Driving the Desert Road is an experience like no other. The landscape transitions from lush, green Lake Taupo to sand dunes, wind eroded rocks and alien looking moss. If you’re in a 4×4 the central north island volcanoes become your playground… within reason. The deserts are used as military training zones so you have to watch where you go. On my last trip to New Zealand, my family and I decided to take the desert road from Taupo to Waiouru. We explored as many side roads as possible and stopped to take in the impressive views. I hadn’t seen scenery like it which is to be expected as this was my first cold desert. These are my pictures from New Zealand’s Desert Road, also known as State Highway 1.
PICTURES FROM NEW ZEALAND’S DESERT ROAD
The biggest detour we took from the Desert Road was the Tukino Skifield access road which climbs the eastern face of Mount Ruapehu. When driving south the access road is a right hand turn, 30km after the little town of Rangipo. I’d say calling this a road is a slight stretch. As you can see from the pictures it isn’t sealed which is one of the reasons you really need a 4×4 to explore here. The higher we got, the worse the roads condition became. There were huge volcanic boulders blocking sections which really made you consider how powerful the eruptions must be to throw something of that size into the air. Ruapehu hasn’t erupted since 2007.
Midway up the Tukino Skifield access road and view of the desert
View of Mount Ngauruhoe
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a very popular trek in New Zealand which passes between the peaks of Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe. It is incredibly beautiful, moving through landscapes unique to New Zealand. This is the usual way people see the central north island volcanoes and is a completely different experience to seeing them from the Desert Road. If you have time, I would suggest doing both! We really enjoyed the drive and the detour up to the Tukino Skifields made the journey.
Just off the desert road