Situated within the UNESCO dual world heritage Tongariro National Park, the Sky Waka travels 1.8kms through one of the North Island’s most rugged and spectacular landscapes on Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu.
The Sky Waka is one of New Zealand’s most unique gondola experiences. On a return trip (one ride up, one ride down), journey through the clouds, over waterfalls, and ancient lava flows, up to 2020m above sea level. The Mt Ruapehu scenery is majestic, with views to neighbouring volcanoes, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro.
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.
Short walks, varying from just 15 minutes to up to four hours, from both the base of the Sky Waka gondola and from the Knoll Ridge Chalet, also give guests the opportunity to explore the unique volcanic terrain, on foot.
The Knoll Ridge Chalet, the highest dining experience in New Zealand, is an architecturally awarded, two-story eatery, which in summer caters both an extensive buffet dining experience, and a café style offering. The large, laminated pine structure, perched on the edge of the mountain, sits amongst a breath-taking setting, with views out to the Pinnacles, Ngā Tohu, range.
Just three hours from Hamilton, four from Wellington and five hours from Auckland, getting far away, exploring unique volcanic terrain, and dining at New Zealand’s highest restaurant, is closer than you think.
Savour your meal alongside breath-taking views through floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Pinnacles and the valley below. The buffet lunch comprises a variety of dishes, locally sourced where possible, from antipasti to main-style, slow roasted and poached, meat and seafood, to a dessert station, and decadent cheese board.
The buffet is available everyday through the summer season between 11am and 2pm. Booking is recommended, and operations are weather dependent (in terms of Sky Waka operation to ascent to the Knoll Ridge Chalet).
Soak in the views with fantastic barista coffee and a tasty grab & go snack or light lunch from Pātaka Café.
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 summer days only)
Mt Ruapehu Summer Pricing and Hours
The summer season at Mt Ruapehu will operate from 3 December 2021 – 1 May 2022.
The Sky Waka gondola will run daily, 10am – 4pm. Adults can travel on a return trip on the Sky Waka gondola for $39, and youth (aged 5 – 17 years) for $19. Seniors (over 65 years) and students are discounted at $25 for the return trip.
The Pinnacles restaurant and buffet lunch will operate daily, 11am – 2pm. Adults can dine at the buffet for $25, and youth (aged 5-17 years) for $19. Bookings are recommended.
A coffee corner will be open from 10am – 3pm each day, and an expanded café experience over peak periods from 10am – 3:30pm.
Note: both the Sky Waka gondola and therefore Knoll Ridge Chalet dining experiences will open weather dependent. It is recommended that guests check the Mt Ruapehu / Whakapapa report page to check whether both experiences are running.
Covid-19 Vaccine Certificate Requirement
RAL will introduce vaccine requirements at all its facilities, both on and off mountain, from 3 December 2021, for the duration of its summer period through to 1 May 2022. This decision aligns with the government’s move to the Covid-19 protection framework, and the introduction of the My Vaccine Pass. All guests of Mt Ruapehu, aged 12 years and over, will be required to use the My Vaccine Pass to enter our hospitality and retail offerings on mountain, and including our Taupō retail store, and to access the Sky Waka gondola. This decision has been made to help minimise the risk of Covid-19 spreading in our community, and to keep everyone, including our staff, safe. Putting this requirement in place also means that we can maintain our levels of service to the best of our ability, at any traffic light level. An announcement regarding our winter offering will be made in due course.