Tongariro National Park is at the heart of the Ruapehu District. It was gifted to New Zealand and is not only a special park for the people of New Zealand, it is also unique in the world. It was the first national park established in New Zealand and only the fourth in the world. It is recognised by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) as a World Heritage Site under two categories.
The park was given World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1990, as a natural site of outstanding universal value. It joined the Grand Canyon, Sagarmatha (Mt Everest) National Park, Kilimanjaro and 350 other world heritage sites. The Park is now one of a handful of sites from around the world with dual natural and cultural World Heritage status.
The Park is listed because of its unique, active volcanic attributes and also its special cultural significance.
The volcanoes of the Park and their glaciers, plants and animals represent a set of landforms and natural communities that have been recognised as outstanding heritage of international significance. The volcanoes are unique because of the frequency of eruptions, their highly explosive nature, and the high density of active vents.
Ruapehu and Tongariro/Ngauruhoe (technically the same volcano) are two of the world’s most continuously active composite volcanoes. The Park is considered a unique natural laboratory for scientific study and education on volcanoes. Another outstanding natural feature is the unusual interplay of volcanic and glacial processes on Ruapehu. Its Crater Lake is one of only two crater lakes in the world where magma and glacial meltwater interact to give rise to spectacular eruptions.
The Park is important to the local Māori people. It was because of the special cultural significance to Te Heu Heu Tukino’s people, Ngati Tuwharetoa, that they gifted the peaks to the Crown, so that ownership of the land would not be broken up.
Natural highs abound around the Ohakune area, with the most high-profile being skiing and snowboarding in the winter. The Tongariro National Park also has many hiking tracks. The most famous of these is the world-renown Tongariro Alpine Crossing situated in the north of the Park. There are many other, less-travelled tracks located on the Ohakune south side that you can also explore.