Kia Ora Turangi (Winter edition)
Kia Ora Turangi
Now that snow has arrived at Whakapapa we can claim the Winter tourist season is here. That indicates no camper vans (no freedom campers!), skis and snow boards on car roofs, trout spawning runs, long walks in the wilderness, gloves & scarves, frosty starts followed by stunning days, yeah right! So today is all about winter tourism attractions.
Tourism research website blogs advise TRM that mature forward-thinking ‘moteliers’ (like SWMBO? (She Who Must Be Obeyed is the Manager at TRM) need to respond more to prospective guests new hunger for local experiences by moving beyond their traditional motel brand marketing efforts…
i.e. What guests really want to know is:
What’s right outside your front door?
What can they walk to?
Where can they find the best local fare?
Where can they catch a good happy hour?
Where is the best running track???????
Where can they buy locally made items they won’t find anywhere else?
Motels need to concentrate on local and neighbourhood content.
So SWMBO’s response follows for your Winter holiday programme…
In 2016 each week the NZ Herald Travel Supplement on Tuesdays used to review a small town. Now the winter tourist season has started so today it is Turangi’s turn for their own updated version. This is the BIG one…
Tongariro River Motel has prepared a completely unbiased (?) local winter version using the same format as NZ Herald for tourists’ consideration…
Turangi Winter holiday attractions…
Turangi is an abbreviation of Turangitukua, a Maori leader who must have been a great fisherman. Their tribal land was acquired by the Government to develop Turangi township during the 1970’s. It is now a popular tourist town. The following explains why…
About 2900 and, strangely, still steadily falling. About 1970 it peaked at somewhere between 7000 and over 9000 (depending on who you believe) for the Tongariro Hydro Development but in 12 years since 2001 census, Turangi resident population fell 14% while the rest of NZ rose 11%. About 64% are permanent resident-occupied homes with 36% holiday homes. The hope for the future are the smart Auckland refugees trading stress and traffic jams for lifestyle and longer life….and fishing…
Where is it:
Halfway to everywhere – located where SH 1 crosses the Tongariro River and surrounded by National Parks with dual world heritage status. Midway Wellington (320km) & Auckland (310km). Midway Napier & New Plymouth. Midway Hamilton and Palmerston North. Midway Tokoroa & Taihape. Midway Paradise and Heaven.
“Trout Fishing Capital of the World”. When the Taupo Council tried to relabel the town as “The Source of Great Lake Taupo” a Facebook appeared to “Save the Signs” to reflect the passion of locals for trout fishing. They have since removed the offending “source” sign to restore local pride. But when an enterprising motel erected a sign proclaiming “Welcome to Turangi – Trout Fishing Capital of the World” they were fined $300 the next day! They are still waiting for a Council apology…
Source of Pride:
Trout Fishing Capital of the World. Tongariro River is a world renowned trout fishing paradise offering wild fly fishing all year with over 50 pools. More books have been written about trout fishing on the Tongariro than all other rivers in NZ combined.
Excavations for the Tongariro Power Development unearthed 16 pre-Maori villages, 246 pre-Maori dwellings, artifacts (like a 45 cm adze) carbon dated around 400 AD, etc. originally occupied by Moa Hunters, Fairy folk, and Hobbits. In 1970 the Turangi museum displayed the artifacts. Where are they now? See “Best Kept Secrets” below…
Turangi is a tourist town. The biggest tourist business is trout fishing. The fishery managers are DOC (Department of Conservation) Turangi is surrounded by National Parks with miles of tracks and huts all managed by DOC. But if you have a question, where is their office? Where are they hiding? How do you find them? Most fishermen don’t know where. Hint – they are in the CBD close to the pie shop.
Rainbow trout, Brown trout, Wild trout. Trophy trout. Big trout, Beautiful trout, Huge Trout, Fresh run trout, Maori trout, More trout.
All TRM inmates plus others who loved Turangi and fished the Tongariro River since the 1920’s include American author Zane Grey (returned three times to write about it), Duchess of York (the Queen’s mother), Queen Elizabeth, President Jimmy Carter, film stars and many other celebrities – an incredible world famous trout fishing reputation.
Best local website:
What a question – we are so embarrassed that you even had to ask? You are reading it (but sometimes you need to read between the lines…). The only tourist motel accommodation website in NZ with its own Daily Fishing (?) Reports and Facebook updated several times each day. The website has done more to promote Turangi for the last decade than the entire Taupo council.
Turangi’s tourist industry is developed around the trout fishing on the Tongariro River – 8 motels, 8 cafes, various B&B’s and backpackers – offering accommodation and facilities for every taste – from upmarket superior lodges to low cost camping ground, numerous B&B’s, superior dining to takeaways – something for everyone.
Town fiesta (?):
None really… We get excited if Easter is late enough to feature the many autumn colours from the mature deciduous trees that predominate through Turangi. The nearest thing to a fiesta is watching an All-Black v’s Springboks game at Turangi Tavern. Even West Islanders enjoy it. Or if we have missed it someone is sure to correct us.
Best reason to visit in winter:
From 2nd July the ski fields are open. Whakapapa is the largest best ski field with the most facilities in NZ. So you don’t ski? Neither does SWMBO. But it is still a great day out to play in the snow and catch a gondola to the highest cafe in the Southern hemisphere (it used to have the worst coffee in the Southern hemisphere (according to one guest last season – but it has improved since then. She bet me a bottle of wine I would not put it on the web…). On your trip back to Whakapapa stop at the Chateau for their “high tea” – to round off a memorable trip only 35 minutes drive from Turangi.
Best reason to stop in Winter:
The National Tongariro Trout Centre is hard to beat. It includes a trout fishing museum, an underground viewing chamber to view trout in spawning stream, and several times each year they hold a kids’ day – a guaranteed way to catch a trout in Turangi. Now they even farm trout for local iwi. Amazing…
Best place to take kids:
Tongariro Trout Centre (aka trout farm factory?)
The guaranteed trout you catch are worth more than that…
A fun day for the whole family.
To avoid disappointment bookings are essential
Best local one hour hike
Hike around the (1 hour) loop track from Koura Street across the Tongariro River swing bridge, head north past famous fishing pools Major Jones Pool, Judges Pool, etc., and up and over the hill providing wide views over Turangi and Lake Taupo beyond and return across the SH1 road bridge to watch the anglers in the Bridge Pool to return via several parks along the river. Just fabulous. This is TRM’s qualifying circuit to make sure tourists are fit enough to tackle the Tongariro Crossing, but you have to return in less than an hour. We will probably see you on the circuit – look out for Pumpkin.
See above – stand on SH 1 road bridge and watch the action from the queue of anglers in the “Troll Hole” perfecting their combat casting. This would easily be the most popular trout pool in NZ where they all catch trout. Easy 5 minute walk from TRM. Great entertainment.
Best thing not to do?
Don’t ask the anglers if they will sell you a trout? Did you know it is illegal to sell trout in NZ. It is a recreational sport only. If you still want one buy a licence and stay at TRM and we will provide a rod to catch your own.
Best place for ‘happy hour’:
Turangi Tavern – recently refurbished, pleasant friendly family hotel atmosphere offers an excellent budget menu or for mid-day caffeine hits there are 8 other cafes.
A new addition since 2016 is the Hare & Copper Restaurant on Grace Road – superb food.
For more budget minded tourists – Turangi Tavern cannot be beaten and offers such extraordinary value.
Turangi Bakery’s pies are world famous throughout NZ. Some regular guest (Hi Pat) buy them by the dozen to freeze and take home.
TRM inmates have been buying takeaways from the Hong Kong Chinese restaurant for our Chinese Banquets every fortnight (Hi Brian) now for over ten years and always return for more. Fabulous food.
Creel Cafe, foodies heaven – healthy breakfasts and delicious finger food in an historic setting -. Taupahi Road.
The other four cafes in the Turangi CBD all receive excellent ratings from TRM inmates as well.
TRM inmates recommend the Coffee Cart by the Tongariro Bridge car park – but they are all fishos returning famished from the river…
Best walk/jogging track:
Tongariro River Trail loop north of Major Jones Pool bridge is 1 hour, loop trail south to Red Hut Bridge to return via the Trout Centre – 10 km – 2 hours. Joggers can add the north loop to extend it to 13 km.
Just out of town is the 2 hour circuit of a hidden Lake Rotopounamu (Greenstone Lake) winner of the NZ Herald’s readers’ favourite secret touristy place (or something like that?).
Turangi is the most convenient base camp to walk the most popular one-day walk in NZ – the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – 19km of alpine grandeur, Mt. Doom, etc.. (But check weather conditions first as it is often closed due to ice conditions in winter. TRM have three alternative options – a river walk, a lake walk and a waterfall walk, which are just as good and available in all weather conditions.)
Lake Taupo – the largest most stunning lake in the North, South & West Islands erupted about 30,000 years ago on a Wednesday – best views from the lookout on SH47 about 6 km from Turangi or from the lookout track above the Tongariro River or climb Mt. Tihia nearby (1165m) unmarked track (warning – do not rely on directions from SWMBO)…
Best Running Track:
Tongariro River Trial provides a 3 km circuit with a challenging hill overlooking Turangi or 10 km undulating or combine for a 13 km epic gut buster run.
ps. Most tourists cruise along on bikes instead.
Best Mountain Biking:
Tongariro River Trail offers everything for tourist bikers, from 3 km to 13 km., easy gradients, well-drained track, via the Trout Centre, surroundings vary from mature native bush, farmland, conifer groves, fern gully, swing bridges, and elevated river views.
Out of town are two gems for bikers – the Waihaha Bay loop (50km west) on the western side of Lake Taupo or south is Tree Trunk Gorge (35km south) to Pillars of Hercules trail – this can be extended to 35 km all the way back to TRM via the canal under SH1 linking with Tongariro River Trail – a very scenic and challenging ride..
The feasibility study cost-benefit economic analysis stuff has been completed for an extraordinary new scenic bike track – the T2T – Taupo to Turangi – along the Lake Taupo shoreline edge. This will become the most popular tourist bike trail in NZ. Worth waiting for. (2022 Turangi is still waiting…)
Best tourist hike:
Tongariro Alpine Crossing – 19km (need to factor in costs of a shuttle bus). It is so good that Taupo (50km North of Turangi) tried to claim it as well. It’s on everyone’s Bucket List. Can get quite crowded on fine weekends. A better more challenging alternative option away from the crowds is to climb Mt. Ruapehu – ask at TRM for special ‘escorted’ hiking service with Hannah… Very competitive rates for groups.
Best place to pull over:
Mission Bay – about 12 km north of Turangi on SH 1 provides wonderful views over Lake Taupo – nature’s 100% pure playground..
Lake Taupo for a natural beach playground or locally there are several reserves along the Tongariro River Trail – access off Taupahi Road. For younger kids a skate park is outside the indoor pool complex.
Best Kept Secrets:
1 The lower Tongariro River has the biggest Brown trout spawning area and nursery in NZ but would you believe Waikato Regional Council are using it for a gravel quarry.. True!. Only in Turangi. It just shows how many trout we have and how robust the Tongariro River habitat is – but quarrying should still be banned on a world class trout river. Tourist must keep asking at the iSite why?
2 Turangi has hidden the only underground power station – in the North Island just off SH 1 – a must visit for tourists but Genesis (the power company) wont let you see it. Why? What are they hiding? Tourists must keep asking at the iSite why?
3 In the first year it opened in 1970 the Turangi Museum attracted over quarter of a million visitors to view the best collection of pre-maori artefact collection in NZ. Now they are hidden away and locked up so you can’t see them either. Tourists must keep asking at the iSite why?
4 A new tourist bike trail is being planned from Taupo to Turangi (T2T) that will knock the socks off any other bike trail in NZ. TRM know it will become the most popular tourist bike trail in NZ. But why has it taken so long? Tourists must keep asking at the iSite why?
5 Tongariro river-side walk between Taupahi Reserve and Koura Street is better than Tamaki Drive or Oriental Parade.
Best winter (?) swim:
1 For natural heated soothing therapeutic 100% pure thermal pools to soak in – go to Tokaanu 5 km west.
2 Or for more serious swimmers, the indoor heated swimming pool complex in the town centre is next to a skateboard park.
Best cultural experience:
1 Walk through Turangi’s mall past Sporting Life tackle shop (- Turangi’s biggest best fishing tackle and winter clothing and much much more!) towards the Art Gallery and spend an hour admiring and selecting and buying the art works in the gallery.
2 Usually, if you want to judge the standards of culture of any place, always have a browse at their library and admire their dedication. Turangi library has everything that a much larger city library offers – it is the heart and soul of traditional culture in Turangi. Turangi is so fortunate.
3. But for a real Turangi style cultural experience SWMBO recommends the Turangi Tavern… for a local cultural experience of a different kind… particularly if the All Blacks are playing…
Since 2016 an intriguing new book on Turangi has been published by TRM. Tongariro Skulduggery is a “mockumentary” about Turangi. It should be on every tourist’s “must read” bucket list.
Turangi – a town with heart – dvd by John Ball – is now a collectors item… (Could someone please return TRM’s copy?)
A Museum Underfoot – by Trevor Hosking – another collectors item – all about a lifetime at Taupo and local archaeological digs and the history of Turangi during the Tongriro Power Project excavations and what they unearthed… only available at TRM.
Trout, Rainbow trout, Brown trout, Wild trout, Trophy trout, Big trout, Huge trout, Maori trout, Giant trout, More trout…
Raiding parties of Tuis in Kowhai trees along the Tongariro River Trail are unforgettable in springtime.
Ask at the iSite for access to the swamp about 2-3 km north on SH1 where a keen bunch of dedicated greenies have demolished all the choked willows and converted it into a botanic Cabbage tree horticultural wonderland – it now looks like a Dr. Seuss designed wilderness garden.
Best Historic sites:
1 Te Porere Redoubt – on SH47 – historic battle site where a Maori rebel Te Kooti built a medieval castle so the Government Colonial troops could find him. Both won?
2 Duchess Pool – Kowhai Flat – where the prisoners built a house for the Duchess of York (the Queen’s mother) to stay in 1927.
3 Cicada Pool – where I released my biggest ever brown trout. But I digress…
Best Garden Sculpture:
The biggest trout fly in the world on corner of Poto and Kokopu Streets overlooking the Tongariro River.
Just down river is the bench aka “seat of wisdom” overlooking the famous Major Jones Pool. This is better known locally as the Courtney Place bus stop. Whenever anglers rest there the passing parade of tourists have to ask them “Caught any?”. Hence the “Courtney” Place bus stop. Local humour… (For West Island readers, Courtney Place is really a prominent main shopping street in Wellington.) See photo below for a local residents committee (aka in Turangi speak: “komiti”) meeting at the Courtney Place bus stop.
When can we book again?
I came to Turangi for a season fishing 20 years ago.
Best images to reflect lifestyle in Turangi:
See how the stress levels have disappeared…
(1) Below – a corporate box at the footy… better than Eden Park!
(2) Below – a Turangi traffic jam…