National Park is a small town on the central plateau of the North Island of New Zealand. Also known as National Park Village it is the highest urban township in New Zealand at 825 metres. As the name suggests, it borders the World Heritage Tongariro National Park, New Zealand's first national park created in 1887. To the West is the Whanganui National Park. The village has great views of Mount Tongariro, Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy) and Mount Ruapehu.
The town is sited next to the North Island Main Trunk railway line and close to the junction of State Highways 4 and 47, halfway between Raetihi and Taumarunui and 45 kilometres southwest of the southern shore of Lake Taupo. It is 20 minutes drive to the country's biggest skifields, Whakapapa and 50 minutes drive to Turoa on the slopes of the active volcano, Mount Ruapehu.
Tourism is its main industry with 1500 visitor beds in commercial accommodation and private chalets.
In the summer the village is a popular base for Tongariro and Whanganui National Park for hiking, biking and kayaking. National Park Village. Transport leaves daily (weather permitting) for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, known as the best one day alpine trek in New Zealand.
Tranz Scenic's The Overlander stops at National Park for a 45 minute lunch break. On "Steam Engine Saturdays" this is reduced to approximately 30 minutes. There is a licensed cafe on the platform.
To the northwest of the town the railway performs the convoluted dance that is the Raurimu Spiral, one of New Zealand's most impressive feats of engineering.
Originally the town was known as Waimarino (calm waters). In 1926 the New Zealand Railways renamed the railway station as National Park. This was to avoid confusion with other Waimarino entities and also the name had come into common usage from its location relative to the Tongariro National Park.
The opening of the Main Trunk Line in 1908 created a vast opportunity to log and mill the large trees in the native forests with 30 saw mills and associated bush tramways established in the National Park area alone. With the arrival of caterpillar tractors in the 1930s the extraction process was accelerated with National Park station having one of the greatest throughputs of timber in New Zealand. Today Tongariro Timber is the last surviving mill operating at National Park.
In the 1960s National Park became the railhead for all the heavy equipment and machinery for the Tongariro Power Scheme Development with local pumice roads substantially upgraded to take the heavy traffic.
National Park School was established in 1925. Its fortunes have fluctuated with the cycles of activity in the area. Today it is thriving with a more stable population and the establishment of its Ski Elite programme whereby pupils take can up residence in the village for the winter combining studies with skiing and snowboarding development programmes.
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