Desert Road

Desert Road

The Desert Road is one of the top scenic drives in New Zealand, although you may suffer traffic shock if you’re coming to it after the Taihape-Napier Road on the Napier-Taupō Loop. It is generally safe to stop on the side of the road for photos of the Tongariro National Park volcanoes.

As you approach Waiouru, the view of Ruapehu is across green farmland. But once past the town, it quickly turns to the Rangipo Desert with scrublands, tussock and even sand further north.

If the large electric pylons annoy you (they do me) then note that the view gets clearer further north as the pylons move away from the road and much closer to the mountains. As you get to the end of the desert section, the road swings around to face Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom in LOTR), with the lower flatter Mt Tongariro to the right.

Further north, on the east side of the road, is the Kaimanawa Mountains. They start with a desert look before they leave the rain shadow of Ruapehu.

These shots were mid-spring, but the best time for the scenic drive is probably a fine day in winter after a snow storm!

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