Tongariro National Park is the oldest and most famous park in New Zealand. It also claims to be the fourth oldes national park in the world. Both a cultural and wildlife reserve, it is home to a large number of species of birds as well as other animals both indigenous and alien to the north island. Thanks to its central location almost exactly halfway between Auckland and Wellington, it is also one of the most popular nature destinations in New Zealand.
The area around Tongariro was inhabited by the Maori long before the Europeans showed up, and the park is home to a number of sites of cultural and arcaheological interest. Local tribes preemptively set aside reserve land before European settlers could purchase it. In 1887 these became crown lands and subsequently a national park, the first in the Pacific. It has remained New Zealand’s chief ecological treasure ever since.
Tongariro is incredibly diverse considering its small size, with snow covered mountains descending to thickly grown subtropical forest. The park is known first and foremost for its population of birds. The only two native mammals of New Zealand, both species of bats, can be found here, as well as newcomers including Red Deer, Rabbit and Possum.
Tongariro National Park covers a relativel small area of just under 800 square km at almost the exact center of New Zealand’s north island. Located 200 miles north of Wellington and 200 miles south of Auckland, it is easily accessible by road. It is open year round. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/national-parks/tongariro (official website).