Must-dos and hidden gems along Ruapehu’s Adventure Highway

Like a treasure hunt for your summer of adventures, journey along Ruapehu’s Adventure Highway to discover the most incredible must-dos and hidden gems located around the spectacularly scenic State Highway 4 – nestled between the breathtaking vistas of Whanganui National Park to the west and Tongariro National Park to the east. From glittering glowworms to refreshing mountain streams and unreal landscapes straight out of Hollywood movie scenes, it’s time to make your way to remarkable Ruapehu in the Central North Island’s volcanic plateau.

Republic of Whangamomona rail cart expedition with Forgotten World Adventures

Visit the self-proclaimed Republic of Whangamomona on a fascinating rail cart expedition with Forgotten World Adventures. Drive your own motorised rail cart 82 km along a decommissioned railway line through historic bridges and hand-built brick tunnels, enjoy a gorgeous picnic lunch at Tokirima station, and take in the remote farmland, native bush, and free roaming wildlife a plenty.

Tracks at Forgotten World Adventures - Visit Ruapehu.pngForgotten rail tracks are now being used by Forgotten World Adventures

Rail Cart in the Forgotten World - Visit Ruapehu.pngRail cart in the Forgotten World

Nevalea Alpacas

As the largest alpaca farm in New Zealand, Nevalea Alpacas is home to over 1,000 incredibly irresistible, adorable alpacas you can fall in love with this summer. Meet baby alpaca Ranger and his mum Macey, and other award-winning alpacas as you walk, trek or picnic amidst the rolling hills and picturesque farm tour at Nevalea Alpacas.


Little girl admiring alpaccas and smiling - Visit Ruapehu.jpgNevalea Alpacas

Nevalea Alpaca Farm - Visit Ruapehu.jpg

Picnicking with alpacas

Forgotten World Gardens

Perfect for that Sunday drive or the ultimate Ruapehu roadie, tis the season to discover the fantastic Forgotten World Gardens. These four captivating country gardens are located within a 12 km radius of each other along the Forgotten World Highway for a magical day’s outing. 

Canoeing, fly fishing or jetboating on the Whanganui River

As the first river in the world to be recognised as a living entity and granted personhood, the Whanganui River is sacred to Māori and is one of a kind experience that is like nothing else. Immersive, cultural and an adventure into untouched wilderness, you can book a guided canoeing, fly fishing or jetboating tour for an unforgettable summer riverside. 

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Ohinetonga Scenic Reserve

Tucked away in Owhango along the Adventure Highway, the Ohinetonga Track located in the Ohinetonga Scenic Reserve is an enchanting wonderland with ancient trees, a secret lagoon, picnic areas, swimming holes, glorious abundant birdlife as well as rare native long-tailed bats.

Ohinetonga Reserve Credit Outdoorkidnz - Visit Ruapehu.jpg

Ohinetonga Reserve credit: Outdoorkidnz

Family walking the Ohinetonga Track - Visit Ruapehu.jpgFamily hiking at the Ohinetonga Reserve

Kakahi Glowworms

For an evening excursion, marvel at the magical Kakahi Glowworms located at the Kakahi Domain Cutting leading down to the Whanganui River. A natural wonder and a free attraction to experience, you could also pass by the iconic Kakahi General Store on your way – one of the few remaining of its kind in NZ.

Glow worms in Kakahi credit wildplacesoverland - Visit Ruapehu.png

Glow worms in Kakahi credit wildplacesoverland

Kakahi glow worms during the day credit outdoorkidnz - Visit Ruapehu.pngKakahi glow worms during the day credit outdoorkidnz 

Tupapakurua Falls, Taranaki Falls, Tawhai Falls and Waitonga Falls

Ruapehu’s world of waterfalls makes the Adventure Highway your invitation to go chase waterfalls. You’ll have your pick of world-class walks to waterfalls in and around Tongariro National Park – a UNESCO Dual world heritage site of cultural and natural significance. There’s the 11 km return track to Tupapakurua Falls in National Park Village, the 6 km loop track to the stunning Taranaki Falls cascading over volcanic cliffs, the beauty of Tawhai Falls (also known as Gollum’s Pool from the Lord of the Rings trilogy) easily accessible from a 600 m return walking track and the 39 m tall Waitonga Falls – renowned as the highest waterfalls Tongariro National Park, located in the charming mountain town and carrot capital of New Zealand, Ohakune.

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Sky Waka Gondola Ride

A high-flying summer must-do, the Sky Waka gondola ride is NZ’s longest gondola ride and journeys 1.8 km over the dramatic volcanic landscapes of Tongariro National Park. Once you reach the top, soak up the views and enjoy NZ’s highest dining experience at the award-winning Knoll Ridge Chalet

View from Knoll Ridge Chalet - Visit Ruapehu.pngCredit: Simon Devitt

Family enjoying Mt Ruapehu in the summer- Visit Ruapehu.jpgCredit: Joel McDowell

Smash Palace a.k.a Horopito Motors

Family owned and operated Smash Palace, also known as Horopito Motors is a captivating must-stop attraction conveniently located in Horopito along the Adventure Highway. The largest vintage dismantlers in Australasia and famous car wrecking yard from the movies Goodbye Pork Pie, Smash Palace, and Hunt for Wilderpeople, this collection of thousands of classic cars spread out over six hectares is a unique experience for all to enjoy – there’s also Jump Start Coffee Cart on-site for a delicious cuppa.

Chocolate eclairs in the sun after a bike ride in Ohakune- Visit Ruapehu.jpg

Woman enjoying a chocolate eclair

Girl eating chocolatea eclair from Johnny Nations Chocolate Eclair Shop Ohakune -Visit Ruapehu.jpgJohnny Nations Chocolate Eclairs

A group of cyclists crossing the Maramataha Viaduct on the Timber Trail cycle trail - Visit Ruapehu.jpgThe Timber Trail

A cyclist On The Fishers Track Trail - Visit Ruapehu.jpgFishers Track

Tongariro Alpine Crossing and other spectacular hikes

Outdoor enthusiasts around the world have the renowned Tongariro Alpine Crossing on the top of their bucket lists to experience while in Ruapehu – which now has a booking system in place you can access online here. An awesome alternative to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is the 17.6 km return Tama Lakes Track – full of wildly beautiful landscapes of alpine lakes, volcanic vistas, spectacular mountain views.  

Three People Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing - Visit Ruapehu.jpgHikers on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Around The Mountain Trail - Visit Ruapehu.jpgViews on the Round the Mountain Track

New Zealand Army Museum Te Mata Toa

Located at the southern end of the Adventure Highway in Waiouru, the New Zealand Army Museum Te Mata Toa is a world-class museum with unique collections, military exhibits and hidden treasures honouring New Zealand’s military history. Kids will love the interactive Kids HQ area, the Mess Tent Café with its delicious meals and hot drinks and there’s also a fun retail shop with a fantastic range of gifts and souvenirs.

Start planning your summer of adventures now! Check out deals and packages available here. Discover more road trip ideas here.

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Posted by on 29 November 2023