Digging Into the Roots of New Zealand’s Largest Carrot
You can’t miss the Big Carrot of Ohakune. At 7.5 meters tall, the monument depicting the regal orange vegetable is one of the most recognizable icons of New Zealand’s North Island. Thousands have traveled to the area to be photographed or filmed at the base of the famous landmark. Yet few are aware of its roots in Ohakune’s history, and many wonder why the town is marked with this vegetable behemoth.
A Star Is Born: Commercial Origins
Originally built for a television spot advertising ANZ Bank, once filming was completed the producers generously donated the enormous fibreglass carrot to Ohakune. While the idea of identifying the town with a giant imitation root was a bit controversial in the beginning, local residents soon embraced the towering statue as their own, and it has since gained a sort of celebrity status.
Billed as the Biggest Vegetable in New Zealand, the orange monolith honors the town’s agricultural contributions. The area is famous for its market gardens and farms, thanks to its rich volcanic soil, and produces two thirds of the total carrot crop of the North Island. The earliest documented market gardens date back to 1925. Local agriculture was boosted by the railway that enabled farmers to transport their crops quickly, and nature provided a long growing season and a pest-destroying cold winter. Although known as the carrot capital of New Zealand, Ohakune also produces potatoes, parsnips, swedes, cabbages and cauliflower. Its reputation as the provider of quality produce is clearly well deserved.
Home at Last: A Permanent Residence in Rochfort Park
After much debate over the appropriate placement of the monument, the Ohakune Borough Council approved its installation. The Big Carrot found its home in Rochfort Park, placed there by the Ohakune Growers Association in 1984. Farmers and other community members accompanied the Giant Carrot on its journey. Spectators from the Ohakune population lined the roadways to witness its voyage to the park and cheer it on its way.
Over time the park has been expanded to include some veggie companions for the carrot, including larger than life parsnip, cabbage and swede statues. With the addition of a carrot car, playground equipment and walkways, it became an ideal getaway for families to visit.
The Jubilee Walkway begins at the Giant Carrot and is an enjoyable stroll through the forest of the Jubilee Park Scenic Reserve adjacent to Rochfort Park. The walk is rated easy, suitable for all ages and abilities, and will take about 20 minutes to complete. Sturdy footwear is advised as the track can get muddy when it rains and some areas are a bit steep.
More to See in Ohakune
Once you’ve seen the big carrot, you might be keen to sample more of what the beautiful Ohakune area has to offer. In addition to giant vegetables, this region is famous for its breathtaking scenery, unique yurt accommodation stays, stunning trails and walkways, and snow sports.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Majestic Mount Ruapehu’s three ski fields are accessible from Ohakune, making it a popular destination for those who love winter sports.
Turoa Ski Field
Perched high on the southwestern slopes of Mt Ruapehu, Turoa Ski Field is just a 20 min drive from Ohakune via the sealed Ohakune Mountain Road. Ruapehu Mountain Transport operates a shuttle from Ohakune to the Turoa Ski Area.
Whakapapa Ski Field
A 45 minute drive via state highways 49, 4, 47, and 48. Limited parking is available, there is a park and ride shuttle. Dempsey Buses runs a Snow Shuttle service on the weekends only between Ohakune and Whakapapa ski fields.
Tukino Club Field
Operated by club members, the Tukino ski field is found on the eastern side of Mt Ruapehu. The hidden gem of the Ohakune ski scene, it is less well known and therefore the least crowded of the three fields. A 4WD vehicle is necessary to reach the ski field, and chains may be advised depending on road conditions.
Hiking and Walking
Ohakune is a hikers paradise. Regardless of ability, everyone can find a track of suitable length and difficulty.
The famed Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the most popular day hikes in New Zealand. The 19.4 kilometre tramping track can be completed in about 7-8 hours in good weather and has a difficulty rating of moderate. Its volcanic alpine landscape provides unique views unlike anywhere else on Earth. In winter, the Crossing is only suitable for those with significant experience or those walking with an experienced guide to accompany them.
Those with less time (or stamina) can find a number of walks clocking in at under two hours. In addition to the Jubilee Walkway mentioned above, you can find:
- Mangawhero Falls Walk: 10 min, Easy. A short walk past the Mangawhero falls. The falls are at their peak in the winter when the volume of water flowing over the volcanic formations creates icicle that sparkle in the sunlight.
- Rimu Walk: 15 min, Easy. Starting at the DOC Visitor Centre, this well maintained walkway can accommodate wheelchair users and prams. A short loop off the Mangawhero Forest Track, the trail runs through ferns and kamahi and crosses over a soothing stream for a short, relaxing trek.
- Mangawhero River Walk: 30 min, Easy. A pleasant stroll along the Mangawhero River connecting the town centre with the “Junction” at the foot of Mount Ruapehu.
- Mangawhero Forest Walk, 45 min, Easy Showcasing the native flora of the central North Island, you trek through lush ferns and towering rimu and kahikatea trees. The trail will take you across the river and into a volcanic crater.
Why does Ohakune have a carrot?
After A giant model carrot was used in an ANZ Bank commercial, it was donated to the town of Ohakune and “adopted” by the Ohakune Market Growers Association who gave it a home in Rochfort Park.
Where is the giant carrot?
Ohakune Carrot Adventure Park is the home of the big carrot. Its address is:
4a Rangataua Rd, Ohakune 4625 New Zealand
How tall is the Ohakune carrot?
The Ohakune carrot is 7.5 meters tall.
What is there to do in Ohakune?
For lovers of outdoor adventure, Ohakune has it all. Tramping, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, and trout fishing are some of the popular activities. Restaurants and shops are available to visit between adventures.
How far is it from Ohakune to Auckland?
The drive is 360 kilometres or just over 4 hours by car if you are driving straight through, without breaks.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of all there is to do and see in Ohakune and the surrounding areas. Why not come see for yourself? It’s simple to book your stay with Bachcare and we can help you find the home base from which you can launch all your Ohakune adventures.