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Ruapehu, in the central North Island, is the home of Tongariro National Park - New Zealand’s first national park and a dual World Heritage area. The mountainous park with three active volcanoes - Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro - offers year-round outdoor experiences in a unique natural environment.


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Maps and local travel information for Ruapehu.

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park is recognised as a dual World Heritage Area for its outstanding natural and intangible cultural values.

In 1887 - to protect their natural and spiritual heritage - Tongariro’s Ngati Tuwharetoa people gave their three sacred mountains to the New Zealand nation. Tongariro was the first national park gifted to a country by an indigenous people.

Today, the 80,000ha park is enjoyed and explored year-round by hikers, cyclists, skiers, botanists, geologists and nature lovers alike.

Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand’s most famous volcano, has expansive ski areas including the world’s only ski field within 500m of an active volcanic crater.


Ruapehu - mountain sunset
Ruapehu - mountain sunset


Ruapehu, one of the last parts of New Zealand to be settled by Europeans, has a rich Māori heritage. About 40 percent of the population identify themselves as Māori.

Tribes who settled the volcanic plateau and along the Whanganui river valley include Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Rangi and Te Atihaunui a Paparangi. Ancient pa sites (fortified villages) are still evident along the banks of the Whanganui.

A Māori legend recounts the region’s origins: Ranginui (supreme universe) placed Ruapehu, alone and proud, in the centre of the North Island where the great mountain brought calm to the land.

Sensing Ruapehu’s loneliness, Ranginui placed teardrops at his feet - one of these became the source of the mighty Whanganui River - and sent companions: Tongariro / warrior guardian of the teardrops, Taranaki / custodian of the tapu (sacredness), Ngauruhoe / the ultimate servant, and Pihanga / fertile maiden (Tongariro’s bride).

When Pihanga was tempted by Taranaki's magnificence, she forced Tongariro to banish his opposition to the west where Taranaki settled in the region that bears his name.

Ruapehu - Whanganui river
Ruapehu - Whanganui river

Māori Culture

Māori spiritual connection with the land is especially apparent in the Ruapehu region.

Māori view the Whanganui river as a place of deep spiritual, cultural and historical significance. Starting as an alpine stream on Tongariro and gathering waters from Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, the Whanganui is New Zealand’s longest navigable river.

Guided canoe trips on the Whanganui are a cultural and environmental experience as Māori guides share stories, music and customs reflecting their culture and relationship with the river.

The three tapu (sacred) mountains are accorded spiritual and physical respect. When the peaks were gifted to the nation in 1887, tribal chief Te Heuheu Tukino IV wanted to ensure the mountains' sacred nature would be protected for all time and enjoyed by all New Zealanders. Since the original gift, the land area has increased to over 80,000ha.

Ruapehu - three volcanoes
Ruapehu - three volcanoes

Seasonal Highlights

Ruapehu - the main North Island winter playground - has New Zealand’s largest ski areas. Whakapapa and Turoa ski-fields offer the unique experience of being able to ski on an active volcano, and a wide variety of terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all skills.

Whakapapa, on Ruapehu’s north-western slopes, is New Zealand's biggest and busiest ski field with 550 hectares of ski slopes and another 400ha of lift-accessible terrain. Pistes range from a dedicated learners slope to the pinnacles backcountry where the annual Extreme Competition takes place.

Turoa ski field, on Ruapehu’s southern side, is New Zealand’s highest ski area and has Australasia’s longest vertical drop. Turoa has 500ha of skiing, and 400ha of back country.

Visitors can access both Whakapapa and Turoa with one ski pass during the June to mid-November ski season.

Ruapehu - winter ski field
Ruapehu - winter ski field

Adventure / Outdoor Activities

Ruapehu’s rugged terrain and mountain streams offer a range of year-round outdoor activities.

Tongariro National Park is a summer hiking destination. Tongariro Crossing is a strenuous 17km one-day hike, past Mt Ngauruhoe and over Mt Tongariro, with panoramic views of active volcanic areas and crater lakes.

Cyclists also appreciate the landscape and variety of trails, including two that form part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail Project: the Central North Island Rail Trail and Ruapheu - Whanganui Trail. The 42 Traverse track is a premium 48km mountainbike ride across challenging and diverse terrain.

Ruapehu’s clear rivers and lakes are a major fishing destination, and the renowned Tongariro river is one of the world’s top trout fishing rivers. Fishing guides can arrange permits and take visitors to top fishing spots.

Scenic chairlift rides operate on Whakapapa ski area throughout most of the year offering spectacular views over the central North Island.

Ruapehu - Tongariro crossing
Ruapehu - Tongariro crossing

Nature and Wildlife

Tongariro National Park, the Whanganui river and Whanganui National Park offer many experiences of New Zealand’s unique natural environment.

Ruapehu has several significant nature reserves where native plant and wildlife flourish. Whanganui National Park has one of the North Island’s biggest lowland forests, and is home to many different native birds including brown kiwi, and New Zealand’s only native mammal - the short- and wing-tailed bat.

From origins high on Mt Tongariro, the Whanganui river flows more than 200km south and is New Zealand’s longest navigable river. Native eels, trout and koura (freshwater crayfish) thrive in the river. Whanganui’s main tributary, the Whakapapa is one of New Zealand’s finest trout fisheries.


  • The Ohakune carrot, the world’s biggest model carrot, appears on the NZ Here & Now Monopoly board game.
  • Tongariro was New Zealand’s first national park, and the world’s fourth.
  • Tongariro National Park is centred on three active volcanoes: Mt Tongariro (1,967m), Mt Ruapehu (2,797m), Mt Ngauruhoe (2,291m).
  • Ruapehu translates as ’pit to explode’.
  • Mt Ruapehu has the world's only ski field within 500m of an active volcanic crater.