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How to get to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and where to stay

Descending to the Emerald Lakes, Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Authors: Cole and Sam Johnston - Why should you listen to us? We are a pair of adventure-loving kiwi brothers with a lifetime of experience in New Zealand's outdoors and regularly guide groups on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Planning to hike the Tongariro Crossing involves a lot, this post has all the info you need on how to get to the Tongariro National Park, places to stay and how to organize tours or transport for the Crossing itself.

How to get to the Tongariro National Park

Most visitors arrive in New Zealand via Auckland and then travel by road to reach the Tongariro Crossing, you can join a tour from Auckland, hire a car, rent a campervan, get on a bus or catch a train to make your way south.

By road - It usually takes around four hours (without stops) to reach the Tongariro National Park from both Auckland and Wellington, there are several nearby towns and places to stay, read below for more info!

Buses - There are a few different options for buses to the Tongariro National Park area, the most direct is catching the Auckland to Palmerston North bus which passes directly through National Park Village and Ohakune. But have a read below of places to stay and then have a look at the bus timetables to make a decision, the InterCity website is an excellent place to start.

Train - The Northern Explorer train travels between Auckland and Wellington with stops at both National Park Village and Ohakune.

Tours - One of the easiest ways to experience the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and the rest of North Island is by joining a tour from Auckland. Check out the 3-day Tongariro Trekker tour that includes the Waitomo Caves, Tongariro Crossing, Taupo, Huka Falls, Hot pools and more!

Tongariro National Park is in the central North Island of New Zealand

Tongariro Alpine Crossing nearby towns and places to stay

Whakapapa Village

• Driving time from Auckland: 4h10m – 4h40m
• Driving time to start of the Crossing: 20 minutes

Whakapapa Village is nestled against the base of Mount Ruapehu, the North Islands tallest mountain, surrounded by beautiful beech forests and offered some fantastic short walks and a gateway to Whakapapa ski field, it's also the closest township to the start of the Tongariro Crossing, so you only have a quick trip to the beginning of the hike.

Where to stay:

• The Iconic Chateau Tongariro
• Skotel (a good mid-range and backpacker option)
Whakapapa Holiday Park (tent sites, camper vans, backpacker and private cabin accommodations)

National Park Village
• Driving time from Auckland: 3h50m – 4h30m
• Driving time to start of the Crossing: 25 minutes

National Park Village is right on state highway 4 and easily accessible by bus and train, while still being close to the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This small town is surrounded by native bush and tussock and has plenty to offer with nearby mountain biking, an indoor climbing wall, and a small supermarket. There are several accommodation options available in National Park Village, so it's best to have a browse and decide for yourself! Check out the local National Park Village accommodation page for different options in the village and nearby areas.

• Driving time from Auckland: 3h50m – 4h30m
• Driving time to start of the Crossing: 40 minutes

Turangi is situated between the Tongariro National Park and Lake Taupo so it can make for a great staging point if you are doing a few different activities in the area, in particular, it is also a popular destination for trout fishing with many fantastic fishing spots nearby. Right on State highway 1 with a population of a few thousand the town has everything you need and several places to stay and eat. Have a look at the official local website to explore the different accommodation options.

• Driving time from Auckland: 4h20m – 5h
• Driving time to start of the Crossing: 45 minutes

Ohakune is located on the southern edge of the Tongariro National Park (the Tongariro Crossing is near the northern end), so it takes a little longer to get here from Auckland and longer to get to the start of the Crossing but can be well worth it. This bustling little tourist town is well set up for visitors and is the gateway to the Turoa ski field, the Old Coach Road and has some great restaurants, bars, and accommodation options, visit the Ruapehu website to check out the different options.

• Driving time from Auckland: 3h10m – 4h
• Driving time to start of the Crossing: 1h20m
Taupo is the furthest away from the start of the Tongariro Crossing but can be reached by sticking to State Highway 1 all the way from Auckland, it's also the largest town in the region and very central to surrounding locations like Rotorua, Hobbiton and the Tongariro National Park. Located right on the shore of New 'Zealand's largest lake, Lake Taupo, it has dozens of great activities, places to stay and dining options on offer, the local website provides a great directory.

Taranaki Falls near Whakapapa Village

How to get to the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Start of the Tonagriro Alpine Crossing: Mangatepopo Carpark
End of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Ketetahi Carpark

Getting to the beginning of the hike has changed a bit in recent years, as there is a four-hour parking limit between Labour Weekend (October) and the 30th April in the DOC carparks at both Mangatepopo and Ketetahi. This is designed so you cannot leave a car parked while you hike the Crossing and must catch a shuttle to do the Tongariro Crossing, there are three main ways to go about this:

One – Join a tour that includes a guided hike of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
This can be one of the best ways to enjoy the Crossing, some multi-day tours from Auckland include everything, accommodation, transport, meals, guides, other activities, and more. Many people choose this option as it is a hassle-free way to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, not only will you have an experienced local guide, but you can choose a tour that explores other regions of the North Island at the same time. Check out a 3-day Tongariro Trekker tour from Auckland!

Two – Park at the end of the Tongariro Crossing in the morning and then catch a shuttle to the start to begin hiking.
This is a popular option as it allows you to finish the hike and then continue on to your next destination without having to wait for a shuttle and gives you the option of storing the luggage you don't take on the Crossing in your car while hiking. There is now a new shuttle car park at the end of the Crossing on Ketetahi Road, multiple companies offer parking and shuttles to the start of the Crossing from here. Please note that the carpark operation is seasonal and weather dependent, so be sure to check with them closer to the time, bookings are essential – see the different options for shuttles. 

Three – Catch a shuttle from your accommodation to the start of the hike, then a return shuttle at the end of the hike.
The other option is to catch a shuttle to the start, and from the end of the Crossing once you are finished, some accommodation operators will provide a shuttle and there are many licensed operators in the area to choose from. It's essential to book a shuttle, and you will have to estimate what afternoon shuttle you'd like to catch based on how long you think the Crossing will take you.

Mangatepopo Carpark, start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
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