Chateau Tongariro and Mount Ruapehu

Which trips include a visit to the Chateau Tongariro Hotel?

Timeless North – 6 days, Auckland to Auckland.

Pristine New Zealand – 13 days, Auckland to Queenstown.

The history of the Chateau Tongariro, like New Zealand more broadly, is short but tumultuous. The fascinating Georgian style building is pleasing to look at, finished in soft pastel colours, and deliberately (if not perfectly) symmetrical. The Chateau was designed by kiwi architect Herbert Hall, and was modelled on the Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada.

When you see photographs of the striking building you feel beckoned to go and explore – perhaps it is the hotel’s position below the imposing hills of Tongariro National Park, or the buzz-cut lawns of the golf course out front? Or is it the juxtaposition of the building and the landscape? It’s difficult to say for sure, but the Chateau has an undeniable invitation about it; add to that its fascinating history, and the Chateau Tongariro is probably the most desirable accommodation in New Zealand.

The national park of Tongariro is New Zealand’s oldest, it was established in October 1887, and covered, at the time, 26.4 square kilometres (10.2 square miles). Today the national park has an area of 786 square kilometres (303.5 square miles), and is managed by the Department of Conservation.

The land on which the Chateau Tongariro is built was gifted to the people of New Zealand by the local iwi (Maori tribe). The gift consisted of the peaks of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, three mountains considered sacred to the Maori population; it was made to ensure the area would be forever conserved and protected. Whether or not the building of a hotel on the gifted land equates to conserving and protecting is a debate for another day, but what it means for the Chateau today is that it is within a UNESCO World Heritage site, and that’s a heck of a selling point!

The proposal for a hotel on the site was made by the National Park Board, a government group, to encourage tourism in the area, and the project was taken up by Rodolph Wigley after 4 years of very little interest from contractors. Wigley, who was the managing director of the Mount Cook Tourist Company, found Fletcher Construction Company, and once the contract of work was signed, the foundation stone was laid on the 10th of January 1929. Amazingly, the building was completed by the 1st of August the same year, at a cost of £78,000 (USD$105,200).

The dealings of Rodolph Wigley, in the process of obtaining and guaranteeing the funds required to build the hotel, are still hotly debated. However, it is widely accepted that Wigley reneged on a promise to pass on the majority of the government loan of £60,000 to Fletcher Construction for services rendered, and instead passed on only £10,000. The difficult timing of the Depression meant that tourism could not be relied upon to repay the debt, and so in February 1931 the Tongariro Park Tourist Company was placed in receivership – and the hotel spent the next 60 years or so changing hands.

Chateau Tongariro was taken over by the National Park Board, and shortly afterwards was commandeered by the government to serve as a disaster relief zone and shelter following an earthquake in Wellington. Following that the hotel served as a place for returning military personnel to rest and recuperate after service in World War II.

Due to disappointing tourism numbers, and concern for the growing number of tourism assets obtained by the New Zealand government, the Tourist Hotel Corporation was formed in 1957. The purpose of the Corporation was to manage the government’s growing portfolio of hotels, and encourage growth in the tourism industry. By this point the New Zealand government was in control of at least nine large hotels.

The foresight to introduce a scheme offering substantial assistance from the government, to new hotel developers, led to large hotel chains opening in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, and Dunedin by 1963. Coupled with the rapid growth in international jet air travel, New Zealand tourism was now in a far better position, and the government could begin to step away from its involvement in accommodation – in 1990 the Chateau Tongariro Hotel was sold to Malaysian company Oriental Holdings, and control passed to KAH New Zealand – their local subsidiary, with whom it remains today.

During the hotel’s most recent ownership it has been extensively refurbished to a beautiful, luxurious standard, and has had a new forty-room, five-storey wing added. The stunning location and the striking neo-Georgian design are undeniable draw cards for tourists to New Zealand’s most sought after bed-nights, however, we think you’ll agree that it’s the story of a place that really brings it to life – and that has never been more true than in the case of the Chateau Tongariro Hotel.

Mia Gordon
22:28 22 Jul 18
I went on an 8 day tour with these guys and I thought I had already seen the best of New Zealand. I was wrong! Stunning, absolutely stunning scenery and the nicest guides. Their hospitality and professionalism was unparalleled and we got to see parts of New Zealand I had not seen. I am a Kiwi who was an avid hiker and adventure seeker growing up and in my twenties. I am in my forties now and I got to experience the best of NZ with my daughter which was awesome! Highly recommend New Zealand Walking Tours for anyone who loves being immersed in the most breathtakingly beautiful places on the planet with the nicest people guiding more
jeanne costello
22:31 15 Feb 18
Our New Zealand Walking Tour was absolutely fantastic and our best tour ever. Our guides were extremely knowledgeable and fun and took complete care of us, including making some wonderful picnic lunches and an amazing Christmas dinner. The places we visited were highlights on the South Island and we were able to hike, do a couple of boat tours, visit other interesting sites, and stay in some great places. This tour was the perfect combination of activities and I can't recommend it highly enough. A once in a lifetime adventure!read more
Roxanne Theriault
05:27 02 Nov 17
Amazing company, everything is top notch and they take care of you from start to finish! Always friendly, helpful, personable and professional - what kiwi hospitality is so famous for! You won't regret going on a walking tour with these folks and you'll definitely be planning your next trip, once you're back home! Highly recommend!read more
Miriam Houliston
05:19 02 Nov 17
Paul McDonald
21:13 30 Oct 17
I wanted to find a guiding company based in in New Zealand, with local guides. When I found out that New Zealand Walking Tours is part of the Active Adventures family, I was super confident to go ahead and arrange my trip. Exploring the Abel Tasman National Park by day and Awaroa Lodge by night was a massive highlight! I'll be back for more
Will Appelman
21:07 30 Oct 17
My wife and I are avid hikers, and New Zealand Walking Tours gave us the chance to explore a wide variety of New Zealand’s hiking trails – including amazing sections of the 9 Great Walks, and be rewarded with accommodations that are a step ahead of the competition, delicious locally sourced food and a tipple of New Zealand's finest local wine! But on our free day in Queenstown we met loads of local ‘Kiwis’ who hadn’t even heard of some of the trails we hiked along the way – it actually made us feel like the locals! In the same time it would have taken us to hike the Milford Track from start to finish (like we planned) we hiked an amazing section of the famous track, while also taking a boat cruise on Milford Sound and getting flown by helicopter from Milford Sound to the most incredible and isolated luxury lodge in the Hollyford. We then jet boated out across a lake before a beautiful walk back to civilisation on the Hollyford Track. Before our trip, Fiona worked out exactly the perfect trip to suit what we were looking for, and Lynette was an amazing help getting us ready to depart - making sure we packed everything we need, and not so much of what we didn't need. Highly recommended!read more
Joe Sutheran
20:52 30 Oct 17
I had a great time in New Zealand with my parents, travelling with New Zealand Walking Tours. I know my parents were so happy they found this company, the activity level was spot on for them, and accommodations, food etc was never less than outstanding. I didn't have much to do with the company pre-trip, but I know my parents were extremely impressed with the communications, and preparation advice from the team behind the scenes. What I can say is that when it came to the trip itself, the guides were just a joy to be around, extremely enthusiastic, interested in their guests, and very knowledgeable. Being a bit younger than much of the group, I was a little apprehensive that I might not enjoy it, but I don't know what I was worried about! Spending time getting to know the others on the trip, as well as the guides, was a delight - but what meant the most to me was spending time with my parents without the burden of the 'real world' on any of us, just enjoying the moment and each other's company. Thank you New Zealand Walking Tours for showing us the best of your stunningly beautiful country, and giving all three of us happy memories we'll never more
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Ruapehu Lounge Chateau Tongariro

The Ruapehu lounge at Chateau Tongariro (image courtesy of Chateau Tongariro)

Chateau Tongariro below Mt Ruapehu

Chateau Tongariro below Mt Ruapehu (image courtesy of Chateau Tongariro)

Drawing Room Chateau Tongariro

A cosy drawing room at Chateau Tongariro (image courtesy of Chateau Tongariro)

Afternoon Tea at Chateau Tongariro

Afternoon Tea looking out at Mt Ngauruhoe (image courtesy of Chateau Tongariro)

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