The Greenwood Guide to New Zealand

Central Plateau

  • Get seriously adventurous on Taupo's great lake. You can fish in it, swim in it, dive in it, boat on it and skydive over it.
  • Drive the volcanic loop highway (it's famous for a reason), take on the volcano-crested Tongariro National Park, breeze around Taupo's thermal parks or fly over the lot. Fire and ice come together in an astounding way at the North Island's raging core.
  • Base yourself in Ohakune, a small time apr├Ęs-skiing village with stacks of character and an awful lot of carrots (it's the New Zealand carrot capital). Here you can see and drink long after the sun has set.
  • Don skis, poles and that daft woolly hat you've always been too embarrassed to wear and clatter onto the Whakapapa and Turoa ski fields.

Mt. Ruapehu and Tongariro National Park

There is nothing quite as novel as skiing or snow-boarding on a strato-volcano, particularly when it's still active. Mt. Ruapehu and its three main peaks demand respect from skiers, hikers and onlookers alike. Tahurangi (2,797m), Te Heuheu (2,755m) and Paretetaitonga (2,751m) surround the brooding (lake-filled when it's not erupting) crater and are a formidable sight.

Ruapehu has the largest developed ski area in New Zealand, made up of two main ski fields. Whakapapa (pronounced 'fakapapa') spans the northern side and Turoa the southern. The season runs roughly from July to October unless volcanologist mountain monitors advise otherwise.. When volcanologist mountain monitors advise otherwise do something else!

The 1995-96 eruptions (yup, that recent!) meant skis and snowboards remained safely packed away and powder-lovers were sorely disappointed. The 1995 season ended abruptly when the Department of Conservation issued hazard warnings advising people to stay off the mountain. Activity on the mountain had been closely monitored since 1994 and there have been a number of episodic eruptions and lahars (mud slides) since. The experts are always one step ahead of Ruapehu's internal churnings and they serve up warnings accordingly. Heed their advice and take the opportunity to ride on this remarkable mountain if the all-clear is given.

Tongariro National Park is a great park for trekkers. The Tongariro Crossing passes between Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe, rumbling past cold mountain springs, lava flows, steam vents, an active crater, deep-green lakes and wonderful views. The terrain is steep and frequently difficult, so a decent level of fitness is essential. Ensure sturdy footwear, equipment and clothing and be aware of the weather.

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