Our first ever stop was Tongariro National Park Village, in the North Island of NZ. We were there in April of 2016, during Autumn. We had pleasant days with chilly nights, very little rain.
We didn’t really choose it and we wouldn’t have stayed there if we didn’t have an awesome person letting us stay for a discounted rate.
This is the house. It was complete, with everything we needed (except food), even toys, DVDs, and crayons. It is reasonably sized, worked perfectly for the 6 of us. From the kitchen window, you can see Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe. There are a fireplace and enough wood to warm us up the whole night. The only downside is that there wasn’t the internet.
It’s a small village very near 3 volcanoes (Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe, and Mt Ruapehu). If you follow us on Facebook, you probably saw the bunch of photos I uploaded every day because it is a breathtaking place.
We spent 17 days there and they were awesome days.
On the first week, we did only the very basics: resting, sleeping, trying to make the fire work, grocery shopping, etc. We did walk around the neighborhood a lot, though.
The second week was pretty awesome. We received some bad news from Angelo’s bosses and we had to figure out what to do about that too, but we did enjoy our time.
I am going to list all the stuff we did during our time there.
WALKS: they are free, good for you, pleasant, Must do! You can read more about each of them – and more – here.
– Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Hard, long walk. It’s said to take around 6 hours to complete, but it’s steep and slippery. Not for those who are unsure. You can go into any hostel/hotel/camping ground and they will take you to the beginning of the track themselves or contact someone who does for you. They charged Angelo NZ$ 30. By the way, Angelo did it by himself, but he said there was one family with a 10-11 years old there too.
– Taranaki Falls Walk: It was our first ever walk and it took us more than 3 hours to complete, but it was pretty amazing! The views are amazing and the walk itself was very pleasant. We crossed and crossed the river many times, we went behind the waterfall, we climbed many stairs and crossed many bridges. The track is very well maintained and easy to follow, but it is for those capable of walking for at least 2 hours and climb stairs. We stopped many times to rest, to take in the views, to allow Coral’s bruised knee to heal, to play. Coral (4 years old) completed the whole track on her own feet.
– Meads Wall Walk: This was probably the hardest for me. The official track was closed due to the construction of the new chair lift, so we had to climb down and up paths made out of loose rocks. I had to squat down and go really low on most of the decline areas (with Melissa) but Angelo, the boys and Coral (4 years old) had no problem at all: they kept on going forward and said it was just fine. It’s said to take 20 minutes return, but it took us 20 minutes each way – it took them 20 minutes because Melissa and I took way longer. Anyway, up there, beside the wall, you get the most amazing view of Mt Ngauruhoe ever. The wall is really magical, I could totally visualize Frodo and Sam there – it’s the location of a few scenes of The Lord of The Ring, after all.
– Ridge Walking Track: the guide at i-SITE said it takes 30-40 minutes return and the sign at the start of the track says it takes 1 hour return. We took around 20-25 minutes going up and around 10 going down. It’s a steady climb: easy, but tiring. From the end of the track you see the Chateau Tongariro, the volcanoes and the whole Whakapapa Village. I don’t know if we were tired but we didn’t think this was the most impressive walk.
– Tawhai Falls Walk: around 20 minutes return, but with stairs and rocks to climb so you might not want to wear jeans – trust me. It’s fast and easy and you get really close to Tawhai Falls. We spent a lot of time there, playing by the river. The turquoise waters were just amazing and inviting. It’s really such a shame it was so freezing cold! The kids loved it. Almost all the photos from this day were taken by Melissa – I had had a bad neck day. Super recommend this walk.
– Mounds Walk – it’s said to take around 20 minutes return. We took around 20 counting the time we spent up there. It’s mostly stairs, but they’re quick and not many. From up there you get good views of the mountains.
– Station Cafe: we had brunch there. The food and the service were pretty good and the internet is the best we experienced there. It’s just next to the train station. Price is the same as any cafe in NZ.
– Macrocarpa: a cafe by the only gas station. We had dinner there. The Godfather pizza was really good, but the burgers were just OK. The internet didn’t work at all. Service is OK too.
– Knoll Ridge Cafe, New Zealand’s Highest Cafe: It is located 2020m above sea level on Mt Ruapehu and you need to climb 2 hours or take the chairlift. We got there at 3 pm and they close at 4 pm, so there wasn’t much food to choose from, which was unfortunate, but the pies and sausage rolls were good and the brownie was very good. The price’s the same as the other cafes in town.
– Chateau Tongariro: we had high tea there. It was expensive (it costs NZ$25 per person in April 2016). The tea was amazingly good, the desserts were dreamy but the sandwiches weren’t. It is quite a sight, though, the pretty chateau with Mount Ruapehu on the back. You don’t really have to eat there to enjoy the views.
ENTERTAINMENT: besides the winter sports and the walks, of course.
– Chairlift on Mt Ruapehu: oh so high! Not for those who are afraid of heights (like me). I managed, but I was scared to death all the time. Each trip takes around 15 minutes, and in order to get to the highest point of the chairlift, you need to take 2 different chairlifts (one charge only for all the 4 needed – 2 to go up, 2 to go down) . To get to the peak of Mt Ruapehu, you need to walk around 2 hours more after the second lift. We didn’t. It gets cold up there, so bring a jacket, even during summer. It cost us NZ$ 69 for the whole family in April 2016.
– Schnapps: there’s an 18 hole mini golf course and a climbing wall, besides the cafe-bar in National Park Village. We didn’t try it.
– Four Square: By the gas station, the only market in the Village. Pricey, but has more stuff than I’d imagined.
– Playground: it’s an awesome playground at the corner of Millar St. and Buddo St. Great place for kids to play when you don’t wanna go far.
– Mountain bike: EVERYWHERE there’s a place that rents our bikes. EVERYWHERE. There are many bike trails around.
– Visitor Centre in Whakapapa Village: Very informative displays, helpful staff, and free internet.
– Water sports: there are plenty of options, anywhere you go you’ll find canoeing, rafting, fishing, kayaking, etc. We didn’t try them, it was too cold.
– Historical Train Station: just a very simple train station, with loads of space to run around. It’s kinda pretty.