5 Great Summer Adventures in the Central North Island of New Zealand

The central North Island of New Zealand is deservedly well known for Tongariro National Park and the mighty volcanoes of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Rupaehu that stand majestically at its heart. These mountains are home to New Zealand’s largest ski fields, Whakapapa and Turoa, with the local towns of Ohakune and National Park benefiting from the winter buzz that goes with skiing.

However in summer, there is not the buzz of thousands of skiers, rather the Park and its surrounding area, stretching from Taihape in the south, to Turangi in the north offers a range of other outdoor adventures.

Let’s say you were basing yourself in the area for a few days over summer and wanted a variety of day or part day adventure activities to do. We have a few ideas. In no particular order these are our top 5 picks.

*** The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

*** White Water Rafting on the Rangitikei River

*** The highest bungy jump in the North Island with Gravity Canyon

*** Mountain biking the Old Coach Road

*** Horse trekking with River Valley Stables

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

This 19.4 kilometre walk is often mentioned as one of the top day walks in the world, and is certainly regarded as the best day walk in New Zealand. This is an alpine walk with everything that entails. The weather can be changeable, some of the climbs are steep but the views and sights can be dramatic.

It is best to base yourself in one of the surrounding towns and catch one of the regular shuttles to drop you off at the start and pick you at the finish.

Allow a full day

Grade 5 rafting on the Rangitikei River

White Water Rafting on the Rangitikei River

The Rangitikei River, one of New Zealand’s longest rivers, has a number of rafted sections, however we will only mention two.

For the thrill seeker there are few sections of river anywhere that are as much fun as the half day Grade 5 section east of Taihape. Grade 5 is the highest grade commercially rafted. For the less adventurous, there is a Grade 2 section immediately downstream from the finish of the Grade 5 section that has numerous smaller rapids and even more beautiful scenery.

Both trips begin from and return to River Valley Lodge.

Allow a full day for the Grade 2 section (this includes a riverside picnic lunch), while the Grade 5 section will take a half day with a choice of morning or afternoon departures. You will need your own transport to get to River Valley Lodge, but everything else is taken care of from there.

Bungy Jumping At Gravity Canyon

Mokai Gravity Canyon is also situated on the Rangitikei River, right next to the 80 metre deep canyon, and the bridge that connects the two sides. The bridge is home to two of the activities you can do at Gravity Canyon. These are an 80 metre bungy, which is the highest bungy jump in the North Island and also the highest bungy jump from a bridge in New Zealand, plus a truly terrifying giant swing.

The other main activity at Gravity Canyon is the flying fox or zip line. This is no ordinary zip line however. With a length of 1 km and speeds in excess of 160 km hour, this is a fun blast for all ages, with up to three people being able to ride at a time.

Allow from a couple of hours to a half day for a visit to Gravity Canyon, There is a Cafe on site, so you can watch for a time while you muster the courage.

Group pose on the Hapuawhenua Viaduct – a Category 1 listed historic place on the Old Coach Road

Mountain Bike The Old Coach Road

The 15 km long Old Coach Road that initially linked Ohakune and Horopito follows the edge of what is now Tongariro National Park. The road was originally built in the early 1900s, but later fell into disuse with the advent of the railway and better alternative roads. It was slowly reclaimed by forest and considered lost until early this century.

However a decade of toil, much of it voluntary, resurrected the trail, even exposing much of the old style rock cobbles that it was surfaced with. The trail now winds through beautiful native forest with patches of farmland at either end.

There are several operators who hire out mountain bikes and provide transport based in Ohakune.

Allow a half day, take your time, and finish the ride with drinks and something to eat at one of the Cafes in Ohakune.

Hill Country Horse Trekking in the Rangitikei

The hill country scenery of the Northern Rangitikei District is dramatic. What better backdrop than the bush clad Ruahine Ranges while you ride your horse over the big country of this area.

Horses are a great alternative way to do some exploring.

River Valley Stables, a horse trekking operation where natural horse training principles are used, operate a variety of treks from two to hour through to horse riding holidays of a few days. However one thing they do insist on is that you choose a trek commensurate with your riding ability. The less riding experience, the shorter the trek. For most people this means a ride from two hours to half day.

All riding equipment including boots, helmets and overcoats is supplied.

Allow a minimum of a half day. Food and refreshments are available from River Valley Lodge.

5 Fun Adventures

We are people who like slow travel. What that means is spending time in an area to get to know it well. Spending a few days to absorb the culture, both human and natural.

A great area for slow travel is the central North Island, especially that area south of Lake Taupo. Our list of adventures only touches the surface of what there is to do in this natural playground. With a variety of places to stay, and so much to do, who would not want to slow down and enjoy this enthralling area.

Brian Megaw