Raetihi is the other big town of the Ruapehu Area with just over 1,000 people permanently residing, about the same as Ohakune which is 11 kilometers to the West.
In 1887 the New Zealand Government purchased a massive block of land from the native Maori called the Waimarino stretching from Mount Ruapehu to the Wanganui River. The area subsequently became very important for the milling of the native hardwood forests. Founded in 1893, Raetihi was an integral centre point for timber workers travelling between the main centres of Wanganui and Waiouru. Raetihi was somewhat of a refuge providing hospitality, accommodation, blacksmiths and saddlery's after the particularly treacherous "River Road" from Wanganui and through Pipiriki. Although now a quiet easy road you can get a sense of awe riding this road as it passes from native bush to views of the Ruapehu and Tongariro volcanic mountains.
Despite it's rich history (Raetihi has the oldest theater in the Southern Hemisphere for example) Raetihi, like much of rural New Zealand, suffered from decades of depression through the 1970's through to the 1990's. Today however it is a dramatically improving story as Raetihi now has a great range of accommodation and cafe options to cater for an increasing number of tourists which visit each year. The launch of the Mountain to Sea Great Trail is an exciting prospect for this truly historic rural town in the North Island heartland.