Where is Whakapapa Ski Field?

Whakapapa is located on the north-western slope of Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand. The 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 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.

Distances to Whakapapa ski field:
  • Taupo – 103km (1:30 hour drive)
  • Ohakune – 56km (45 minute drive)
  • Turoa Ski Field – 74km (1:20 hour drive)
  • National Park Village – 21km (20 minute drive)
  • Whakapapa Village – 6km (7-10 minute drive)

Driving to Whakapapa

If self-driving, you can get to the Whakapapa ski field easily as both routes are fully sealed and easy to navigate and drive. There is ample free parking, and free shuttles will take you from the lower car parks to the base of the ski area.

From Auckland, travel on the State Highway 1 to Hamilton, then State Highway 3 to 8 Mile Junction just past Te Kuiti, then follow the signs to National Park on State Highway 4, and onwards to Whakapapa.

On route you can stop at the Kiwi House in Otorohanga or the Waitomo caves.

From Wellington, follow State Highway 1 traveling to Waiouru then State Highway 49 and State Highway 4 to National Park village and onwards to Whakapapa.

Driving in New Zealand is a relatively low-stress affair. Just be careful to slow down in the villages and townships. There are a few speed cameras along the way, and you needn’t smile for them to decide they want to take a snap of you.

On rare occasions you will need to fit chains as you approach Whakapapa Village. You should always carry chains in the car when going up the mountain, especially in a 2WD. They can be purchased or hired in Ohakune and National Park Village.

Bus from Auckland or Wellington to Whakapapa and National Park Village

Taking a bus is another transport option from Auckland or Wellington.

Intercity Coachlines/Coach New Zealand offer at least one bus schedule per day from Auckland International Airport, Auckland city or Wellington to National Park. The buses leave Auckland or Wellington in the morning and the return trip arrives back in the evening.

Kiwiana Tours offer a weekend bus service from Auckland to National Park and Ohakune. It departs Auckland on Fridays at 3pm and it returns late on Sunday night. The fares are more expensive than the other two bus companies.

Train from Auckland or Wellington to National Park

Alternatively there’s a scenic train service from Auckland and Wellington that is supposed to run on Friday, Saturday and Sunday during winter (although some days it doesn’t) and stop at National Park Village and Ohakune. Fares for the train trip are significantly more expensive than catching a bus.

Transport from Whakapapa Village to Whakapapa Ski Field

Mountain Shuttle (0800 11 76 86) run buses from the Whakapapa Holiday Park in Whakapapa Village up to the Whakapapa Ski Field. They run every hour from 8:30am. On days when chains are required the service runs every half hour from 8:30am to 11:30am and then hourly.

Roam Snow Shuttle (+64 7 892 3897) provides a scheduled shuttle service as well as on-demand transport between Whakapapa Village and the ski field.

Transport from National Park to Whakapapa Ski Field

Howard’s Lodge (+64 7 8922827) has a shuttle service from National Park Village to the ski resort on weekends and during school holidays. It departs at 8am and has a return time of 4pm.

Driving from Whakapapa to Turoa

As you may have gathered from the descriptions so far, unfortunately you can NOT ski or board from Whakapapa to Turoa or vice-versa. The reasons are manifold. They range from practical, environmental and heritage to financial, business and engineering concerns. In other words, the resorts are NOT linked, and this won’t change in the foreseeable future!

However, lift passes are valid in both resorts. So you can drive to either resort. Just make sure you check the weather and snow conditions before you head out.

It takes about 80 minutes to get from Whakapapa to Turoa, and 80 minutes to get back – depending on the traffic and road conditions. Be careful when driving at night. It’s a long, fast and winding road, with trucks and other cars vying for space – not to mention the wildlife.

Looking for Supplies?

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