The Must-Dos in Ohakune
Being in the centre of the Tongariro National Park, Whanganui National Park and Mt Ruapehu, Ohakune not only has some of the best things to do in the local area but some of the must-dos for the entire North Island! You’ve probably heard of the Tongariro Crossing, maybe even the Great Walk on the Whanganui River and any ski buff will know about New Zealand’s largest ski fields on Mt Ruapehu. From outdoor adventures to bizarre sculptures and even sweet treats, we’ll guide you through the best things to do in Ohakune.
For more help planning your visit to the mountain-view town, take a look at The Complete Guide to Ohakune.
1. Walk to Waitonga Falls and/or Mangawhero Falls
Topping our list of the best things to do in Ohakune is Waitonga Falls. Just an 11km (6.8 miles) drive up the Ohakune Mountain Road is the 1h20min walk to this cascading waterfall on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu. Walk through stunning mountain beech forest, across alpine wetlands with wonderful views of the volcano, and to the tallest waterfall in the Tongariro National Park. Return the same way. Bonus tip: Drive a little further up the Ohakune Mountain Road and you’ll also reach a lookout for Mangawhero Falls, which is 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.
2. Cycle the Old Coach Road
Walk or ride in the footsteps of the early pioneers on the Old Coach Road cycle trail. The 15km (9-mile) one-way journey takes riders/walkers between Horopito and The Junction end of Ohakune township. The grade 2 trail is suitable for most abilities usually taking about 2h20min to complete by bike, and 4h30min to complete on foot. Go on a journey through the magnificent forest and discover railway relics along the way, including viaducts and tunnels. For more epic bike trails in the area, see the 7 Must-Do Cycle Trails in Ohakune.
Location: Matapuna Road, Horopito, approximately 15km (9 miles) from Ohakune town centre. Shuttles can be organised with the TCB bike shop – more info on Viator and Tripadvisor. The Old Coach Road ends at The Junction end of Ohakune.
3. Check Out the Giant Carrot!
You can’t visit Ohakune without getting a photo of one of the most bizarre attractions in town! Welcoming visitors into the town since 1984, the 7.5m (24ft) Ohakune Carrot commemorates Ohakune’s position of growing two-thirds of the North Island’s carrots! What’s more, the carrot is backed by the Ohakune Carrot Adventure Park with more large vegetables and a playground for kids. For more family fun, check out the 10 Things to Do in Ohakune with Kids.
Location: 4a Rangataua Road, on the east side of the town of State Highway 49. Walk either along the footpaths past the gas station or take the Jubilee Walkway (see below).
4. Go Skiing on Mt Ruapehu
Above all, Ohakune prides itself as a ski town that comes truly alive in winter. The town is located at the base of Mt Ruapehu, which is home to two of New Zealand’s most popular ski fields typically open from July to September/October. Turoa is the closest ski field to Ohakune, boasting New Zealand’s longest vertical drop at 722m (2,369ft), while on the other side of the mountain, Whakapapa is the largest ski field in New Zealand. Find out more in the Ski Season in New Zealand: North Island or South Island? Plus, check out similar experiences in the 9 Luxury Activities in Ohakune.
Location: Turoa – Ohakune Mountain Road, approximately 19km (12 miles) from Ohakune town centre. Whakapapa – Bruce Road, approximately 57km (35 miles) from Ohakune town centre.
5. Tramp the Multi-Day Round the Mountain Track
For an adventurous hiking journey around Mt Ruapehu, take the Round the Mountain Track! This 4-6 day loop track takes you through a range of magnificent landscapes on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu from forest to wetlands to volcanic plateau and more. This is a great alternative to the generally busier Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk. The walk can begin and end at the Ohakune Mountain Road.
Location: 20 minutes drive from Ohakune. Follow the Ohakune Mountain Road for 11km (6.8 miles) to a small car park where the track is signposted.
6. Explore The Junction
Ohakune town is packed with great places to eat and drink, but probably the more “hipster” side of town is The Junction! With clubs and bars alive during winter, it’s the place to experience the “apres-ski” vibe. Grab a bite to eat from the Kings bar or a delicious pizza from La Pizzeria all year round.
Location: From Ohakune town centre, take either Miro Street all the way to the end or Goldfinch Street onto Mangawhero Terrace all the way to the end. The most scenic route to walk there is via the Mangawhero River Walk (30 minutes one way) starting opposite Burns Street on Ohakune Town.
7. Walk the Jubilee Walkway
Next on our list of Ohakune activities is the Jubilee Walkway. An easy walk accessible from the town centre of Ohakune, the Jubilee Walk (20 minutes one way) winds through bush and alongside the Mangateitei Stream. There are several access points to the walk that goes between Burns Street and the Ohakune Carrot.
Location: Start from either the Ohakune Carrot or Burns Street.
8. Delve into the Ruapehu Forest on the Mangawhero Forest Track
One of the most picturesque walks that’s easy to access from Ohakune is the Mangawhero Forest Walk. At the bottom of the Ohakune Mountain Road, the one-hour loop walk takes you through a majestic stand of mature native forest alongside the Mangawhero River. There’s also a short nature walk connected to the trail with information panels on some of the trees you’ll find in the forest.
Location: Start from the bottom of the Ohakune Mountain Road opposite the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre.
9. Hit the Indoor Climbing Wall
Wondering what to do in Ohakune on a rainy day? When the weather isn’t playing ball, the indoor climbing wall is a saviour! With different climbing challenges perfect for children and adults alike, it’s a fun way to kill an hour or so in Ohakune. Plus, the clip and climb system means that you can climb walls safely and independently. See more activities like this in the 11 Things to Do in Ohakune on a Rainy Day.
Location: Vertigo Adventure Centre, on the corner of Goldfinch Street & Ayr Street.
10. Canoe on the Whanganui Journey Great Walk
A New Zealand Great Walk which technically isn’t a walk, the Whanganui Journey is an unforgettable three-to-five-day canoe trip down New Zealand’s longest navigatable river. Paddle along this breathtakingly beautiful and historical river with waterfalls, caves, Jurrasic-like jungle and enjoy side trips to the famous Bridge to Nowhere and more. Companies like Canoe Safaris, Adrift Tongariro and Whanganui River Canoes can organise the logistics from Ohakune. Learn more in The Guide to the Whanganui Journey.
Location: Canoe Safaris – 6 Tay Street, Ohakune town centre. Adrift Tongariro – Offers pick-ups from Ohakune. Whanganui River Canoes – 10 Parapara Road, Raetihi, approximately 11km (7 miles) from Ohakune town centre.
11. Blast Down the Whanganui River on a Jet Boat
If you don’t have the time (or the energy) to do a multi-day canoe trip, an alternative way to experience the Whanganui River is on a jet boat tour. Join Bridge to Nowhere Lodge & Tours or Whanganui River Adventures for a day trip to the famous Bridge to Nowhere abandoned in the untamed forest of the national park. Your guides will tell you about the river’s intriguing Maori and European history, as well as take you to visit towering river waterfalls. Of course, you’ll also get to experience the incredibly precise manoeuvres of New Zealand’s jet boats with 360 spins! Discover more ways to experience this national park in the 10 Best Things to Do in the Whanganui National Park.
Location: Pipiriki, approximately 38km (24 miles) from Ohakune town centre.
11. Tackle the Tongariro Crossing
Still looking for what to do in Ohakune? What about tackling one of New Zealand icons? Ohakune is close to several of the North Island’s biggest natural attractions, including the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Traverse over volcanic mountains to see waterfalls, forest, volcanic plateaus, steaming vents, colourful lakes and much more on a 19.2km (12-mile) hike that many would agree is a must-do on the North Island. Tackle the hike independently following the advice in our Guide to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing or enjoy a fully guided hike with Adrift Tongariro. Find out more about Adrift Tongariro on Viator and Tripadvisor. We also list this activity in the 7 Romantic Activities in Ohakune for Couples.
Location: Mangatepopo Road car park, approximately 54km (34 miles) from Ohakune. Shuttle services are available in Ohakune.
12. Enjoy Free Camping at the Ruatiti Domain
Escape to the countryside and enjoy the great outdoors of the Ruatiti Domain! This free campsite along the Manganuioteao River with a warmer climate than Ohakune features some great swimming spots, beaches by the river, and trout fishing (make sure you have a license). Camping facilities include a BBQ area, toilets and picnic tables.
Location: 35 minutes drive from Ohakune. From State Highway 4, take the Ruatiti Road. The campsite is down a short gravel road just after the road bridge going over the river.
13. Take on the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail
The top of the Ohakune Mountain Road on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu is the official start of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail. Travel on this epic cycle journey on a 3-6 day, 217km (135-mile) challenge from Mt Ruapehu to the end of the Whanganui River. Highlights of the trail include volcanic landscapes of the Tongariro National Park, remarkable forest in the Whanganui National Park and the Bridge to Nowhere. Mountain bike hire and shuttle operators in town will be able to help you plan your adventure. For all those reasons and more, this makes the Sea Cycle trail of the most popular Ohakune activities.
Location: Start from the base of Turoa Ski Field, 25 minutes drive from Ohakune on the Ohakune Mountain Road.
14. Visit the Nearby National Army Museum
If you find yourself caught on a rainy day in Ohakune, a good option could be the National Army Museum, just a short drive from the town in Waiouru. From the early Maori battles to New Zealand’s contribution to the world wars and much more, the museum tells the stories of New Zealand’s military history with realistic displays and tanks… lots and lots of tanks! You’ll also find displays on military weapons, a kids’ area, a cafe and more at this well-presented indoor attraction.
Location: Hassett Drive, State Highway 1, Waiouru, approximately 28km (17 miles) from Ohakune town centre.
15. Eat an Oversized Chocolate Eclair
Locals will tell you that a trip to Ohakune is not complete until you’ve tried one of its famous chocolate eclairs. 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, which makes and sells fist-sized chocolate eclairs and other irresistible cream cakes. Note that Johnny Nation’s is only open for the winter season between May and November.
Location: 36 Clyde Street, Ohakune town centre.
16. Visit the Tangiwai Memorial
Wrapping up our list of the best things to do in Ohakune is the Tangiwai Memorial. Learn about a piece of New Zealand history on the interpretation panels that tell the story of New Zealand’s worst railway accident in history. 151 passengers were killed from a collapsing bridge caused by a lahar from the erupting Mt Ruapehu.
Location: 10 minutes drive from Ohakune. 18km (11 miles) along State Highway 49 heading east.
More Must-Dos and Things to Do Near Ohakune
- The Best Day Trips from Ohakune
- The Travel Guide to Ohakune for Families
- The Travel Guide to Ohakune on a Budget
- The Honeymoon Guide to Ohakune
- 10 Tongariro National Park Must-Dos
That’s it for the best things to do in Ohakune. Find more activities for your travels in the 51 Best Things to Do on the North Island.