Three months ago my partner and I had an idyllic winter getaway to the slopes planned, complete with red wine, roaring fires and lots of snow.
We were all set to travel... until on the very week were planning to leave, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield called a spontaneous late-night press conference, Auckland was plunged into a second lockdown, and that was that.
This would of course normally be a disaster, with hundreds of dollars lost and headache-inducing phone calls.
But luckily the Booking.com team approved our cancelled booking in about six minutes flat, with no extra charge - very impressive stuff.
Two months later, our getaway to Ohakune - typically thought of as a winter wonderland - was tentatively booked again for October, aka spring.
This time we seized the day and booked ourselves two nights in Ohakune's crowning gem, the Powderhorn Chateau, reasoning we would be spending a lot of time in the hotel and little time outdoors.
On our drive down, we questioned whether there would be much to do in the ski-and-snow famous areas of Ohakune, Tongariro and Taupo during the warmer months.
There was, as it turned out. Rather a lot.
Here are some of the best ways to spend the spring and summer months in Ohakune:
Hit the peaks
Believe it or not, in spring the multiple ski fields on Mount Ruapehu are still open. We accidentally travelled there in the school holidays - usually busy at best and a hell hole at worst.
But because we were there later in the season, the fields were actually much quieter than during the July-holiday counterparts. Considering it was my second time ever skiing, this was an absolute blessing and means spring-skiing is going to be my chosen hobby going forth.
Both Whakapapa and Turoa ski fields planned to be open for an extended spring season, but sadly had to close earlier due to lack of snow - thank global warming for that one.
Luckily you can still enjoy the mountains in the warmer months, thanks to Mount Ruapehu's incredible $25 million Sky Waka which opened last year. Gliding in the gondola above ancient lava flows, waterfalls and rocky volcanic formations, you'll get to see the detailed landscape of Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngaruahoe.
Enjoy lunch at the top, and you won't miss skiing at all.
Walk it out
Tongariro National Park is predominantly known for the Tongariro Crossing, a gruelling 19.4km hike over steep inclines. We had already had our turn at the crossing last year, and while the views were all worth it, we were not that keen to have another go.
Luckily the park has several walks that are nowhere near as intense - in fact, I've found my new favourite in the two-hour-return Taranaki Falls loop. Boasting incredible views of Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom, for Lord of the Rings fans), this relatively easy hike takes you past the impressive Taranaki Falls which cascade over the edge of an impressive 15,000-year-old lava flow.
This walk is perfect for all levels - we even managed it nursing mild hangovers and deeply inappropriate shoes.
If you're looking for a bite or a beverage, the Powderhorn Chateau is your go-to option, even in the warmer months. The food is impressive, the service even more so.
In the slightly quieter season, you won't have to wait quite as long for a table, although it's worth it to sit up by the bar, sip a cocktail and people-watch to your heart's content. Read my full review of the Chateau here.
… and Soak
There are spas dotted around the multiple Ohakune hotels and motels available to book, but in the warmer months, I recommend that you take advantage of longer evenings and clearer skies by hitting Taupo's Wairakei terraces on your drive back to Auckland.
Perfect for breaking up the journey and giving your weary body a little R&R, the rejuvenating waters of Wairakei pouring over the silica terraces are rich in minerals and were highly valued by Māori for the healing powers and therapeutic benefits. They say there's so much mineral goodness in the pools you shouldn't shower afterwards for as long as possible - let it leach into your skin.
We arrived back to Auckland rejuvenated from our holiday and reminded that beaches aren't the only option when booking a spring and summer holiday.
Sarah and her partner travelled courtesy of Booking.com.