Tongariro Crossing Accommodation and Transport: A Practical Guide
Tongariro Crossing Accommodation and Transport: A Practical Guide

Tongariro Crossing Accommodation & Transport đź—» [2023] Guide

© Visit Ruapehu

How to Plan Transport and Accommodation for the Tongariro Crossing

New Zealand‘s iconic volcano hike is on the must-do list of any adventurous traveller exploring the country. Although the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a free day hike, there are a few logistics (and costs) to figure out before embarking on the 19.4km (12-mile) journey. First, the track is a one-way track, starting in a different location to where it finishes. This means that you will either need to organise transport from one end of the track to the other or organise transport from your accommodation. Secondly, because the track takes an average of eight hours to complete, you’ll need to find accommodation close to the Tongariro Crossing for before and after your hike. To help you work out all the finer details, we’ve put together this practical guide to the Tongariro Crossing accommodation and transport!

There are other things to take into consideration when planning a hike on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, from what to pack to the best time to hike the trail. Find out more about the track information, facilities and packing list over in our Guide to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

The Best Time to Hike the Tongariro Crossing

The Tongariro Crossing takes hikers into an alpine environment. For that reason, most transport operators are only open during the “summer” hiking season (i.e. when there is no or little snow on the track). Nevertheless, a winter experience can be extremely rewarding but should only be attempted with a guide.

  • December to February – This is the summer season in New Zealand and a time when you’re almost guaranteed no snow. It’s a generally safe time to do a freedom hike (without a guide) of the Tongariro Crossing. Nevertheless, be sure to still check weather reports and with your chosen transport service closer to your chosen walking date to see if the weather conditions are safe.
  • March to May & September to November – Snow conditions on the Tongariro Crossing change year-on-year during the spring and autumn season. Transport services will operate in autumn (March to May) until snow covers the mountains. They will reopen during spring, which could be anywhere between September to November, only when the snow is reduced to a safe level for freedom hiking.
  • June to August – This is the winter season in New Zealand. The Tongariro Crossing will be in snowy winter conditions and should only be attempted with the appropriate knowledge and gear. For that reason, it’s best to do the Tongariro Crossing in winter with a guide.

Tourism NZ Paul Abbitt© Tourism NZ Paul Abbitt

Where to Park Your Car for the Tongariro Crossing (Tongariro Crossing Park and Ride)

The cheapest transport option for the Tongariro Crossing is to park your car at one end of the track and take a one-way shuttle either to or from the other end of the track.

There are two ends of the Tongariro Crossing track: the “Mangatepopo Car Park” and “Ketetahi Car Park”. However, there is a 4-hour parking restriction on using the Mangatepopo Car Park between Labour Day in October (last week of October) and April 30. Therefore, the Mangatepopo Car Park is not a viable parking option for those wishing to hike the entire Tongariro Crossing.

On the other end, the free Ketetahi Car Park fills up quickly and is not secure, while the shuttles that offer one-way transport from the free Ketetahi car park usually charge more than the total cost of the park-and-ride car parks. Needless to say, we recommend using alternative car parks. Here are your options…

Tongariro Crossing Accommodation & Transport đź—» [2023] Guide© Tongariro Transport Hub

Tongariro Transport Hub at Ketetahi

Location: Just off State Highway 46 (Lake Rotoaira Road), opposite Ketetahi Road.

The closest all-day secure car park for the Tongariro Crossing, the Tongariro Transport Hub (or as many know it, the Ketetahi Car Park, as it’s so close to the official one) is located at the end of the trail so you can walk straight back to your car. There’s no need to be at the end of the trail at a certain time to catch your return shuttle! Once you’re parked up at the Tongariro Transport Hub, the team will organise one of their shuttles to transport you to the start of the Tongariro Crossing. Easy! Book your parking spot and shuttle at tongarirocrossing.com.

The Alpine Centre Park and Ride

Location: 1 Ward Street, National Park Village.

The Alpine Centre (also known as Ski Biz and Snowzone) in National Park Village offers return shuttle transport to the Tongariro Crossing from their car park. Bookings must be made at least one hour before departure time to use the car park. Shuttle departures are 5.45am, 7.15am, 8.30am and 9.45am and returns are at 1:30pm, 3.00pm, 4:15pm and 5:30pm.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

Where to Stay: The Best Towns and Accommodations for the Tongariro Crossing

There are six main towns and villages either in or on the edge of the Tongariro National Park. All the towns listed below have accommodation providers that work closely with Tongariro Crossing transport services, so shuttles can pick you up from your accommodation. Plus, your accommodation provider can give you updated weather reports indicating whether it is safe to tackle the crossing or not.

Turangi

39 minutes (43km/27 miles) from the Mangatepapa Car Park
20 minutes (25km/15.5 miles) from the Ketetahi Car Park

The closest “larger” town with all the essential shops and services to the Tongariro Crossing is Turangi. Turangi is a great base to stay if you want to do some white water rafting, mountain biking, fishing and some other short hikes in the area, as well as stock up on supplies before moving on with your travels.

We list the best cheap accommodation for the Tongariro Crossing in the 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Turangi. Otherwise, there is plenty of alternative accommodations to compare on Booking.com.

National Park Village

21 minutes (19km/12 miles) from the Mangatepopo Car Park
25 minutes (33km/20.5 miles) from the Ketetahi Car Park

Right on the edge of the Tongariro National Park, the small village of National Park is an ideal stay for primarily doing the Tongariro Crossing, accessing the Mt Ruapehu ski fields in winter, as well as other walks in the national park. National Park Village has a convenience store, a couple of cafes, a couple of bars/restaurants and a gas station.

For a list of affordable accommodations, check out the 7 Best Hostels in National Park Village & Whakapapa. Otherwise, find alternative accommodations listed on Booking.com.

Tongariro Crossing Accommodation and Transport: A Practical Guide© Manowhenua Lodge

Manowhenua Lodge: Tongariro Crossing Accommodation and Shuttle in National Park

Make organising your Tongariro Crossing accommodation and shuttle easy by staying at Manowhenua Lodge. In the heart of National Park Village, this newly renovated budget accommodation boasts large communal areas and a wide variety of room layouts for singles, couples, groups and “Whanau Hui”. Enjoy a game of pool or table tennis, exchange stories around the fireplace or crank up the barbecue on the attractive outdoor deck. What’s more, you can easily combine your stay with the Tongariro Crossing thanks to your local hosts also running National Park Shuttles. Check out their generous shuttle and accommodation packages over at manowhenualodge.co.nz.

Whakapapa Village

20 minutes (16km/10 miles) from the Mangatepopo Car Park
24 minutes (30km/19 miles) from the Ketetahi Car Park

At the base of Mt Ruapehu (the largest volcano in New Zealand), Whakapapa Village is the closest settlement to the Tongariro Crossing. You can start the Tongariro Circuit (Great Walk) right from the village itself, which connects to the Crossing or use one of the many shuttle services. The village has an information centre, public toilets, a small convenience store at the holiday park, one cafe and a couple of restaurants.

We list our favourite cheap accommodations in the 7 Best Backpacker Hostels in National Park Village & Whakapapa. Alternatively, compare a variety of accommodations in Whakapapa on Booking.com.

Tongariro Crossing Accommodation & Transport đź—» [2023] Guide© Cross X Roads

Cross X Roads: Overnight Camping and Shuttle Only 6 Mins Away from the Ketetahi Car Park

Stay as close as it gets to the Tongariro Crossing at the safe overnight campsite provided by Cross X Roads. Located only 6 minutes away from the Ketetahi car park (the end of the Tongariro Crossing), the local operator not only offers a place to stay but shuttle transport from the secure car park of the Tongariro Transport Hub. As local “hapĹ«”, the team are happy to share stories, their culture and history. You can also grab one of their awesome “Conquered the Crossing” tees at the end of the hike for just NZ$25. Book your camping spot and/or shuttle over on the Cross X Roads Facebook page.

Ohakune

45 minutes (54km/33.5 miles) from the Mangatepopo Car Park
49 minutes (68km/42 miles) from the Ketetahi Car Park

South of the Tongariro Crossing and Mt Ruapehu, Ohakune is another fantastic option to base yourself for the Crossing. In winter, the town is the closest to the Turoa Ski Field, while in summer it’s popular for bike trails and the Whanganui Journey Great Walk. The town is well-serviced with a wealth of eateries, bars, accommodations, gas stations and a supermarket.

Take a look at the 20 BEST Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Ohakune for the best places to stay across a variety of accommodation types. Again, any accommodation here will be able to help organise a shuttle to the Tongariro Crossing.

Taupo

1h20mins (92km/57 miles) from the Mangatepopo Car Park
1 hour (74km/46 miles) from the Ketetahi Car Park

The main tourist centre of the region, Taupo is a popular base for the Tongariro Crossing especially if you have other Taupo activities on your bucket list. It’s also the furthest of the “Tongariro Crossing” towns from the Crossing so be prepared for an early morning shuttle or drive to the start of the track.

Any one of the accommodations we list in the 20 BEST Hotels & Places to Stay in Taupo makes a great base for hiking the crossing, while also being able to organise shuttles if you haven’t organised your own. Take a look!

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

Door-to-Door Transport for the Tongariro Crossing: Round Trips for Your Accommodation to the Tongariro Crossing

There are a number of shuttle services that can pick you up at your accommodation doorstep (or close) and transport you to the Mangatepopo end of the hike, pick you up at the Ketetahi Car Park at the end of the walk, and then transport you back to your accommodation. Below is a list of which shuttle companies offer transport in each town with proximity to the Tongariro Crossing.

Turangi: Tongariro Crossing Shuttles

National Park Village: Tongariro Crossing Shuttles

Tongariro Crossing Accommodation & Transport đź—» [2023] Guide© National Park Shuttles

National Park Shuttles: Ride with the Locals to the Tongariro Crossing

Ride with National Park Shuttles and hear about the magical tales of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing straight from the people of the homeland. Providing shuttles from National Park Village and the Tongariro Transport Hub car park, National Park Shuttles will keep you entertained the whole way. They’ll also make sure you’re safe from drop-off until the end of your trip, so you never get the feeling that you’re just another number on the bus. Book your trip to the Tongariro Crossing at nationalparkshuttles.com.

Whakapapa Village: Tongariro Crossing Shuttles

Ohakune: Tongariro Crossing Shuttles

Taupo: Tongariro Crossing Shuttles

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

Winter Transport and Guides for the Tongariro Crossing

To hike the Tongariro Crossing in winter, winter hiking gear like crampons and ice axes are essential, as is a knowledge of winter alpine environments. For this reason, it is recommended that you do a guided hike of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in winter. A guide will supply you with the gear you need, as well as the transport to and from your accommodation. Winter guiding is available with:

More About the Tongariro Crossing Accommodation and Transport

That’s it for our guide to the Tongariro Crossing accommodation and transport. Now you know where to stay for the Tongariro Crossing and how to get there, check out these other guides to help you make the most of your time in the Tongariro National Park:

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Guide to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

Author

Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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