Heading to the snow this winter? These free kid-friendly adventures will tucker out the hardiest of adventurers after a day on the slopes. Or, if the weather has packed up, these walks will avoid cabin fever setting in while waiting for the skies to clear. Everything from rock chasms to bubbling mud pools – cue the farting jokes – to keep the troops entertained while holidaying on the Central Plateau.
Tokaanu Thermal Walk | Tokaanu Village
This magical walk has spluttering mud and crystal clear thermal waters. Nothing like some deep volcanic activity to entertain the kids!
It’s set among regenerating native bush and has wide paths suitable for buggies and wheelchairs. The hot action can get quite close to the pathways and boardwalks so keep an eye on little ones.
Local Māori tribe Ngāti Kurauia have used the Tokaanu Stream and nearby area since the 16th century for communal cooking, dyeing of traditional clothing and therapeutic bathing. The thermal area was a popular rest stop for coaches travelling from Whanganui to Taupō.
Don’t forget your towel and togs because the soothing waters of Tokaanu Thermal Pools are perfect to unwind in after a day of adventures.
Accessibility: Great for buggies and wheelchairs
Time: Allow 20 minutes for an easy stroll of the loop
Location: Entry is to the left of the Tokaanu Thermal Pools entrance on Mangaroa Street.
Important: No dogs.
Mangawhero Forest Walk | Ōhākune Mountain Road
This kid-friendly adventure meanders beside the Mangawhero River at the start of the access road to Tūroa skifield.
It is a great loop with loads of interesting features to the keep the kids entertained; a picturesque forest stream, small rock cave and dense native forest. There are some pretty river views along the way and numerous spots for older kids to clamber over the rocks and explore any critters living in the river. At its highest point the walk crosses the Ōhākune Mountain Road before heading down to the start through towering giant rimu, mātai and kahikatea.
Accessibility: Not suitable for buggies unless you were super keen and want an energetic workout
Time: Allow one hour (3km) for the forest loop.
Location: There is plenty of parking at the start of the trail which is opposite the DOC Ōhākune Base at the start of Ōhākune Mountain Road.
Important: No dogs in Tongariro National Park
Pillars of Hercules | Kaimanawa Road off SH1
Take a peek over the side of a bridge and see how the Tongariro River has eroded dramatic deep chasms into an ancient lava flow.
More than 350,000 years ago the flow cooled and formed a solid base which the river has slowly eroded to create some crazy looking holes and twisting chasms. The Pillars can best be seen from a road bridge two kilometres along Kaimanawa Road which heads to the campsite. If you have time, you can drive further to the Urchin Camping Area for a couple more kid-friendly options including a 40 metre long suspension bridge over the Tree Trunk Gorge (although the views are better beside the bridge.) This is a great small side-trip if you are passing along the Desert Road.
Accessibility: Parking is available beside the bridge
Location: Kaimanawa Road off SH1 15 kilometres south of Tūrangi.
Important: The occasional car does pass over the bridge so take care with little kids.