Mt Ruapehu is the skiing/snowboarding hub in the North Island of New Zealand. It is great in the winter but should also not be discounted in the summer. We went for a couple of days. For those unfamiliar to the area, it is an active volcano that throws a tantrum every decade or so.
Where to stay:
The small town of Ohakune is a great base. While it is a very small town, there is lots of accommodation, mostly in the form of backpackers and baches (privately owned holiday accommodation) that you rent through “book a Bach”. Ohakune is closest to the Turoa side of the mountain.
You could also stay around the other side of the mountain in the National Park. There is much less accomodation around this side and the township is limited to the chateau and very little else. National park is on the Whakapapa side of the mountain.
What to do:
Waiuru is not too far from Ohakune and there is an excellent military museum located on the edge of the army base. It is easy to spend a few hours wandering through here. Save it for a wet day – you will probably get one!
Walking – there are nice walking tracks at the base of the mountain which take you though bush and to waterfalls. Up the mountain you can get on a chairlift which will take you up to a cafe. You can enjoy a coffee and something to eat or you can just admire the view. From the cafe there are a number of walking tracks you can take to get some great views. Tracks are signposted. Wear boots!
For a real highlight you can walk the Tongariro Crossing. We didn’t get to do this, this time but it’s on the list!
For burgers and craft beer, try out the new hipster burgeria, the Blind Finch. While not cheap, they have delicious gourmet burgers that are worth a try.
Photo opportunities: The big carrot! Ohakune is famous for it’s delicious carrots. You can take a photo by a giant carrot.
Ohakune town is a sleepy little town in the summer – which is quite nice as in the winter it is a really busy little town, particularly if the mountain is open for skiing and boarding.
Try the summer – you might like it!
From Lake Bled, we decided to explore the other side of Triglav National Park to do some walking. Unfortunately the weather let us down again but we had some fun exploring!
To get to our key walking spots and our accommodation, we had to drive over the Vrsic Pass which has 25 switchbacks up to the top and 25 more down the other side. On the way up, the corners of the road are cobbled apparently to add grip (although the other side doesn’t have it). The road is quite narrow but there are regular spots that you can pull over to look at some of the sights or let people pass.
We used a really good guide book that we bought online (Google Play Store) by Rick Steeves which pointed out in great detail all the sites worthy of stopping for. They included great look out spots, historical war sites, churches and other points of interest. It is both a stunning and interesting drive. The view from the top on a clear day would be breathtaking. We got a quick glimpse!
We checked in to our next tourist farm (Tourist Farm Jelincic) where we had booked half board (breakfast, dinner and accommodation) for 35 Euros per night. Again it was alpine style accommodation (room with ensuite and balcony) and was good value. Dinner was at least 2 courses and one night it was 3! Very good value for money.
One of the main things we wanted to do was do some walks around the Soca River. We had allowed 2 days to do this, unfortunately it continued to pour with rain for the majority of the time that we were there. Instead of walking, we decided to do a driving tour, which was not as good by any means but allowed us to look at the sights. The river is stunning. Even in its flooded state, it was a beautiful blue, green colour so I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be in sunlight. There are loads of wire suspension bridges crossing the river so that you can get a great view and some great pictures.
There are also little towns scattered throughout, with museums and other points of interest. You can even get cheese from a vending machine! While travelling through this area It is not ideal in bad weather there is plenty to see for a couple of days.