Free (and Cheap) Activities in Ohakune
Renowned as the North Island’s most vibrant ski town, while also a base for adventures in the Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks, Ohakune is certainly a highlight on the North Island. But ski holidays and Great Walks are not so renowned for their affordability, so complete your itinerary in the “Carrot Capital” with these free and cheap things to do in Ohakune! With walks to waterfalls, epic bike trails, all kinds of interesting museums and New Zealand’s greatest eclairs, you might just think the free activities in Ohakune are better than the expensive stuff!
1. Do the Mangawhero Forest Walk – FREE
Let’s start this free-and-cheap-things list with one of the most picturesque walks that’s easy to access from the town. At the bottom of the Ohakune Mountain Road, find the Mangawhero Forest Walk, a one-hour loop walk through a majestic stand of mature native forest alongside the Mangawhero River. If you want to extend your walk further, why not try the Jubilee Walkway (20 minutes one way), accessed from the Ohakune Carrot and the i-SITE? It also links up to the Mangawhero River Walkway (30 minutes one way) which follows the river between the town centre and The Junction part of town. Find out more about these walks in the 14 Outstanding Things to Do in Ohakune and 7 Must-Do Cycle Trails in Ohakune.
Location: Bottom of Ohakune Mountain Road at The Junction.
2. Check Out Mangawhero Falls and Waitonga Falls – FREE
Time to check out some stunning mountain waterfalls! If you have your own vehicle, drive up the Ohakune Mountain Road where the Waitonga Falls Track is 11km (7 miles) up. The 1h20mins return walk takes you through mountain forest and across alpine wetland featuring stunning views of the Mt Ruapehu’s peak. The 39m (128ft) Waitonga Falls is at the end of the walk where you return the same way (continue straight and you’ll be walking around the mountain for days on the Round the Mountain Track). Drive further up the Ohakune Mountain Road and you’ll also reach a lookout for Mangawhero Falls, which featured in The Lord of the Rings movies.
Location: Waitonga Falls – Car park and DoC sign are 11km (7 miles) up Ohakune Mountain Road. Mangawhero Falls – Car park is 16km (10 miles) up Ohakune Mountain Road.
3. Walk or Cycle the Old Coach Road – CHEAP
One of the must-dos in Ohakune, the Ohakune Old Coach Road is a walk/cycle trail through picturesque forest steeped in history. The road used to carry passengers and cargo between two railheads between 1906 and 1908 before the railway was linked. Learn about the history on interpretation panels as you walk or mountain bike the 15km (9-mile) one-way trail, cross the towering Hapuawhenua Viaduct, check out tunnels and delve into the wilderness encompassing these historic elements. Shuttles to the start of the trail cost around NZ$15 per person, ideal if you’re just walking the trail or you have your own bike. The trail ends back in Ohakune at The Junction.
Location: Matapuna Road, Horopito, approximately 16km (10 miles) from Ohakune town centre.
4. See the Tanks at the National Army Museum – CHEAP
If you find yourself caught on a rainy day in Ohakune, a good option could be the National Army Museum in Waiouru. From the early Maori battles to New Zealand’s contribution to the world wars to today’s conflicts, the museum tells the story of New Zealand’s military history with realistic displays and tanks… lots of tanks. Check out all kinds of displays on military weapons and let the kids loose at Kids HQ. We also list this activity in the 10 Things to Do in Ohakune with Kids.
Location: Hassett Drive, State Highway 1, Waiouru, approximately 28km (17 miles) from Ohakune town centre.
5. Learn Something New at the Ohakune Rail Museum – FREE
To add a little history and education to your visit to Ohakune, visit the Ohakune Rail Museum, open Thursday to Sunday from 11am to 3pm. The Main Trunk Railway, which opened in 1908, is an important part of the town’s history and was once the only access to this remote area. See railway relics and learn about its history, learn about feats of railway engineering like the Raurimu Spiral, check out railway control units, and learn about New Zealand’s worst-ever rail disaster, the Tangiwai Train Disaster.
Location: 62 Thames Street, The Junction.
6. See the Tangiwai Rail Disaster Memorial – FREE
If you miss the chance to learn about the Tangiwai Rail Disaster at the Ohakune Rail Museum (point #5), you can also visit the Tangiwai Rail Disaster Memorial along State Highway 49. A display showcases information on the victims and about the disaster itself where the Wellington-Auckland express train plunged into the Whangaehu River following the destruction of the bridge by a lahar caused by an eruption at Mt Ruapehu on Christmas Eve 1953.
Location: Signposted off State Highway 49, Tangiwai, approximately 18km (11 miles) east from Ohakune town centre.
7. Cuddle the Ohakune Carrot – FREE
Welcoming visitors into the town since 1984, the 7.5m (24ft) Ohakune Carrot is arguably one of Ohakune’s strangest attractions. Nevertheless, it is not just an oversized carrot to commemorate that Ohakune grows two-thirds of the North Island’s carrots, but it’s backed by the Ohakune Carrot Adventure Park with more large vegetables and a playground for kids.
Location: 4a Rangataua Road, Ohakune town centre.
8. Do Some Climbing at the Vertigo Adventure Centre – CHEAP
Another cheap activity to get stuck into if the mountain is closed is the Vertigo Adventure Centre. This indoor attraction features a wide range of kids’ climbing walls to challenging rock climbing using Clip ‘N Climb systems so you can enjoy the experience independently and safely. At around NZ$17 for adults and NZ$12 for children for an hour session, it’s an affordable way to kill some time.
Location: 27 Goldfinch Street, Ohakune town centre.
9. Meet the Dinosaurs at Dinosaur House – CHEAP
Yep, there’s even a dinosaur museum near Ohakune. Set in a heritage building in the historic town of Raetihi, Dinosaur House is New Zealand’s largest private collection of dinosaur skeletons, fossils and life-sized models. Need we say more? At around NZ$10 entry, how can you refuse?
Location: 102 Seddon Street, Raetihi, approximately 12km 7 miles) from Ohakune town centre.
10. Have an Oversized Chocolate Eclair – CHEAP
Ohakune might be a small town but it has a whole array of cafes, restaurants and takeaways to indulge in. An unlikely highlight, however, is Johnny Nation’s Chocolate Eclair Shop. That’s right, the dessert made famous in 19th Century France has made its way to the centre of the North Island, with Johnny Nation’s Chocolate Eclair Shop making fist-sized chocolate eclairs and other irresistible cream cakes! Note that the eclair shop is only open for the winter season between May and November.
Location: 36 Clyde Street, Ohakune town centre.
More Free and Cheap Things to Do in Ohakune
- 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Ohakune
- 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Ohakune
- The Guide to Ohakune on a Budget
That’s it for our list of cheap and free things to do in Ohakune. For more free stuff, check out the 50 Best Free Things to Do in New Zealand.