The drive from Ohakune to Whakapapa only takes about 30 to 40 minutes and skirts around the western side of National Park. It mostly passes through farmland, with some areas of native forest that run down from the side of Ruapehu to the road. Along the way, you will see a road sign for Horopito, which is only about 1 km down a side road. This hamlet is the end of the Old Coach Road, a historic link to Ohakune and now part of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail. But more interesting for junk lovers is the adjacent Smash Palace car scrapyard. There are thousands of rusting cars sitting in several fields and they look as though they date back to at least the 1950s.
Smash Palace was also the name of a feature film made in the early 1980s which was set around the scrapyard and surrounding area. The movie, along with several others around the same era, put NZ filmmakers on the map, so to speak.
Unlike the Desert Road, you don’t get a great view of the volcanoes during the drive until you get closer to Whakapapa, with intervening hills and forest blocking the view.