Wednesday 8 September 2021


Keen for winter getaway? We decided to get our winter fix and head to Mt Ruapehu for a family holiday and to celebrate our little boy turning three! When winter rolls around, you have one of two choices: Bunker down until the temperature starts climbing again or pull out your warmest gears and hit the great outdoors. For anyone that knows Arlo, you will know just how much he loves the outdoors, rain, sun or even snow! Mt Ruapehu has it all, stunning walks, National Parks, snow activities and you can even cuddle an oversized carrot if you really want to. Ruapehu is a fantastic outdoorsy place and you will easily fall in love with the town’s charm and the pristine alpine environment. We’ll go through it all and what we got up to in this travel guide to Mt Ruapehu for families.

First stop is the iconic Chateau Tongariro for some high tea because tea and cake is how every trip should start!

The cakes this way guys!

If you've been following me for a while you will know how much I love high tea and I've tried some amazing high teas on my travels around the world. So I guess you could call me a bit of a high tea snob and while the high tea didn't live up to my expectations, a beautiful setting can be the icing on the cake for a good high tea. We found this to be true at Chateau Tongariro! The building itself is beautiful and so photogenic with the mountain in the background. You can see why it has become an instagram must stop

Before heading to our accommodation we had to stop in Ohakune, New Zealand’s carrot capital, and pick up one of their famous chocolate eclairs! Have you tried these before?! The eclairs are the size of a large fist and filled with cream. They have become famous and for good reason too!

Carrots are a big deal in Ohakune, with a connection dating back to the 1920’s when Chinese settlers began growing them. You can find Carrot Adventure Park right next to this giant carrot which is another Instagram must stop! Perfect place for kids to let off some energy after the car ride. You can spot other vegetable characters throughout the park. The playground also links up to the riverside walkway.

Ready to see where we stayed? Quite possibly the coolest place to stay in Ruapehu where you can relive your youth and stay in your very own tree house! Surrounded in native bush with stunning views of the forest and mountains.

With a huge deck perched high above the sparkling waters of the Tepure trout stream, where you can listen to the birds sing in the magnificent native forest below, or gaze across to the volcanoes of the Central Plateau in the Dual World Heritage Tongariro National Park.

Ready to take a look around with me?

The Tree House at Wood Pigeon Lodge is especially designed to complement the natural environment with large windows that bring the tree canopies into each room and provide impressive views of the dramatic mountains. This is also an eco house that generates its own electricity by sourcing energy from the wind and sun. How cool is that?

It sleeps five and is only a 6 minute drive to the nearest cafe and bar. However, once you arrive you won't want to leave! We brought along groceries with us and soon after arriving made a platter to enjoy and popped a bottle of bubbles to celebrate parenting for three years.

As the sun started to drop we enjoyed the crackling fire in the wood stove where Jake also cooked a roast in for dinner which we ate amongst the magnificent views of the mountain. Excited for what tomorrow's adventures would bring.

Ready to come have some fun in the snow with us?! We kicked off our family day at Whakapapa ski field with a mandatory snow fight!

Then it was time to hit the slopes!

It was Arlo’s very first time skiing and we followed his lead. He was so eager to try it out and loved getting his ski boots and skis fitted and was practically pulling me onto the snow to try it. But, after a few goes, in true Arlo fashion he was over it and just wanted to go up the carpet lift! However, I think it was a very successful introduction to his first time skiing, making him feel comfortable so that when we visit again, he’ll be ready to take on more challenges.

Then it was time to ride the Sky Waka which treats you to some spectacular landscapes and is the largest gondola in New Zealand. On the journey you can take in the majestic scenery of Mt Ruapehu and its neighbouring volcanoes within the dual world heritage Tongariro National Park.

Up the top you will find New Zealand’s highest cafe! The multi-storey eatery features something for everyone. Grab a hot chocolate or coffee and choose something from their buffet eatery or grab a snack at their cafe.

But the real reason to eat here is to check out the amazing views!

After lunch it was time for some sledding! There's nothing quite like jumping on a toboggan and sledding down a snowy slope!

Whakapapa ski field has a special area with designed sledding slopes for you to slide your way to the bottom of a carpet lift, then ride back up - no walking involved!

Things to know before you go
  • Make sure you're organised! First of all check the mountain conditions and weather, check the road status, check what lifts are open. Then book a car park or shuttle along with your passes for the day which will save you a lot of time when you get up the mountain. The best and quickest option is to buy your pass online HERE.
  • Happy Valley at Whakapapa doesn't have a dedicated snow play area however any public areas that are not through the ski field gates can be played on. They do have a dedicated sledding area with toboggans and a carpet lift. Sledding passes can be purchased from the Happy Valley Rentals building.
  • Appropriate clothing and layers: Once in the snow, make sure that your child is warm enough. This is probably the most critical thing to get right. A child who is cold will not enjoy skiing, and will soon hate it. Because children are smaller than adults, they lose bodily warmth much quicker. It is vital to wrap your children up with lots of layers, waterproof gloves, warm socks and a warm hat to keep their head warm. Thermals are a must!
  • Follow your child's lead, don't stress and simply enjoy the moment. If it's your child's first time skiing just expect it to be an introduction and don't expect too much from it. After all, the goal is to get the kids out on the slopes and feeling comfortable so that when you visit again, they’ll be ready to take on more challenges. I could tell Arlo was really keen to try and followed his lead then also observed when he had had enough.
  • Tip! We went during the week because weekends and school holidays are always overcrowded!

For dinner that evening after our big day adventuring in the snow we headed back to Ohakune for an early dinner at Osteria. Great family night warming up in front of the fireplace. Very welcoming and attentive staff, lovely warm atmosphere.

Great authentic Italian food and they also had a kids menu. Really nice family spot to grab some dinner after a day on the mountain.

On our last day we decided to do one of the many walks available in the Tongariro National Park. The Taranaki Falls Track is one of the best short walks to do in the area. And the good news is that it’s a great walk to do with kids.

The track takes around an hour or so and is completed in a loop and it isn’t steep or technically difficult. Arlo actually managed to walk about half of it by himself and then once he started getting a bit tired we chucked him up on Dad’s shoulders.

The first part of the upper track which after a short forest section opens up to reveal an epic view of Mount Ngauruhoe as you wander through alpine tussock.

Taranaki Falls comes into view with an impressive 20 metres of tumbling water. It is possible to get right up close to the waterfall. There are a few picnic tables near the waterfall and otherwise some ideal rocks for a rest and a snack break before continuing on. The second part of the lower track follows the Wairere Stream through the dense beech forest with some bridged river crossings and smaller rock waterfalls.

Taranaki Falls is one of the most beautiful and impressive New Zealand waterfalls, and the walk itself is accompanied by stunning views of Mount Ruapehu and Mount Tongariro. I highly recommend this as a great option for an easy day walk if you are in the National Park area.

Things to know before you go
  • Take plenty of water: Even if you are hiking in winter make sure to carry enough water for the duration of your walk.
  • Comfortable walking footwear: Hiking boots are not necessary for this trail but you do need a good, comfortable pair of walking shoes.
  • Appropriate clothing and layers: Regardless of the time of year, layers of clothing are the best approach. It can be warm starting out in the sunshine but the shade is cool in winter!
  • Take snacks because every hike should have snacks especially if you have little ones. 

Thanks Mt Ruapehu for an amazing family adventure. So many special memories made. Can't wait to head back again next year!

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