New Zealand’s most unique gondola experience. Situated within the UNESCO dual world heritage Tongariro National Park, Sky Waka travels 1.8kms through one of the North Island’s most rugged and spectacular landscapes on Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu.
The waka, celebrated by name in song and story by Māori poets and orators, we know it to be more than a voyaging canoe, more than a carrier of people – the waka carries whanau (family). All Māori, after all, have lineal ties with the chiefs of the great waka.
As the highest and longest gondola upon Te Ika a Maui (North Island), this is more than a machine. It is a vessel to bring people together, to elevate them, together, upon this great maunga (mountain). It is a thread, weaving earth and sky.
We celebrate the waka and its symbolism of interconnectedness between the past, the present and future. For this is surely a symbol of the future, ascending this ancient maunga.
Established in 1887, Tongariro is New Zealand's oldest national park and a dual World Heritage area. Situated in the middle of the North Island, the park is centred upon three volcanoes: Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. The dual World Heritage status recognises its Māori cultural significance as well as its outstanding volcanic features.
The expansive 80,000-hectare park has a diverse range of ecosystems and some of New Zealand’s most dramatic landscapes, showcasing waterfalls, emerald lakes, old lava flows, and colourful silica terraces. From volcanic peaks to lush native bush and rivers, it’s truly a natural wonder.
Inside the Knoll Ridge Chalet at the top of Sky Waka, you will find our pou - Paretetaitonga. Pou is a way to remember things of significance: events, people, ancestors. Here’s one of the carvers, Hayz, with his korero about the origin stories of these mountains and this pou.
Your exploration of New Zealand isn’t complete until you’ve experienced our ride through the sky on the most advanced gondola in Aotearoa, with floor to ceiling, 360 degrees views. Journey over waterfalls and ancient lava flows and take in the majestic scenery of Mt Ruapehu and it's neighbouring volcanoes, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro.
Savour your meal alongside breath-taking views through floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Pinnacles and the valley below. Enjoy a buffet lunch at the highest restaurant in New Zealand at 2,020m above sea level. Reserve a table in advance and pay on arrival.
Soak in the views with fantastic barista coffee in the newly refurbished Pātaka café. Fuel up for your adventures with a quick and tasty grab & go snack or light lunch. (Open throughout winter and peak summer days.)
A selection of tasty dishes for the perfect quick meal, food truck style. Find the Four Peaks Alley downstairs, an area newly opened to the public. (Peak winter days only)
Experience the volcano in summer for alpine adventures on a variety of Short Walks. Typically available from December - June. Come back in winter and the mountain is transformed with snow. Ski and ride Whakapapa, New Zealand’s largest ski area where the Sky Waka is just one of ten ski lifts to access the expansive terrain.
What to bring
It's important to make sure you are prepared for the alpine environment here at Mt Ruapehu. The first thing to remember is that every trip needs a plan, even a short day walk. Use this simple and easy tool to plan your trip and find a recommended equipment list.
Check our on mountain report for daily weather, summer walks and Sky Waka status.
The Sky Waka is now operating for our summer season, all summer long from 12th December - 2nd May (closed Christmas Day).
Explore The Tongariro National Park on some spectacular short walks or enjoy a delicious buffet Lunch at The Pinnacles Restaurant with enviable views.
The weather can be very changeable on mountain throughout the summer, so bring suitable clothing and footwear and check the on mountain report before traveling!
Planned winter season dates are:
4th June 2021 - 25th October 2021 for Whakapapa
5th June 2021 - 3rd October 2021 for Happy Valley
2nd July 2021 - 23rd October 2021 for Turoa
Check out what we have on offer for winter here.