The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 5 (September 1, 1929)
The New Week-End Opportunity — Tongariro National Park and the Chateau
Just half way between Wellington and Auckland, Tongariro National Park gives the populations of these cities splendid facilities for open-air recreation. Formerly the preserve of the robust tramper and mountaineer, National Park is now easily available to everybody, because the new Chateau Tongariro, within twenty minutes by motor service from National Park Station, provides the most complete comfort in the wilds.
Two o'clock of a dull winter afternoon at Thorndon Station; midnight sitting before a log fire in “The Lodge” at National Park. Outside, a moonlit landscape, with “Christmas-tree” effects, for there was a lovely covering of clean crisp snow. This week-end rapid transportation was made possible by taking the Auckland express to National Park, and a short motor run to that fine heritage of the nation which is at last to be made fully available to all classes of New Zealanders. That it can be reached, either from Auckland or Wellington, so quickly and easily by rail, constitutes its greatest advantage. When the facilities at the Park are ready to cope with large numbers of people it is easy to forecast a remarkable week-end business. Train services will no doubt be re-cast to meet the demand, and thousands of busy people will be glad to take this chance of a holiday in the winter-time, when holiday opportunities are hard to find.
National Park has long attracted the more vigorous class of holiday-maker, prepared to “rough it,” and regarding that experience as part of the fun. For years they have enjoyed a monopoly of the many attractions of this wonderful area, with its remarkably varied sights. But there had to be a good deal of preliminary work. Arrangements had to be made to transport equipment to the huts, and then the visitors were thrown on their own resources. National Park was not exactly the place for a restful holiday. Many who knew it in those good old tramping days are regretting the transformation which will make it a conventional tourist centre, but that seems to be a selfish attitude. By the changes which have come about through the enterprise of the Tongariro Park Tourist Company, the pleasures of holidaying in this area are to be extended to every class in the community, whether they prefer to travel with chocolates and cushions, or just a ruck-sack.
A Georgian Mansion in the Wilds.
There has been a wonderful transformation at the old Whakapapa hut site. The groups of huts and the central Lodge now fall into the background, for the dominating feature to-day is a magnificent building resembling a Georgian mansion. The site has been well picked, for it commands views of the wide plains with forest on the horizon, Ngauruhoe standing out clear from base to summit, and Ruapehu with its permanent snow-caps in the background. Chateau Tongariro, which is almost ready for guests, is an immense stride from the humble wooden huts, but it stands as a monument to the faith of the National Park Board and the lessees, in the possibilities of the Park when New Zealanders realise that they can live luxuriously in the wilds. There is nothing suggestive of the hotel type about the new Chateau. It stands just clear of the beautiful beech forest, and is so well designed that when the grounds are cleared of the present jumble of building material, Chateau Tongariro will fit nicely into the whole picture.page 15
When it is formally opened, readers will learn from the newspapers a large number of facts about its structure—how many bricks and tons of cement it represents. Here may be given a few rapid impressions which come of a tour through the nearly completed building. First, the setting up of the main floor above the general level of the ground enables glorious views to be enjoyed without distractions of foreground detail. Whether this was a brilliant inspiration of the architect, Mr. H. Hall, of Timaru, or planned for the convenience of placing a boiler-house, a cafeteria, and many other useful appendages to a large establishment away from the main floor does not matter—the idea is a happy one. It has led to another notable feature, an inclined carriage-way to the main entrance, which is provided with an extensive colonnaded portico. When future guests reach the Chateau entrance they will discover, without leaving their cars, that the portico frames one of the most remarkable views to be obtained from any hotel entrance in the world, for it is set exactly in line with a vista of an active volcano. Framed by the pillars of the portico is a perfect view of Ngauruhoe, from base to smoking crater.
The public rooms are all planned on extremely spacious lines, and will enable the Chateau to cater easily for considerably more guests than will find accommodation in its ninety bedrooms. The main lounge, its plate-glass windows providing glorious views of the mountains and plains, has a floor area of 3,000 sq. feet, the centre finished in beautiful parquetry and “sprung” for dancing. Leading from the lounge is an equally spacious dining room, again providing wonderful views. Decorative effects are chaste, and not overdone. The walls of the lounge and dining-room are finished in old ivory, delicately gilded. There is a strong but effective note of colour contrast in the jade green patterned carpet of the dining room.
There are three storeys above the main floor, each having as the central feature a large writing lounge. The bedrooms have been planned to give a wide variety of accommodation, and the affluent tourist who desires a high degree of luxury will find his wishes have been anticipated. However, the Chateau has not by any means been built exclusively for rich patrons, but so cleverly has the plan been designed that there is not a “back bedroom” in the building. All rooms have a pleasant aspect, and all corridors are lighted from outside. There is electric light, of course, and one excellent lighting idea, which could only occur to people thoroughly experienced in hotel practice, is that ground lights, about a foot from the floor, illuminate the passages, so that the staff may carry out duties late or early without bright lights shining to the bedrooms through the fanlights. As there are 43 bathrooms, there should be no dressing-gown queues at the Chateau.
Every bedroom has a lavatory basin with hot and cold water, and the whole building is heated by a system of low-pressure steam radiators—at least one in every room. Again, an intimate knowledge of hotel conditions is displayed in the building of partitions solidly in hollow tiles, and floors of concrete, making for completely soundproof rooms.
The “Civic Square” of Mountain Huts.
One could fill a few pages with interesting details of the building, but something must be left for descriptive accounts when the opening ceremony arrives. To turn to out-of-doors, the first feature of interest in the front of the Chateau will be the 18-hole golf course, and putting green, all of which will be visible from the building. At the back will be a kind of “civic square,” where will be grouped prettily among the trees all the huts which have served mountaineers in the past, and a number of additional buildings accommodating at present the staff of over a hundred workmen which Messrs. Fletcher Bros. collected to make a quick job of the big contract.
In the mid-winter months, there is usually plenty of snow around the Chateau, but the best ski-ing ground is at Scoria Flat, an easy walk of an hour through a delightful beech forest.
In the summer, the attractions of the Park are widened, for with the long days, Ngauruhoe can be climbed and comfortably inspected—if it is not too active—in a day trip, while Ruapehu, approached over the snow slopes, will always be a particularly fascinating day's outing, with the crater lake at the southern end as the objective. Many shorter trips of real interest could be described, but this article is intended only as an introduction to a wonderful holiday centre, which for the first time in its history is being made comfortably accessible to everybody.
On The Roof Of The North Island.
(Photo, Frank Duncan, Auckland.)
On the summit of Mt. Ruapehu (9,175 ft.), Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand. Mt. Ruapehu with its giant companions, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe, are ever enthralling spectacles to travellers on the North Island Main Trunk Line.