24 Hours in Turangi
It's been over 4 years since I first arrived on a bus from Wellington to the small fishing town of Turangi, and after every visit I find myself feeling like I've come home after a long holiday away. Some parts of the community feel frozen in time, never changing but much of Turangi has begun to modernize. New businesses have started to pop up, bringing in more variety and old school shops have refreshed and replaced their displays with a new look. As borders begin to open around the world to international travellers and with New Zealand following suit, I thought it would be a good time to write up an itinerary on what to do if you find yourself spending a night or two in the area.
Upon arriving in Turangi, you'll want to have booked your accommodation at no other than the adored Creel Lodge off of Taupahi Road. The lodge sits close to the center of town and has the Tongariro River track just behind the property. Founded back in 1929, its scenic features and timeless feel gives off such a warm and welcoming vibe and has 5th generation customers returning year after year. I asked one of the staff members working at the lodge what they believe to be the most appreciated aspect of staying at Creel. They replied, "The surroundings are stunning with the tall redwoods and birds singing throughout the day, making the guests feel as if they are in the heart of New Zealand even though we are located just down town."
Once you've checked in and unpacked, it's time to head over to Sporting Life to fill up the fly boxes, hire out gear, gain local knowledge from the staff and foam at the mouth over the rod selection. The crew are all very experienced fly fishers with every member of staff spending the majority of their time off strolling along the water with a fly rod in hand. They can assist you with whatever you need for the pursuit of the heavy-set beautiful brown and rainbow trout that the Tongariro river is world famous for.
Due to the rivers size and various pools, an angler can use just about any fly fishing technique they desire and could even have a crack at something new if it appealed to them. With the ever growing popularity of different styles of fishing, Sporting Life has expanded the shops range of gear to suit every angler.
If there's still some light left in the day, it's the perfect time to head to the end of Koura Street and take a stroll over the infamous Major Jones Bridge. The river track runs on either side of the water and takes you along the Tongariro, through beautiful native bush frequently dropping into various pools. You can spend an afternoon and much of the evening exploring the trails, and planning for the following day's fishing expedition.
Once dinner time arrives, there is no better place in Turangi for an amazing meal than Hare and Copper. Located only a few minutes out of town off Grace road, the restaurant has a main theme revolving around the art of fly fishing and a menu that could entice any person's appetite. Hare and Copper is run by Andrew Wood and his wonderful wife Liliana, bringing a spectacular selection of food that wouldn't be out of place on a high street in a major city. Fine dining and Turangi is not a combination that most would expect to be met with, however the atmosphere is super relaxed and it is not uncommon to find fisherman in socks and shorts eating alongside well-dressed customers. As Andrew and Liliana say - they are not trying for fine dining, rather honest food done well in a relaxed environment fit for anyone to come and enjoy. Andrew is a highly respected and accomplished chef, who's love for cooking started back in the kitchen with his mum when he was young. His passion and dedication to good food is easily recognized when one is served a beautiful array of dishes available at Hare and Copper. With a wonderfully
set up restaurant that has both inside and outside dining it is the perfect place to unwind and relax after a day on the river - no matter what the weather or season is.
After a good night's rest, before hitting the water you'll be needing to start your morning with one of the finest cups of coffee Turangi has to offer. The Delta Coffee cart is located just off of State Highway 1 near the infamous bridge pool. With a generous selection of coffee drinks, plus many delicious sweet and savory options, one can have a world class sausage roll paired with a flat white in the carpark and snag a few sandwiches along with a caramel cookie slice for their riverside lunch. The cart has been owned and run by a couple of Turangi gems, James Winstanley and his partner Amanda Colling for the last 8 years. The business has continued to gain popularity year after year, and it’s been said that nearly half the town are regulars there. I met James and Amanda on my first adventure back in 2017 and I can say with truth that the pair delivers grade-A customer service to anyone who stops by the coffee cart and are as lovely as they come.
Finally, after a long of fishing on the river and hopefully catching some fresh chrome fish you’ll be headed back to Creel to check out. Before leaving though you’ll want to stop in just next door to the Creel Tackle House and Café and pay the head chef Zane Bennett a visit. At the establishment, the team has a license to cook customers trout for them and is highly recommended if you want it for tea that very evening. Zane's favorite way to prepare your trout is by baking it whole, seasoned with a bit of miso paste, brown sugar and lemon.