommend a day trip North towards Rotorua to
    This thermal area is truely get to walk thru a beautiful landscape with blue craters and mini pink and white volcanic terraces. Just stunning.

    Have a wonderful time...


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  • Kakapo2's Profile Photo

    Re: Taupo and Tongariro

    by Kakapo2 Online Now Dec 24, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    If I had Hilton points I would highly likely stay in Taupo, otherwise there is no better and more spectacular place to stay than Whakapapa Village right in the Tongariro National Park, best in one of those wooden cabins of the Skotel (, or, if you want to spend more, at the Ch√Ęteau (

    Shuttles start at Whakapapa Village and take you to the start of the crossing track. You would be able to walk to the Mangatepopo Hut in the afternoon and stay there for the night. Then you have to do the crossing track in one go as there are no huts along the way before the Ketetahi Hut and hot springs. Most hikers do not stay at the huts but walk straight through and get their pick-up service at the Ketetahi end of the track in the late afternoon.

    On your first day you could take the chairlift up to Mt. Ruapehu (if the risk of eruption is not too high) and do some easy walking. The chairlift takes you up to 2020 metres.

    If you travel with Nakedbus from Auckland to Whakapapa, this might cost you about NZ$ 30, depending on the date and how far ahead you book (I get a fare under NZ$ 30 NOW if I book for 16 January). There would be one change and travel time is 6.5 hours.

    This is much cheaper than flying to Taupo for NZ$ 89 and then need the shuttle to the national park. But sure, if you have free accommodation in Taupo...

    BTW On Intercity non-refundable bus fares from AKL airport to Taupo are NZ$ 30 and flexible NZ$ 60.

    The Intercity bus network (which usually is the most reliable operator) lists The Chateau at Whakapapa Village as a destination but I have not been able to locate a connection on various days in January. No idea what has happened to this service. As the Mt. Ruapehu website does not list it, it might have been cancelled - but not sure about this. Best you check out Nakedbus if you are interested.

    Shuttle services from and to Taupo are also ok, you just arrive at the mountain later. From Whakapapa you have early bird service which is really nice because you can start before all the hikers from Taupo arrive ;-))

    There surely are some attractions in the Taupo region but these (particularly the spectacular geothermal site of Orakei Korako) are better reached by car. The Huka Falls are ok but I would not make any detour for them.

    The major problem I see is doing such a huge day hike while you might still be jetlagged. If you fly in from Australia you can forget this concern ;-))

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  • Kakapo2's Profile Photo

    Plan B

    by Kakapo2 Online Now Dec 26, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    I thought about your plans and have come to the conclusion that you should have a plan B ready for the case the weather isn't good enough for the Tongariro Crossing Track. It took me, for example, three drives to the region until I had my first view of the mountains. Only on the fourth attempt we could do the hike which can be hugely dangerous in unfavourable conditions. It is an alpine environment where the weather can change quickly, there can be snowfall in summer, and it is no fun at all in the rain. So be prepared - and have an alternative ready.

    For bad weather I would head to the Rotorua region where you can do a lot of things even if it rains. The geothermal sites are good even in bad weather, and there are pools, wildlife parks, the Zorb, etc. I know, nothing is as fantastic as the Tongariro National Park - but on some days it just doesn't make sense to go there.

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  • Re: Taupo and Tongariro

    by gary99 Online Now Dec 27, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Hi, why not rent a car? You can go where and when you want, especially if you want to not just do city to city. We rented a car in Auckland, I got used to driving on the left fairly quickly, and headed out staying at mom and pop motels here and there. Fantastic countryside. To us, Rotorua was a bit too touristy for our taste. But hiking around this beautiful country is not to be missed. Enjoy!

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  • Kakapo2's Profile Photo

    Re: Taupo and Tongariro

    by Kakapo2 Online Now Dec 29, 2012 at 9:14 PM

    Rotorua is a suggestion for bad weather. And BTW it is "too" touristy because there are so many extraordinary geothermal wonders to see and experience. Places that are not special will never be touristy at all.

    Regarding the suggestion to rent a car, this surely would be the best way to travel and stop wherever you want. But if the OP arrives jetlagged from Virginia and wants to get straight down to Taupo or wherever near the TNP, this is not a good idea. Driving jetlagged on the other side of the road than what you are used to is a recipe for disaster, and it happens every day here.

    If these people fly in from Australia it would not be a problem. It would even be the cheapest option because if you have to pay bus or air fares for two people, you nearly always end up paying more than for a rental car and petrol. And with the car you have the convenience of being able to stop wherever you want.

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