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Your guide to Ohakune
All About Ohakune
At the foot of Mount Ruapehu in the central plateau of New Zealand’s North Island, Ohakune is a farming community that has become one of the country’s hubs for outdoor adventures. In te reo (Māori), the name means “an opening to a new world,” which reflects the town’s modern-day status as a gateway to a unique natural environment.
Ohakune sits on the southern edge of Tongariro National Park, which has three snow-capped volcanoes and hundreds of square miles of subalpine scenery. The town is also on the northern doorstep of Whanganui National Park, with its mighty river and virgin native forest. This location makes it a magnet for skiers and snowboarders in winter and hikers and canoeists in summer. You can hit the ski fields of Turoa and Whakapapa, or rent a mountain bike and explore the Old Coach Road trail to the Hāpuawhenua Viaduct.
A well-loved monument on the edge of town that is a must for selfie-takers is the Big Carrot — some claim it’s the world’s largest carrot statue — which reflects the agricultural focus of the area. There’s even a Carrot Adventure Park in the center of Ohakune, home to a BMX track and places for picnics.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Ohakune
The area around Ohakune has a temperate climate, never getting too hot in summer or extremely cold in winter. The mountains affect the weather and protect Ohakune from rain to some extent, though the rainiest month of the year is July. Throughout much of the year, expect comfortably warm days and a slight coolness in the evenings — you’ll want to have a light jacket or sweater.
Although Ohakune rarely freezes over, in the winter months of June, July, and August, there is often snow on the mountains down to about 5,000 feet. In the middle of June, a massive street party hits town, with the Ohakune Mardi Gras winter festival setting up a big stage for live bands on Thames Street. And it wouldn’t be Ohakune without the Carrot Carnival, celebrating the ever-popular winter vegetable with competitions, food stalls, entertainment, and live music. The event traditionally kicks off the ski season at the beginning of June — don’t forget your carrot costume.
Top things to do in Ohakune
Tongariro National Park
This UNESCO World Heritage Site was New Zealand’s first national park, created at the end of the 19th century thanks to the generosity and conservation focus of the Ngāti Tūwharetoa iwi (tribe) who have lived in this region for centuries. The park is dominated by the majestic active volcanoes of Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro, and Mount Ngauruhoe. The 12-mile Tongariro Alpine Crossing day hike overlooks the mountains as well as stunning blue and green geothermal lakes.
Ohakune Railway Museum
Being on the main North Island railway line has shaped much of Ohakune’s history, and the area’s railway museum offers displays covering the construction of the train line and life in the region. The site is a former railway shed from the 1930s in the heart of the Junction area.
The Bridge to Nowhere
A poignant and scenic site in Whanganui National Park, the concrete Bridge to Nowhere was built in the 1930s and then abandoned. Surrounded by lush giant tree ferns and tall rimu trees, this beautiful area of pristine indigenous forest can be reached via a walking track that takes around 45 minutes each way. The park is rich in birdlife, with tui and kereru common sights.