Without a doubt, the Tongariro Crossing is one of the most spectacular hikes of New Zealand, possibly one of the most beautiful sceneries of the world with the volcanic landscape at sunrise. It’s New Zealand’s oldest national park and a World Heritage Site. In this article I will share my practical tips for visiting the Tongariro Crossing and the nearby village Turangi.
Hiking the Tongariro Crossing
If you want to hike the Tongariro Crossing, make sure you:
- are fit enough to walk 20 km in mountainous/alpine circumstances, partly uphill;
- start early (6.30h latest) to avoid crowds, you’ll finish between 13:00h and 15:00h (about 7-8 hours later);
- dress in layers; it can be close to freezing point in the morning while hot in the afternoon, a wind/water resistant jacket is highly recommended;
- check the weather in advance and only go if it is responsible and safe according to locals;
- join a group or at least inform someone about your plans, who will raise an alarm if you do not return.
For more details see this NZ Pocket Guide.
What to bring
I would recommend bringing the following items when walking the Tongariro Crossing.
- Sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat or baseball cap
- Winter/water resistant jacket
- Camera, smartphone and watch
- Hiking shoes
- Food and plenty of water
- In winter you may need crampons and a stick
Turangi – Tongariro Crossing
Take into account that from Turangi, the Tongariro Crossing starting point is still a 40 min drive, and the pick-up point is about 30 minutes by car to Turangi.
- Starting point: Mangatepopo Car Park
- Pick-up point (finish): Keterahi Rd
See map below. Are you backpacking without a car? Got nobody to drop you off at Tongariro Crossing? Then book a return transfer to/from the Tongariro Crossing from/to Turangi. For a private guided walk to Tongariro Crossing you should expect a completely different price level.
Tip: if you are looking for a travel buddy to walk the Tongariro Crossing with, join a group shuttle with your hostel or post a short request on one of the New Zealand Backpackers groups on Facebook if someone wants to join. This is how we met Alex from Sweden, Alina from Germany and Anna from Poland!
Where to stay
My recommendations for places to stay in/around Turangi, depending on availability, your budget and specific preferences:
- Motel: Turangi Bridge Motel in Turangi
- B&B: Absolute Riverside, Olive Rabbit Boutique B&B or Moe Marie Sleep Peacefully – all in Turangi
- Resort: Oreti Village Resort in Omori
- Lodge: Creel Lodge or River Birches in Turangi
- Hostel: Off The Track Backpackers in Turangi
- Camping: Kiwi Holiday Park in Turangi
Where to eat in/around Turangi
Turangi is not particularly overloaded with restaurants, so try to come in early or make reservations in advance to ensure a seat. In general I can say going out for dinner in New Zealand is pretty pricey. My restaurant recommendations for Turangi and surroundings:
- Rust Gourmet Burger Bar
- Turangi Tavern
- Creel Tackle House & Cafe
- Hydro Eatery
- Lakeland House Restaurant
- Floating Rock Café at Karatau River Wines
Got extra time on your hands and/or looking for other activities to do in and around Turangi, Tongariro Crossing or Lake Taupo?
I went horse riding and during this track the horse went swimming in the river with me on her back! It was an amazing experience. Check out my other article New Zealand: swimming with horses in Turangi at Korohe Horse Tracks.
A Scenic Flight over Tongariro Crossing is fun for everyone who is not afraid of flying, especially for those not able to do the walk itself or would like to see it from bird view perspective. A special and unique experience! Or this spectacular Tongariro Volcanic Helicopter Flight.
Soak your tired body at Tokaanu Thermal Pools in Turangi. Open daily between 10:00h and 21:00h (except Christmas Day). Admission fee is NZ$8 for public pool and NZ$12 for private pool.
Like fishing and/or looking for somehting to do with kids in Turangi? Visit the National Trout Centre (open daily 10:00-15:00h) next to the Tongariro River, where you can feed the rainbow trout, learn how to fish and about conservation.
Or explore one of the many exciting activities around Lake Taupo such as:
- Half-Day Kayak to the Maori Rock Carvings in Lake Taupo
- Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Board Hire
- Tandem Skydiving at 12,000 Foot above Lake Taupo
- Visit Huka Falls
How to get to Turangi
A rental a car and being able to drive around yourself gives a lot of freedom and flexibility. You will be able to see more in a shorter period of time compared to public transport, and the airconditioning is a bit plus too! Just make sure it is insured all-risk and that you bring your EU or international driver’s license.
Sunny Cars is an all-inclusive, worry free rental concept with affordable, fair prices, great service and no unpleasant surprises upon pick up or drop off. I am a big fan and use them all the time! In most countries the 2nd driver, free cancellation up to 4 hours in advance and all-risk insurance are standard included. Ideal, I use them all the time!
Stray and Kiwi Experience are quite good, relatively cheap way for backpackers to explore New Zealand by bus.
Airports near Turangi
The closest airports to Turangi and the Tongariro Crossing are:
- Taupo Airport in Taupo (TUO, 32 km)
- Hawke’s Bay Airport in Napier (NPE, 96 km)
- Rotorua Regional Airport in Rotorua (ROT, 105 km)
International airports such as Wellington (WLG, 345km) and Auckland (AKL, 315km) are distant. We flew from Hawkey’s Bay airport in Napier (180 km) to Blenheim on the south island in about two hours. You may want to check Skyscanner for flight possibilities and prices.
I can could write a whole seperate article about campers alone, which I will not do for now, but I would like to recommend to check out the website of WorldWideCampers.com. Available in English, Dutch, German, Spanish, Italian and French, offering an easy way to get quotes to compare and find the best deal for camper rentals.
Map Turangi & Tongariro Crossing
This mobile friendly map includes most things mentioned in this article and more! It is smartphone friendly; you can use it easily via Google Maps. Click on the top left icon to open the menu. To customize the map to your interests, simply (un)select categories. Via Google Drive you can copy it to your folder of My Google Maps.
Do I need a visa for New Zealand?
The answer to that question highly depends on your nationality, how long you wish to stay, what you plan to do (tourist or other), etc. Check for example the website of iVisa to learn whether you need a visa or not.
One thing is for sure: visiting New Zealand and walking the Tongariro Crossing is a great idea, if you are fot enough and the conditions are right. Have fun!! Should you have any question or additional tip, please leave a comment below.
Looking for more travel inspiration and tips for New Zealand? Check out the New Zealand Blog Archives.
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