Tongariro National Park is in the heart of the North Island and by and large one of the most popular national parks in the entire country. Tongariro National Park is a UNESCO Dual World Heritage Site and features a three active volcanoes - Mount Ruapheu, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe - which each contribute to the incredible landscape of the park.
The most popular activities in the park are most certainly those found in the outdoors! There's plenty of hiking, tramping, skiing and overnight camping to be found, plus plenty of waterfalls, craters and lakes to discover.
How to Get to Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is in the heart of the Manawatu-Wanganui Region, in the central-west portion of New Zealand's North Island. To the west of Tongariro, you'll find Egmont National Park home to another volcano, Mount Taranaki. To the north, you'll find Taupo, a bustling tourist town on Lake Taupo. To the east, you'll be able to explore the coastal town of Napier. In the south, you'll enter the Wairarapa region.
There's plenty of tours that do trips to Tongariro National Park including guided hikes of the most popular tracks in the park. The best way is to visit with your own wheels so you can explore at leisure! We took our little van Bongo into the park for a few days of camping and adventuring.
TIP: On the way to the park, I highly recommend stopping at Stormy Point Lookout for an incredible sunset over both Mount Taranaki and Tongariro National Park! Check out the picture below:
Where to Stay in Tongariro National Park
There's tons of options for staying in Tongariro - the main town is called National Park and here you can find accommodation to suit any budget. There's a YHA Hostel, lots of motels and higher end hotels, as well. In nearby Whakapapa Village, you can also stay at the luxury Chateau Tongariro, an epic castle-looking place with sweeping views of the volcanoes in the park.
Since we're living in our van, we stayed at the free campsite in the far corner of town. It's called Kiwi Camp and for some reason it is not listed on either of the camping apps we have on our phone! We found out about it by calling another (paid) campsite nearby and they kindly suggested we head there, instead! It was awesome - clean showers, lots of space and even the opportunity to take a shower and do laundry!
3 Hikes to Do in Tongariro National Park
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Heralded as one of the best things to do in New Zealand, the crossing is an icon. In fact, it's the most popular hike in the country!
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing passes incredible alpine meadows, traverses a few craters of varying colours, slides down a steep volcano, bursts into steam at varying points, meanders around sulpher-smelling-emerald-coloured lakes and all in all, makes for an absolutely unreal day.
Mount Ngauruhoe on the trail is perhaps most well-known for being the filming location of Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As you make your way through the epic, sweeping landscape, you can see exactly why!
One of our mornings brought us to Tawhai Falls, where yet another famous Lord of the Rings scene was filmed: Gollum's Pool, where he fishes and sings!! The walk to the falls is less than ten minutes and the falls are really quite spectacular.
The Tongariro Northern Circuit is a three-day loop hike that circles around the national park visiting some of the most incredible viewpoints along the way. An awesome day trek is the 6.2km loop that brings hikers from the Whakapapa Village to Taranaki Falls, a gorgeous waterfall that seems to burst out of the cliff face.