Kia Ora Turangi
June 20th – solstice – means shortest day of the year so 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…
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 wont find anywhere else?
Motels need to concentrate on local and neighbourhood content.
So the following comments are based entirely on feedback from guests – aka “inmates”. In addition to the “raves” for the first time TRM have added “rants” as well. When tourists continually complain about an issue then it deserves exposure…
First and most important is to absorb the vibes from TRM’s video – this was prepared in response to some elderly (i.e. older than SWMBO!) fishos from West Island who wanted to know what they could expect to find within less than five minutes easy walking distance from their accommodation.
So SWMBO’s response – updated from 2016 – follows for your Winter holiday programme…
Each week the NZ Herald Travel Supplement on Tuesdays reviews a small town. Now the tourist season is over and we have had time to absorb all the comments, so today it is Turangi’s turn for their own updated version. This is the BIG one…
Tongariro River Motel have prepared a completely unbiased (?) local winter version using the same format as NZ Herald for tourists consideration…
Turangi Winter holiday attractions…
It is now developing into a very popular tourist centre.
The following explains why?
About 2900 and, strangely, still steadily falling. About 1970 it peaked at somewhere between 7000 and 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.
Perhaps the hope for the future are the smart Auckland refugees trading stress and traffic jams for relaxed happy life style and longer life….and fishing…
Half way to everywhere – located where SH 1 crosses the Tongariro River and surrounded by National Parks with dual world heritage status. Midway Wellington (310km) & 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 with the same message – proclaiming “Welcome to Turangi Trout Fishing Capital of the World” – they were fined $300 the next day! That illustrates how Taupo treat Turangi. We 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 from over 50 pools. More books have been written about trout fishing on the Tongariro than all other rivers in NZ combined. Yet the Taupo council have not promoted it for over twenty years. Neither have the fishery managers – DoC (Department of Conservation).
Excavations for the Tongariro Power Development unearthed 16 pre-maori villages, 246 pre-maori dwellings, artefacts (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 artefacts. 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 a Government Department – DOC. 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.
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 their 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 main industry is tourism based 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 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 3rd June the ski fields are open as they now manufacture their own snow. Whakapapa is the largest best ski field with the most facilitites 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 chairlift 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. Last year she bet me a bottle of wine I would not put it on the web… I am still waiting.). 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.
The National Tongariro Trout Centre is hard to beat. It includes a trout fishing museum, 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:
The next Kid’s Fishing Day will be Sunday 16th July 2017.
The guaranteed trout you catch are worth more than the entry fee…
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 the 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. It is that easy. Yeah right…
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.
Turangi Tavern cannot be beaten (i.e. Venison & cashew nut salad $19 !) 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 take-aways 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.
This is a very sensitive decision so we had to confirm the feedback from inmates by checking it out too. Last year was Creel Cafe, foodies heaven – healthy breakfasts and delicious finger food in an historic setting – Taupahi Road. Now the feedback has preferred Hydro Cafe – opposite the iSite.
So TRM needed to see how people vote with their feet… SWMBO had to take me there for lunch yesterday to check on their improved grading. They had 12 for lunch – way ahead of everyone else with between 1 and 7 punters at the other cafes. The pedestrian traffic on a quiet Monday is a reasonably accurate gauge of their popularity and food. All other four cafes in the Turangi CBD all received excellent ratings from TRM inmates as well.
Based on feedback from our coffee addicted inmates – Rafting NZ is still best – strong coffee, wonderful ambience, nice friendly people, good music and wide screen video show for free.
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.. Avoid weekends or public holidays as the crowding and parking hassles will ruin the experience. See video below which was prepared following so many complaints about the “crossing” – to redirect tourists to Ruapehu instead.
(Check weather conditions first as it is often closed due to ice conditions in winter. TRM have three better 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:
ps. Most tourists cruise along on TRM hire 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 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.
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..
A new category… TRM guests have a choice of NZ Herald, Taupo Times, Turangi Weekender and Fishing & Outdoors Newspaper. The favourite used to be Target Taupo – DoC’s fishing update, but that has not been updated since 2015. The new winner and most popular read is the Fishing & Outdoors Newspaper – a monthly publication featuring fearless investigative journalism.
Anther new category to reward local business when guests report top service. The winner is Sheree at Len Millar Motors – a whirlwind of efficiency and good value.
Another new category for where to send inmates when they are bored or trapped and prevented from fishing by poor weather. The clear winner is Turangi Library for such helpful staff in a pleasant relaxing place.
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. Tourists must keep asking 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 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 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 why?
5 Tongariro river-side walk between Taupahi Reserve and Koura Street is better than Tamaki Drive or Oriental Parade.
Best winter (?) swim:
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 retail business for fishing tackle and winter clothing and advice for anglers and so much more!) towards the Art Gallery you will be surprised to see the wonderful Maori Weaving school in action – sometimes their beautiful finely crafted ethnic works are for sale.
Then 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.
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…
A Museum Underfoot – by Trevor Hosking – another collectors item – all about a lifetime at Taupo and local archaeological digs and the pre-history of Turangi unearthed during the Tongriro Power Project excavations and what they discovered… only available at TRM.
Raiding parties of Tuis in Kowhai trees along the Tongariro River Trail are unforgettable in springtime.
Best Historic sites:
2 Duchess Pool – Kowhai Flat – where the prisoners built a house for the Duchess of York (the Queen’s mother) to stay in 1926 – eventually moved to become the trout centre…
3 Visit the site of the first known haka – at Motuopuhi on the shores of Lake Rotoaira.
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.
Best Tourist Peculiarities:
The previous winner – the crossing to nowhere outside the iSite has now been linked with walkways so has been disqualified for 2017.
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) Above on right – a corporate box at the footy… better than Eden Park!
(2) Below – a Turangi traffic jam…
Now for the “Rants”…
The local Taupo Times newspaper has a weekly readers’ column of raves and rants so we are following their example. The negative feedback consistently mentions the two most common complaints that have continued for several years:
First issue is the Tongariro Crossing!. DoC have had ample warnings of the access and parking issues, severe crowding on the track and lack of facilities (loos). Hopefully the increased Government budget for 2017 to ‘invest’ in tourist infrastructure will correct these problems by 2018 season.
Second also sadly features DoC. Tourist anglers cannot understand why every trout fishing river throughout NZ has helpful informative maps provided by the local fishery managers to explain access and fishing regulations, except the most popular region – Taupo? Tourist anglers claim it is inexcusable after so many years to increase fees for fishing licences but not provide something as simple and basic as river maps. TRM together with other local sponsors have had to update the Tongariro River bucket list map. But similar anglers information maps are needed for Waitahanui, Hinemaiaia, Tauranga Taupo rivers and Lake Otamangakau, Lake Kuratau, etc.
Visiting anglers cannot understand and continue to ask why they have to pay for a separate licence for the Taupo region? According to DoC’s own consultants report, one licence should apply to all of NZ. The Taupō Fishery supports nearly 300 jobs, creates at least $29 million in business turnover, and adds $11 million to the size of the economy, yet they fail to communicate with visiting anglers. Their last newsletter to licence holders – Target Taupo – was dated October 2015? There is no real promotion of the fishery. Anglers suggest it is no wonder Taupō trout fishing licence sales have halved (since sales peaked at over 82,000 in the 1987/88 season). Compared to Fish & Game management and communication with their stakeholders through the rest of NZ, anglers are concerned and continually request better consideration from DoC. So unfortunate for Turangi…