How to Visit Ohakune on a Budget
You don’t have to be hitting the ski slopes or taking jet boat tours to enjoy an awesome time in Ohakune. In fact, some of Mt Ruapehu’s lush and varied landscapes can simply be enjoyed on walks or bike trails, which no one is going to charge you to use! What’s more, the town is steeped in railway history, with a free museum and memorial to enlighten yourself. You’ll find some of the country’s best chocolate eclairs sold at a local dairy (convenience store), while you’ll also get to stay in the relaxing vibe of the town’s hostels, motels and lodges.
Plan your affordable getaway, including things to do, places to stay and places to eat, with this complete travel guide to Ohakune on a budget.
Budget Tips for Ohakune
- Unlike elsewhere in New Zealand, Ohakune’s high season is in winter (June to September), where accommodations are at their most expensive. Visit outside of the winter season for cheaper rates
- There are two parts of the town, the town centre and The Junction, which are 30 minutes walk apart. Be sure you are booking accommodation where it’s convenient for you
- Book into self-catering accommodation to save money on meals. There is a New World supermarket in the town centre
- Fill up your itinerary with the free and cheap things to do in Ohakune
- Check out the cheap accommodation in our budget accommodation list.
For more general budgeting advice, check out the 11 Ways to Save Money When Backpacking in New Zealand.
Free Activities in Ohakune
Those in Ohakune looking for free adventures will find stunning forest and waterfall walks on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu, as well as railway-related museums and memorials.
Let’s start with one of the most picturesque walks that is easy to access from Ohakune. 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. Other walks in the town include 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.
If you have your own vehicle, drive up the Ohakune Mountain Road to find more stunning walks and free attractions. The Waitonga Falls Track is 11km (7 miles) up the Mountain Road, taking you through mountain forest and across alpine wetland featuring stunning views of the Mt Ruapehu’s peak and the 39m (128ft) Waitonga Falls. Drive further up the mountain and you’ll also reach a lookout for Mangawhero Falls, which featured in The Lord of the Rings movies.
To add a little history and education to your visit to Ohakune, visit the Ohakune Rail Museum, open Thursday to Sunday. The Main Trunk Railway, which opened in 1908, is an important part of the town’s history which was once the only access to this remote area. See 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. Speaking of the latter, you can also visit the Tangiwai Rail Disaster Memorial along State Highway 49 with more information about the disaster.
For more information and free activity ideas, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Ohakune.
Cheap Activities in Ohakune
More attractions can be found in and around Ohakune which will not leave you too much out of pocket, including the Ohakune Old Coach Road. One of the must-dos of the area is the Ohakune Old Coach Road, which was used to carry passengers and cargo between two railheads 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 and delve into the wilderness taking this piece of history back to nature. 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.
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 and today’s conflicts, the museum tells the story of New Zealand’s military history with realistic displays and tanks… lots of tanks!
Another cheap rainy day activity to get stuck into is the Vertigo Adventure Centre. This indoor attraction features a wide range of kids’ climbing walls to challenging rock climbing walls 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. See more experiences like this in the 10 Things to Do in Ohakune with Kids.
For more suggestions, again, head to the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Ohakune.
Cheap Eats in Ohakune
Ohakune might be a small town but it has an excellent array of eateries and even some cheap eats thrown into the mix. A highlight is Johnny Nation’s Chocolate Eclair Shop (36 Clyde Street) for its fist-sized chocolate eclairs and other irresistible cream cakes. The eclair shop is open during the winter season between May and November.
For classic Kiwi fish and chips in one of the furthest places in New Zealand from the sea, head to Captain Kune’s (57 Clyde Street). They also do burgers, toasted sandwiches, fried chicken and other cheap quick bites to warm your soul. For more like this, also try Mountain Kebabs (29 Clyde Street) for a Kiwi spin on Turkish cuisine.
Finally, pick up some Chinese food from Golden Time Takeaway (61 Clyde Street) for classic Chinese takeaway dishes ranging from the sweet and sour to moreish dumplings.