Turangi, the picturesque town situated just 40 minutes drive from Whakapapa Ski Area, is the perfect destination for the ultimate winter New Zealand road trip.
The real beauty of Turangi is its close proximity to so many incredible resources – the world-renowned Tongariro National Park and Tongariro Alpine Crossing virtually on its doorstep, Whakapapa Ski Area just over the hill and pristine native bush to explore within arm’s reach of the town. Skiing or snowboarding, playing in the snow, scenic chairlift rides to New Zealand’s highest café, gentle bush walks and long soaks in hot pools should be on the itinerary for the great kiwi winter holiday in Turangi.
Whether you have a weekend or a week or two to spend in the region, here are some great ideas for planning your winter road trip to beautiful Turangi!
Places to stay
We’ve picked out some amazing secluded hideaways in the Turangi area, all hidden away in beautiful locations and oozing the cosy, rustic charm of a winter ski lodge.
Tongariro Lodge is the stalwart of the lodge scene in Turangi, offering villa accommodation ranging from one to five bedrooms, and an executive villa. The main lodge has a cosy open fire and all the rustic charm you would expect from an old-world fishing and ski lodge. Find out more about Tongariro Lodge here.
On the southern shores of Lake Taupo and just 15 minutes from Turangi, Braxmere Lodge is a genuine hidden gem. The lodge is nestled in a pristine bay with an expansive lawn rolling down to the water’s edge. The accommodation units are lakeside and have spectacular views across the water, and the on-site restaurant is a great place to have a warming winter meal. Find out more about Braxmere Lodge here.
River Birches Lodge
River Birches Lodge is a boutique lodge on the banks of the Tongariro River in Turangi. It sits on the site of one of the first river cottages built in the area and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and huge mature silver birch, copper beech, oak and redwood trees. Accommodation consists of three guest rooms and a separate cottage, and the river is literally out the back gate of the property. Find out more about River Birches Lodge here.
Another beautiful and secluded place to stay in Turangi is Creel Lodge, also on the banks of the Tongariro River and in a stunning garden setting. Individual motel units are self-contained, making this a great place for families to stay and self-cater. Every year people from all over the world come back to Creel Lodge to ski, fish, hunt and generally relax in the beautiful environment. Find out more about Creel Lodge here.
Oreti Village Resort
A few kilometres up the road from Turangi lies Pukawa Bay and the idyllic Oreti Village Resort. Oreti Village has apartment-style accommodation amongst the tree tops, all with breathtaking panoramic water and mountain views. Find out more about Oreti Village Resort here.
Things to do in Turangi
Visit the snow
Top of the list for most people on a winter holiday is a trip to the snow. Whakapapa Ski Area lies an easy, scenic 40 minute drive from Turangi. The ski area is well known for Happy Valley Snow Park, its large beginner and snow play facility that has covered carpet lifts for those learning to ski or snowboard, a large sliding park for toboggans and tubing, and an elevator to access the area. Scenic chairlift rides can be taken to the upper mountain for lunch or coffee at the architectural award winning Knoll Ridge Café, New Zealand’ highest café, or if you’re an experienced skier or snowboarder there are extensive intermediate and advanced runs to discover. Find out more about the ski areas here.
No trip to Turangi is complete without a walk in Tongariro National Park. This world-renowned national park literally begins a 10-minute drive away on Turangi’s doorstep and boasts some of the most pristine native forest left in New Zealand. The beauty of the Park is that you don’t have to tackle the full Tongariro Alpine Crossing to experience it - there are several shorter walks, some just 20 minutes in duration, that are hidden away very close to Turangi.
Our top pick is the Lake Rotopounamu Walk, a 5km loop track that starts just 15 minutes drive from Turangi. The track takes you through bird-filled native forest to this spectacular hidden lake, also known as Greenstone Lake because of its deep green colour. There is a stunning white sandy beach at the far end of Lake Rotopounamu which is the perfect place to have a picnic before completing the loop.
Other short walks tucked away close to Turangi include the Tongariro River Trail which links up with the Tongariro National Trout Centre, the Tokaanu Thermal Walk and the Pukawa to Omori walking track.
Visit the Tongariro National Trout Centre
The Tongariro Naitonal Trout Centre, just 3km south of Turangi, is a great place to discover the wild trout population of the Tongariro River. You can see and feed the trout in their natural environment, and there is a kids’ fishing pool where fishing lessons are run during the school holidays. The visitor centre has a great display on the history of trout fishing in the region as well as a kids’ activity section. Find out more about the Trout Centre here.
Soak in a hot pool
Soaking in a hot pool is an essential part of the great kiwi winter holiday. Tokaanu Hot Pools is the perfect place to soak tired muscles after a day on the slopes or out walking, or just to warm up on a chilly winter’s day. These pools have the added bonus of a fascinating thermal walk right next door that takes you past bubbling mud and boiling water pools set amongst beautiful native bush. Find out more about Tokaanu Hot Pools here.
Trace the footsteps of Maori warriors
The Te Porere Redoubt is a Maori cultural site that is well worth a visit for its fascinating history and insights into the movements of the Maori warriors of the 19th century. The redoubt is a structure of trenches built by the Maori warrior Te Kooti and his men who, in 1868-69, were trying to hold off government forces. The site is reached after a 10-minute walk from the carpark, and has panoramic views of Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe. Find out more about the Te Porere Redoubt here.
Best places to eat in Turangi
It pays to head a little off the beaten track in Turangi to find some of the best places to enjoy delicious winter treats.
Creel Café, tucked away on the river side of town, is a must-visit. This quaint little café and tackle house is in a beautiful bush setting and serves great coffee alongside what are reportedly the best pastries this side of Paris. Find out more about Creel Cafe here.
Lakeland House restaurant, situated next to Braxmere Lodge right on the lake’s edge, is a real hidden gem. The food is delicious and the view is to die for and it has a cosy winter ski lodge feel. Choose from an extensive range of pasta or more traditional dishes, and enjoy the lingering sunset across the lake. Find out more about Lakeland House here.
Tongariro Lodge is located in beautiful park-like grounds on the banks of the Tongariro River. The main lodge and restaurant are characterised by their rustic décor, comfortable sofas and open fires. The owners say the true atmosphere of the lodge is best experienced in front of an open fire over a four course meal carefully prepared by their chefs. Tongariro Lodge is a true winter dining experience that captures the essence of what winter in this region is all about. Find out more about Tongariro Lodge here.
Turangi Town Centre
There are, of course, great places to eat in the town centre as well. Hydro Eatery does great breakfasts and the Turangi Tavern is known for some of the best pub food around. The Turangi Bakery is famous for its great pies, and let’s face it, who doesn’t like a hearty hot pie on a cold winter’s day?! For a bit of fun, try Cadillac Café, a rockabilly themed café that’s a popular drop-in destination for classic car and motorcycle enthusiasts. The cronuts (a croissant-donut combo) come in a variety of amazing flavours and are absolutely unforgettable.
For more information and bookings contact the team at Turangi iSite on +64 7 386 8999, 0800 2 TURANGI (0800 288 726) or email email@example.com.