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The Chateau Tongariro, an iconic landmark

The Chateau Tongariro

We visited the Chateau Tongariro in 2023, after it's closure

The air outside was crisp and refreshing, teasing our senses with its icy chill. The feeling of anticipation, especially from our young daughter, was pure magic. We had hoped for fresh snow, and Mother Nature silently delivered overnight.

The year was 2013, and we were at the iconic Chateau Tongariro Hotel in National Park, Mt Ruapehu, to enjoy a day of sledding on the front lawn – a day our family treasured. As I write this, I can recall the emotions of seeing my daughter’s pure delight in playing in the snow. Snow brings back your childhood, whatever your age.

Sometimes, however, a place can become so entwined with your memories that it becomes the memory itself - The Chateau Tongariro was such a place

When you think of places, you have visited, the people, emotions and memories of the time spent there often make it special. Sometimes, however, a place can become so entwined with your memories that it becomes the memory itself – The Chateau Tongariro was such a place.

So here I stand a decade later, our daughter all grown up, in front of the Chateau Tongariro. Fresh snow had fallen as it did so many years ago and will continue for seasons yet to come. As you age, you understand that in winter, snow will fall whether you are present or not. Many future generations’ lives will be filled with winter wonders, as you have experienced.

The Chateau Tongariro during early snowfall 2023
The Chateau Tongariro during early snowfall 2023

The scene before me was magical. It was a winter fairytale. The fresh white snow changed the landscape. Normally you would walk past these grounds and not glance at them, but not today; today, it would stop you. 

Today, it was not the same. Something was different. It played on my mind as I wandered the hotel’s grounds. While photographing the hotel, I noticed its large traditional windows, dark and devoid of life. You felt you were staring into the hotel’s soul, but that soul was gone. It was lifeless. All the character that gave the hotel its charm was gone. All you saw was an elegant stone building stripped of its spirit.

I felt I was witnessing the passing of time and losing a friend.

As I stood there reflecting on my thoughts, I noticed a group of high school students on the lower lawn. It was a sight; with their laughter, excited chatter, and countless snowballs, it was clear they were having a great time. The Chateau was new to them; every memory was fresh and exhilarating. My reflections were invisible to them as they enjoyed the day.

Someday in the future, they may be here, looking back on today. Then again, perhaps not. We all have our own experiences and memories that form who we are. I hope they will be lucky enough to feel nostalgic about a place that meant as much to them.

Latest update on the Chateau Tongariro: There is talk floating around the media that the Hotel could be sold to developers. Hopefully, this is the case, as the boost to the local community would be fantastic. 

The history of the Chateau Tongariro

Tongariro National Park’s mountains and forests were given to New Zealand people in 1887 by Horonuku Te Heu Heu Tukino, the Paramount Chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa. They provided the foundation on which the Chateau Tongariro hotel was built. The hotel was officially opened on 16 Feb 1929. However, it did accept guests earlier in 1928.

The Chateau Tongariro Hotel has welcomed guests worldwide during the opulent and majestic “Roaring ’20s”. The hotel preserved the atmosphere of that glorious era, even to the day it closed.

Find out more about the Hotel.

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