Travel to Whakapapa Ski Area 

Travel to Whakapapa Ski Area 

Wagner Custom Skis

Where is Whakapapa Ski Area?

Whakapapa is located on the north-western slope of Mount Ruapehu on the north island of New Zealand. The Whakapapa ski area lies within the Tongariro National Park, a dual World Heritage Area. The National Park is known for its three volcanoes: Ruapehu; Tongariro; and Ngauruhoe. They are all different, with Ngauruhoe (aka “Mount Doom”) hauntingly beautiful.

Whakapapa Ski Area lies about half way between Auckland and Wellington, the North Island’s two international airports. It’s an easy 4-5 hour drive from either place.

Road distances to Whakapapa ski field:
  • Whakapapa Village – 7km (7-10 minute drive)
  • National Park Village – 22km (20 minute drive)
  • Ohakune – 56km (45 minute drive)
  • Turoa Ski Field – 75km (1 hour drive)  
  • Taupo & Taupo Airport – 104km (1:20 hour drive)
  • Wellington – 342km
  • Auckland – 346km

Driving to Whakapapa

Self-driving gives you the most flexibility to get to Whakapapa, your accommodation, and surrounding areas such as Turoa Ski Field. The drive is generally really easy because the road is fully sealed and rather wide.

On some occasions you will need to fit chains as you approach Whakapapa Village, particularly if you have a 2WD vehicle. Chains can be purchased or hired in Ohakune and National Park Village.

Car Parking

The car parking at Whakapapa is free and there are shuttles to take you from the lower car parks up to the base of the Whakapapa ski area. There is inadequate parking, in part due to the influx of snow players and sightseers that are now visiting Whakapapa. It can become a bit of a schmozzle on weekends and holidays, because unless you get there early, you won’t be driving up the mountain and will have to catch a shuttle from Whakapapa Village or National park (if you can). There’s no regularly updated online status regarding whether the car parks are full, which can add to the frustration levels.

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Shuttles to Whakapapa Ski Area from Whakapapa Village and National Park

There are bus services from National Park Village (from the Park & Ride on Findlay Street) and Whakapapa Village (bus terminal) to Whakapapa Ski Area. The shuttles run reasonably regularly but the volume of buses is grossly inadequate for really busy days when the car park is full, and snowy days when chains are required.

Some of the nearby accommodation providers can also organise on-demand shuttles up the ski resorts, which attract a higher fee.

There are also daily shuttles to Whakapapa from Taupo and Turangi.

Other Transport to National Park

There are buses to National Park from Auckland and Wellington. Alternatively there’s a train service from Auckland and Wellington to National Park. The Northern Explorer is a train service that runs a few days a week. Fares for the train trip are significantly more expensive than catching a bus because it’s targeted as being a scenic train trip rather than just transport.

Getting from Whakapapa to Turoa

Lift passes are valid for both of the Ruapehu Alpine Lifts resorts. Unfortunately, despite the two Ruapehu ski resorts being very close together as the crow flies, you can’t ski between them and this won’t change in the foreseeable future. There are also no shuttles from Whakapapa (or Whakapapa Village or National Park) to Turoa, so you’ll have to self-drive.

Looking for Supplies?

The closest town to Whakapapa ski area is Ohakune, some 50 kilometres away. It’s a vibrant hub and offers a string of shops, including a supermarket where you can stock up your fridge and pantry.