NZ’s Highest Café at Whakapapa Ski Area

The Knoll Ridge Café on Whakapapa Ski Area is New Zealand’s highest café. If you’re not skiing or boarding, you can access the Knoll Ridge Café by scenic chairlift ride. We think it’s definitely worth the visit!

At 2020m above sea level, with breathtaking views of the Pinnacles and valley below this award-winning architecturally designed café was awarded the Design Curial Best Designed Café in the World, 2015.

The Architecture

Architect: Grant Harris, HB Architecture

Perched dramatically on a cliff edge and cited on New Zealand’s largest active volcano, the Knoll Ridge Café is an incredible feat of design and engineering! An ambitious design and build was initiated in 2009 to replace the original café which was destroyed by fire earlier in the year.

The project had a unique set of challenges – the harsh remote environment, including winds up to 220kph and temperatures well below freezing, rapidly changing weather, and limited road access meant the project required extensive logistical programming in order to ensure the safe delivery, placement and erection of materials – all performed via helicopter.

The form of the Knoll Ridge cafe building reflects the strong geological features of the mountain. The “gull wing” roof was to appear to “cradle” the mountains peak. On a practical level the roof is used to manage the snow. The building is designed to cover with up to 3m of snow.

The new building accommodates café seating for approximately 400 people with servery, kitchen and support facilities all on one level. At this same level, a deck area for approximately 200 people is provided. The main public toilet area, staff facilities and storage are on the level below with separate access from the outside as well connection to the café via an internal stair.

The Café

Whether it’s the quintessential Kiwi ski lunch of a pie, chips and snickers bar (kept in your pocket so it freezes of course!) or a gourmet burger, fresh salad, hot curry or an a la carte table service experience you’re after, then the Knoll Ridge Café is your destination café.

Combined with excellent barista-made coffee, or a sneaky lunch-time tipple, and epic and unequalled views, you can easily while away time over a long lunch or take a quick break before hitting the slopes again.

Getting there

Located on Whakapapa Ski Area, it's easy to get to the Knoll Ridge Café from Taupo. Take the stress out of a trip to the snow with a coach service from Taupo to Whakapapa Ski Area and Happy Valley Snow Park (during the ski season), or take a cruisy scenic drive. Find out more here.

Lift passes can be purchased from the Mt Ruapehu Snow Depots in Taupo, on-mountain or at select outlets.