Ohakune’s Winter wonders

Ohakune's Winter wonders

than five hours’ drive from Auckland or Wellington, Ohakune is the southern gateway to Tongariro National Park, World Heritage-listed by UNESCO for both its natural and cultural values.
At the heart of the park is Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand’s biggest volcano and the North Island’s highest peak. It serves up the country’s most extensive terrain across two world-class ski fields boasting extraordinary natural features and epic views.
From Ohakune, Tūroa is just 20 minutes’ drive up the mountain, while Whakapapa is around 45 minutes’ away on its western slopes. Shuttles run regularly to both resorts during ski season.
Those drawn to the wild side can ski the smaller Tukino club field, just 50 minutes’ drive from Ohakune on Ruapehu’s eastern side.
But skiing and snowboarding aren’t the only ways to appreciate this incredible winter wonderland. At both Tūroa and Whakapapa visitors can ride the chairlifts for vast panoramas across the national park and beyond.
High on Whakapapa’s Knoll Ridge, New Zealand’s highest café (2020m) offers dining with a side of stupendous views and edgy, award-winning architecture.
Walkers can venture out on Tongariro National Park’s trails, many of which are open all year round. Short walks close to Ohakune take in native forest, hidden lakes and waterfalls, while town walks include the pretty Mangawhero River Trail, and the Jubilee Walkway leading to the iconic Ohakune Carrot.
Winter is also a terrific time to take a guided hike on the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing – when snow and ice blanket the landscape’s amazing lakes and craters, creating scenes even more surreal than in summer.
Cycling the Old Coach Road is a classic Ohakune adventure.
One of New Zealand’s best half-day rides – suitable for most ages and abilities – this cross-country trail follows an historic byway around Mount Ruapehu’s lower slopes.
Lush forest, rusty relics and towering viaducts are just some of the many memorable sights along the trail.
Back in town, a buzzy resort atmosphere awaits, complete with welcoming accommodation, boutique shopping and a lively après-ski scene.
Ohakune caters well to foodies, with restaurants and cafes serving everything from wood-fired pizza and burgers, to Asian and refined New Zealand cuisine.
At the gateway to both Tūroa ski field and the Old Coach Road cycle trail stands the legendary Powderhorn Chateau Hotel. Its atmospheric Powderkeg bar and restaurant is the perfect place to relax and warm your cockles with craft beer, hearty fare, and family-friendly attitude.
Another essential stop is Johnny Nation’s Chocolate Éclair Shop, only open in winter. Their rich, gooey éclairs are so good you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the French Alps!
With superb skiing, unique landscapes, country town hospitality – and a giant carrot, of course – there’s no mistaking New Zealand’s sweetest ski town.
Plan your trip at www.visitruapehu.com
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