Historic Waihohonu Hut
Image: Sarah Wilcox | Creative Commons

Introduction

You can visit Tongariro National Park's Waihohonu Hut. The hut was built in 1904 to accommodate park visitors and tourists travelling by coach from Waiouru or Tokaanu.

Highlights

Its use ended in 1968, when it was replaced by a new Waihohonu hut. After 1979 the then Tongariro National Park Board discouraged its overnight use.

It has been maintained as an unused historic hut since then. 

Fabric

A timber framed hut, measuring approximately 7.2m x 4m, clad in corrugated iron. There are two rooms, the main or men’s bunkroom and the women’s bunkroom each sleeping six people.

The walls are lined on the interior with corrugated iron. The floor is tongue and groove boarding. This is very a rare and possibly unique feature. The cavity between the external and internal layers is filled with pumice.

The timber for the hut is totara, apparently pit sawn at Pihanga, though some radiata has been used for repairs, primarily in reconstruction of the chimney.

The hut occupies a most attractive site backed by beech trees with a grassed clearing in front.

History

This hut was completed in 1904 by the Tourist and Health Resorts Department for park visitors and tourists travelling by coach from Waiouru or Tokaanu. Intensive tourist use dropped off in 1908 with the opening of the Main Trunk railway on the other side of the park. It was nevertheless used by early skiing parties and was the base for the first alpine skiing epxediition in July 1913 by William Mead and Bernard Drake - the founding members of the Ruapehu Ski club.

Its use ended in 1968, when it was replaced by a new Waihohonu hut. After 1979 the then Tongariro National Park Board discouraged its overnight use. It has been maintained as an unused historic hut since then. Historic themes are mountain recreation, and tourism.

Fabric significance

This is the oldest example of a typical early two-room mountain hut in New Zealand. It employs the innovative, and possibly unique use of pumice infill for insulation. It is also an attractive vernacular building on a splendid site.

Historic significance

This was the first hut built in Tongariro National Park, oldest exisiting mountain hut in New Zealand and oldest existing building erected by the Tourist and Health Resorts Department. It was the base for the first recreational skiing in New Zealand.

It was in active use for over 60 years and remains standing on its original site. The hut was registered as a category one historic place by the Historic Places Trust in 1993.

Future management

The hut will be maintained to protect its historic fabric and minimise deterioration. A conservation plan (Cochran 1991) has been prepared to guide its management. It contains more information about the hut. As it is sited on a tramping route, the hut could be recommissioned and rented out to parties to generate revenue. In 2004, with funds donated by the Tongariro Natural History Society, new interpretive displays were installed both inside and outside the hut to mark the centennial of its construction.

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