Famous for its snow-capped mountains and lively ski scene, the Ruapehu region also boasts an impressive list of outdoor activities that make it the perfect getaway over the summer months and beyond.
Wairarapa blogger Larissa Carlson recently visited the area and says not only is the region a great place to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life, it's also filled with breathtaking scenery that will stop you in your tracks.
Nestled in the heart of the North Island, the Ruapehu region is home to a number of towns and villages, such as Ohakune, Raetihi, National Park Village, Whakapapa Village and Taumarunui. Add in the mountains of the Tongariro National Park and the Whanganui River, and the region is an ideal destination for lovers of the outdoors and adventurous families like her own, says Carlson, who writes The Leo Style blog and has more than 16,000 followers on Instagram.
"Ruapehu has some unreal adventures for families," says Carlson.
The mother-of-two, who was joined on the trip by her husband Isaac and their two children, Ryder-Leo, 10, and August-Grace, 6, says the region brought "a few first milestones" for her whānau, including horse trekking and cuddling baby alpacas.
"What's really special is how these whānau-centred activities help mums and dads also connect with their inner child themselves. At least that's the case for us anyway. We felt like huge kids. It was so much fun!"
Carlson, who has also visited the region in winter, says "each season has its own sense of beauty", and that although you can find snow lasting well into spring, the warmer weather allows for a myriad of outdoor activities.
One of the highlights of the trip for her family, she says, was seeing the area on horseback.
"I have no words, I cried. It was absolutely breathtaking. I was emotional watching the kids be up-close and personal with such majestic creatures, conquer their anxieties and watch them in all their own little feels enjoying literally every second of it. It will be one of those moments in life that will be hard to top. The views are sensational during the ride."
As well as connecting with horses, the family also had a "mindful walk with the cutest of buddies" through NZ's largest alpaca farm.
"It is an unusually cup-filling experience. Maybe on the same kind of vibe as yoga with goats," says Carlson.
"The kids haven't stopped begging us for a baby alpaca, so parents beware. It's a unique experience, in my opinion you have to try it, and you have to put it on your Instagram. Period."
The region isn't just for animal lovers though. There are also activities such as quad biking - which Carlson describes as an "excellent wet-weather experience"- for anyone looking for a bit more excitement.
"You're guaranteed to get dirty. It was a fully guided track-and-trail adventure that sees you cruise bush trails and traverse a spectacular natural forest environment, of course with a few stops for some storytelling by our guide, who was super entertaining. The quad biking circuit was full of challenging turns, long straights, train crossings and wide bends. We are really outdoorsy, so we felt right at home!"
With many scenes from Lord of the Rings shot in the Ruapehu region, fans of Middle-earth are also in for a treat.
"As a huge Lord of the Rings fan, I was itching to get to Gollum's Pool, also known as Tawhai Falls," Carlson says. "The falls tumble over the edge of an ancient lava flow and it's an incredible sight to see, don't miss it."
Life as a blogger means Carlson has visited many parts of the country, but she says there was something special about Ruapehu.
"It's a close escape from the Wairarapa (our home), but when you get there, you feel worlds away," she says, adding that the family also included their own personal touch to the trip in the form of a hīkoi.
"We always fit in a hīkoi on our travels. It's important for our whānau to make a conscious effort to do a trek, especially before we jump back in the Jeep and journey home. It's the way we stretch our legs and a good way to really get to know a region."
Carlson says the unique activities on offer meant the trip provided the perfect mix of quality family time with Instagrammable image-making opportunities.
"It's a great place to disconnect and reconnect as a whānau. Don't forget your camera!"
This article was created for Visit Ruapehu.