Tongariro National Park

It may be surprising to hear that the Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest national park. It was established in 1887 and, incredibly, was only the fourth national park to be established globally! The second park to be formed in New Zealand a few years later, Egmont National Park, was also on the North Island. Then it wasn’t until 1929, when Arthur’s Pass National Park was created, that the South Island had its own protected area.

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Dual World Heritage Area Status is Twice as Nice

Tongariro National Park is a dual World Heritage Area, which means it’s recognized both for its Maori culture and outstanding volcanic features. To Maori people (Tangata Whenua, ‘People of the Land’), the volcanoes represent a core part of their history and are entwined into their ancestry and legends. The three volcanoes in the heart of the national park are Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.

Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe are two of the most active volcanoes in the world. In 1995 and again in 1996, Ruapehu erupted in spectacular fashion, sending clouds of steam skyward and covering the mountain in a layer of ash. There was plenty of warning, so the area had already been evacuated for some time. Apart from a premature end to the ski season and a no-fly zone for a period of time, there were no other ill effects. 

Tongariro is a Study in Contrasts

A real highlight of this park is the extreme contrast between barren lava flows, winter snow fields, hot springs and active craters. It makes it a fascinating place to visit. There are amazing plants surviving the harsh climate and poor pumice soils – alpine herbs, pockets of podocarp forest, dense beech forest and swathes of tussock. It’s no wonder that Peter Jackson chose to shoot a number of scenes for The Lord of the Rings here - including Ithilien, Mordor and the Gates of Mordor!

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Hiking the Famed Tongariro Crossing

Aside from Lord of the Rings, the park is probably best known for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – certainly one of the best day hikes in New Zealand and often rated on international ‘top 10’ lists of must-do hikes. The hike is 19.4 km (12 miles) long, usually takes between 7 and 9 hours to complete and takes you from alpine meadows to the mountain summit with stunning volcanic features along the way. It’s the highlight for many who come on our Kauri trip, especially as they get to relax in a hot spring at the end of the day.

What Else to do in Tongariro National Park

You can also mountain bike, ski, snowboard, kayak, raft and fish in Tongariro National Park – so there’s something for everyone! There’s also a premium mountain bike track called the ‘42 traverse’ requiring a bit of expertise to handle the uphill sections and technical descents – it’s 46 km (28.5 miles) long and takes 4-6 hours to complete. For keen anglers, Tongariro National Park is an excellent fishing destination where you can do lake fishing or head out into the wilderness and backcountry headwaters to cast your fly line. The Whakapapa River has some great trout fishing, where visibility is generally more than 15 metres year round.

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Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    Awesome Tui Trip!

    My husband and I traveled to New Zealand for a late honeymoon and our adventure started with the Tui Trip which couldn't have been better! Between the amazing places we visited along the South Island from our unbelievable guides who quickly became friends, the trip definitely exceeded our expectations! We quickly learned how kiwis truly cherish and appreciate what their beautiful country has to offer and are so thankful to have had such a wonderful experience. New Zealand will always hold a special place in our hearts, along with our memories of hiking, biking, cheers-ing, and chatting with new friends. Thank you Koru and Liana, for making our trip so unforgettable!
    Lauren Hussey Review Image
    – New Hampshire, United States
    Tui, December 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    An Unbelievable Experience

    The Rimu trip was beyond phenomenal! The sights we saw were breathtaking and the small group size allowed us all to bond and truly enjoy our time together exploring this magnificent country. Our guides were fantastic and provided lots of information and fun facts, along with a large amount of encouragement as we tackled some of our adventures! I'm still searching for words to describe just how great a trip it was!
    McKayla Anderson Review Image
    – Nebraska, United States of America
    Rimu, January 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    2017 Oct/Nov Rimu

    My 2017 Rimu trip was fantastic! Somehow our fabulous guides Ben and Emma arranged for clear sunny skies, a great mix of travelers, and an all around fun time. Seriously though, our group of 10/11 (we had a late addition) got along well from day 1 - we learned about each other's backgrounds, played cards and dice games, and shared bottles of wine. Ben and Emma worked tirelessly to make sure our travels were smooth - often 16+ hour days for them. Emma cooked wonderful meals for us and made sure everyone's dietary requests were met. Ben drove Whina (our bus) so well for so many hours to get us to our destinations - we'll never forget the tunnel! And they both were great guides on the hikes. Thanks for all the wonderful memories!
    Jeanne Stallings Review Image
    – North Carolina, United States
    Rimu, December 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    Outstanding Trip!!

    This trip was especially great because of our guides, Ben and Emma. I cannot say enough good things about those two. They were extremely patient, energetic, and very sincere.
    The trip has a wide variety of activities that allowed us to see and experience most of the South Island, keeping us away from the more congested tourist hangouts. I really felt like we saw the true South Island and not just the tourist trap attractions.
    The only reason I have not given it a 5 star rating is because my wife and I are very active and do very challenging trips that most people would never want to take on. It was not a trip of a lifetime for me only because of that. Take "trip of a lifetime" away from the 5 stars and just have excellent and I would mark that. Excellent trip!!!!
    Dave Mastolier Review Image
    – Alaska, United States
    Rimu, December 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16240 reviews)

    South Island Sampling

    Despite starting the trip with a little rattle and shake (earthquake) the trip was a wonderful experience. We saw so much of the South Island and were able to enjoy the beauty of a sunny day as well as a cloudy one. Greg and Clara were amazing guides and took great care of us.
    Beth Wilson Review Image
    – Georgia, United States
    Manuka, December 2016

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