Tongariro National Park is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand if you are an outdoor lover. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is the hike you want to do and at about 5 and a half hours to complete, it is a bit of a challenge. If you have a friend who is not keen on doing the hike you can drop a car off at the Ketetahi car park to pick up once finished. Otherwise I suggest taking advantage of the extensive shuttle service offered from a number of places in the nearby town of National Park. Bring lots of water as there is no place to refill on the hike and it gets very hot in the summer. The views are definitely worth the sweat and exertion, with the Emerald Lakes probably being the most spectacular sight I’ve seen on a hike. Plus if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan then this is the home of Mt Doom and you can really see why they chose it as a filming location.
Mt Ruapehu is also in the area and is wonderful in both the Summer and the Winter. During the Winter the town of National Park turns into a ski resort and it is a great place to hit the slopes in the North Island. In the Summer Mt Ruapehu is great to visit at the same time as doing the Crossing and there are some nice short hikes around the mountain.
We are lucky enough to have some wonderful friends who lend us their huts in the Retaruke Valley every time we are in the area, and its a lovely place to visit near the national park. The Retaruke River feeds into the Whanganui River and it is a fantastic place to chill and swim and even attempt to fish for trout. And if you are into mountain biking then the Fishers Track is in the area which provides great views over Tongariro National Park.
This area truly is an outdoor lover’s paradise and there are a lot of accommodation options around National Park, from lodges to backpackers to camp spots to bush land retreats. If you cook a lot of your own food then you can do this area pretty cheaply, around NZ$100 a day if you stick to budget accommodation options.