Remarkably there are still more. No other town in NZ could match such a diverse range of holiday activities and recreational pursuits…
Today we list more to prove it….
31 – Whio – Turangi is the only river environment left where the rare endangered Whio or Blue Duck can easily often be seen on a stroll along the river bank tracks. They are territorial and can often be identified as they chase any other Mallard ducks away from their patch. A breeding unit has been often seen under the SH1 bridge. In Turangi they appear unfazed by tourists and often you will spy keen photographers stalking them to get close-up photos of their whanau. Beware if you get too close they can turn nasty.
32 – Snow – At Whakapapa, the largest ski field in NZ, they have over 60 snow-making machines to guarantee you and your kids a snow experience almost all through the year. The Happy Valley kids area has been redeveloped to provide magic carpets and every other snow toy to keep kids entertained all day. Whakapapa is an easy 50 km drive taking about 40 minutes from Turangi. Bruce Road is sealed up to the ski areas comprising about 25% learners slopes, 50% intermediate and 25% advanced slopes. Whakapapa has the greatest number and length of ski runs anywhere in NZ. At the top of the chair lifts is Knoll Ridge, the highest cafe/restaurant in the Southern Hemisphere.
That is the winter blog, but at this time of the year you can only imagine all the fluffy snow and have to adjust to the summer option. From the top of the Sky Waka ride, it is possible to climb to the summit lake and return – make sure the weather forecast is clear – allow about 6 hours. This is the best one-day tourist tramp – far better than the Tongariro Crossing! – of them all. Massive changes have happened – the chairlifts have been replaced with high speed new enclosed gondolas etc.
Warning: Recently the Ruapehu crater lake has been warming up which makes all the scientists nervous. This also happened at this time in 2020, so it is not unusual. Check with the cafe reception in case access is risky. There is an alternative option – see the Skyline Trail below.
Not everyone has the necessary fitness level to climb to the summit, so this is Plan B. This Skyline trail had not been mentioned – it takes you from the top of the Sky Waka gondola (2,020m) to Skyline Ridge (2,300m) for breathtaking views of Mt Ngauruhoe, Lake Taupo & beyond. The walk will take 1.5-2.5hrs return. – there are wall maps at the cafe to provide track directions.
33 – Pumice – “Rocks that float” are a constant fascination for visitors. At Kuratau they even have a “Floating Rock” cafe. Pumice comprises a very light porous volcanic rock formed from gas-rich pressure molten rock froth of glossy lava that solidifies rapidly. Pumice has been used as a lightweight building material, mixed with lime to form cement, since Roman times, although TRM is not quite that old.
(Pumice Stone is even sold in Chemist shops as an age-old dry skin remedy and can be used in pedicures to remove callouses or hard dry skin and roughened skin used after bathing on elbows, knees, soles, and heels.)
These pumice lumps from ancient volcanic eruptions are washed down to the lake from the nearby Tongariro River.
But Turangi is quite unique as on the main road from the North a well known feature is an historic quirky motel (with an ancient loopy Manager) on the corner of SH1 and Piri Road and Taupahi Road, where the entire corner has an architectural inspired landscape feature – a wall made of pumice.
Both the fence and the motel (and SWMBO) should be classified and restored as a national treasure. Amazing!
34 – Hidden Lake – A few years ago the NZ Herald in Auckland ran a competition among its readers on the most treasured natural scenic attraction in NZ. The winner, the most popular vote was for a tiny little hidden lake called Lake Rotpounamu. It is a treasure, completely hidden from the main road SH47 between Turangi and National Park. A large car park identifies the spot. It is also unusual in that there is no outlet stream readily identifiable. A 5 km walk extends around the perimeter of the lake covering about one square km and takes about 2 hours. It is popular with bird watchers and bush lovers as this is one of the few locations which has never been milled. The native bush is the same as when Captain Cook arrived. As the lake is nestled into the western flanks of Mt. Pihanga it was left along as any milled logs could not be hauled out.
35 – Friendly natives? – When you take your compulsory stroll along the Tongariro River Trail take special note of something quite strange for city folk. All the other locals delight in saying hello and stopping to have a chat. There is no need to be afraid. In Turangi this is normal behaviour. Everyone has more time to get on and care about each other. This may no longer be a natural phenomenon in the rest of the world but Turangi enjoys lagging about fifty years behind the rest, with no apparent desire to catch up. At first, visitors are naturally suspicious and move on, but in a day or two, we enjoy watching them relax and slow down to the local pace of leisurely lifestyle and start acting normally like humans again.
36 – Rugby – No account of any heartland NZ town would be complete without some mention of the most popular local religion. In Turangi it is the same as the rest of NZ. The enthusiasm of local parents watching school games has to be seen to be believed. With a shortage of player numbers, it is not unusual to find the boys play up front to provide the grunt in the forwards and the girls provide the elusive fleet of foot in the back lines. That also explains why this game is so popular providing for all ages, shapes and sizes. Only in Turangi… That also explains why NZ is so successful – ask the Aussies!
For special occasions when visiting teams play, the locals have their own “corporate box” arrangements – see photo of a comfortable Turangi mobile corporate stand.
37 – Spring blossoms – Another special feature of the native trees spread along the Tongariro River and throughout the town are the number of Kowhai trees. Even when sections of land are cleared the Kowhai trees are some of the first natural regeneration through the blackberry and broom and other scrubby weeds. In Spring when the kowhai blossoms burst all through town the raiding parties of tuis arrive, tearing from tree to tree stripping them of as much nectar as they can manage. This quickly ferments and they get quite drunk and start singing party songs. In Tui language these are mainly warbles and snorts and burbles and yodels rather than the usual bird tweets. Nevertheless, they sound wonderful. They herald the arrival of Spring.
38 – Kids Day at Trout Centre – Usually every school holiday period or on public holidays the Tongariro Trout Centre arranges their kids days. For a small fee the kids can catch their own trout – helped by a casting instructor – gain a certificate with the vital measurements, weight etc. then have it smoked to take home for dinner. This is the only way you can guarantee to catch a trout in NZ. As you cannot sell trout this is a specially valuable experience for kids and their parents – many of whom have never tasted trout as they cannot buy them anywhere else. The pure infectious enthusiasm of the day to introduce kids to fishing is very special.
39 – Highest cafe in NZ – Sometimes it is said the journey is as good as the goal. This qualifies with the access in a suspended gondola swinging up over the rock gardens being a memorable experience in itself.
To visit this unique cafe/restaurant you need to drive up past the Whakapapa village to the top of Bruce Road and then either tramp up or take the chairlift ride up and over the skifield (no snow in summer months. The kids will find this a thrilling adventure in itself – to arrive at Knoll Ridge, at 2020 m. the highest cafe in NZ.
The views to the west are to die for. Mt. Taranaki is usually outlined against the horizon and the curvature of the earth should be noted (for any like SWMBO who are still paid up members of the flat earth society).
40 – Underground Power Station – The North Island’s only underground power station is located about 15 minutes drive south via Kaimanawa Road. When they developed it about fifty years ago, they sealed the road in for future tourist traffic. Tourists are still waiting for Genesis to open it for public viewing. Previous requests have been ignored but one day they will have to respond to the demand from tourists. The secret local plan is to rebrand it as the caves of Mordor…
When Toe-paw Council consider what a few round doors in a hillside at Matamata have done for their local tourism, then Turangi has immense potential to benefit from the Lord of the Rings circus. That may be why Genesis Energy are so reluctant to open it for tourists – it would replace Hobbiton. Watch this space.
Tomorrow is the last list and features several short videos to cover anything we may have missed to complete 50 reasons to visit Turangi. So book now!