As you travel south from Waitomo, you'll pass through an area known as the ‘King Country’.
The region got its unofficial name during the New Zealand Wars when colonial forces invaded Waikato, driving the Maori Kīngitanga south to a tract of remote forest in the western central North Island. Taumarunui, on the edge of the Whanganui River, is a good place from which to explore the area.
From here, it's a short trip to National Park village, the gateway to Tongariro National Park. The park is home to three imposing volcanoes and multitudes of outdoor activities including hiking, skiing, and rafting. Many regard Tongariro Alpine Crossing as one of the best one-day walks in the world.