Perhaps one of the best places to base yourself for exploring the Tongariro National Park is right on it's doorstep in the aptly named National Park Village.
With only 500 residents it is a small town but boasts numerous accommodation (over 1,500 tourists beds in fact), restaurants, bars and activities. It is also conveniently located on the mail railway line between Wellington and Auckland, making for easy access.
National Park is in fact the highest urban township in New Zealand sitting at 825 meters above sea level. It sits dramatically facing the huge volcanic mountains of Tongariro, Ruapehu and the iconic Nguaruhoe (easily recognisable as Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings films).
Like nearby Raetihi, National Park grew in importance in the early 20th century on the back of the vast timber industry. The completion of the Main Trunk Railway Line in 1908 created a vast opportunity to log and mill the large trees in the native forests and 30 sawmills were established in the National Park area alone. By the 1930s the National Park Rail Station has the largest throughput of timber in New Zealand. Only Tongariro Timber survives an operating mill in National Park today.
In winter National Park is perfectly positioned between Ohakune and the Turoa skifield some 50 minutes drive south and the Whakapapa skifield just minutes East. In summer it is a short 45 kilometer hop to Lake Taupo and also the gateway to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing - considered one of the top 10 one day walks in the World. Many accommodation providers offer transport to and from the walk as well as the nearby 42nd Traverse Mountain Bike Ride.