The Road

The historic Ohakune to Horopito Coach Road is a 10 km long road with about 8.5 kms  covered with cobblestones.

The road was ready for heavy traffic in December 1906. Along this road, drays and carts carried supplies and materials for railway construction and coaches ferried railway passengers between the steadily advancing railheads.

The first coaches ran between Raurimu and Waiouru. As the railway tracks were laid between the railheads the gap reduced, and by May 1908 the coaches were running between Ohakune and Makatote.

Once the railway tracks were connected and daily trains began running in November 1908, there was no need for the railway coach service along the Ohakune to Horopito  Road.

The road was left unmaintained and became overgrown.

Each year there is usually at least one guided walk along the coach road as part of the Tongariro National Park Summer Programme. These guided walks usually take place in January.
Check with Department of Conservation online for the dates of the next walk.If you would like to organise a guided walk along the coach road so you can hear about the history of the railway and the coach road, please contact us to make arrangements.

Some of the features along the Ohakune Coach Road are noted on The route of the Ohakune Coach Road is marked in yellow on the old places map version. On go to Login, then Extras, then Old Places.

Early Travel in New Zealand

Travelling throughout New Zealand in the early 1800's was either overland on foot or horseback, or by ship from port to port. Overland was difficult and time consuming and the sea service was dangerous and unreliable.

In the 1880's a bridle trail through the Ohakune area ran from the river port at Pipiriki via Raetihi to Ohakune, and from Ohakune the trail went north through the Horopito area to Taumarunui, and east from Ohakune to Waiouru and Taihape.

New Coach Road Map
The bridle trail route heading north From Ohakune

By 1882 the government had decided a railway link between Auckland and Wellington was necessary.

At that time the railheads were at Marton and Te Awamutu. Various rail routes were surveyed to find the best way to connect these railheads. The central route, surveyed by John Rochfort in 1883, was recommended by government in 1884.

The bridle trail was then upgraded to a four meter wide dray and cart road in readiness for the railway construction.

Ohakune Coach Road Map
1904 map showing proposed rail route crossing the bridle trail

Coaching the Gap

There was only the volcanic plateau to cross once the railheads reached Ohakune and Raurimu. This difficult section required five viaducts and three tunnels.

Construction work would take considerable time, and railways wanted to ferry passengers across the gap to trains waiting at each railhead. By doing this, Railways could collect passenger revenue to help pay for the railway construction before the line was completed.

A new road was built from the highest point on the upgraded bridle trail, west to the Taonui Viaduct and on to Horopito.

The Ohakune-Taonui-Horopito section of the road was covered with cobblestones to provide a firm surface and good grip for horses pulling coaches and construction works' carts up the steep grades.

The stones for the road were sourced locally.

Mail Coaches
Royal Mail coaches at the Ohakune railhead station.

The first railway passenger coaches ran between Raurimu, Raetihi and Waiouru on February 10th 1907. They did not use the Ohakune Coach Road. From Horopito, they used Middle Road, which has become the main highway to Raetihi.

On November 8th 1908 the railway line was finished and the first passenger train ran from Wellington and Auckland. Coaches carrying railway passengers were no longer needed.

The coach road had served its purpose.