Grand Chateau Tongariro is a New Zealand hotel and resort complex located close to Whakapapa ski-field on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu. It is also close to the volcanic peaks of Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe, within the borders of the Tongariro National Park, New Zealand’s oldest national park.
The Grand Chateau Tongariro Hotel building was finished in 1929 and remains in a pre-Depression era style, despite subsequent refurbishment.
In 1887 the Ngāti Tūwharetoa paramount chief, Horonuku Te Heu Heu Tūkino gifted the Maori tribe’s land to the people of New Zealand. The intent was ensure the area, including the sacred peaks of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, was protected for all time, for all people.
In 1923, the Tongariro National Park Board investigated a site for a hostel to encourage tourists to visit the newly formed National Park. In 1925 the New Zealand Government offered to lease the land and lend up to £40,000 to any company which would build and operate a hotel on the site. That same year a new road was pushed through towards Mt Ruapehu using labour from the Whakapapa prison camp early in 1925. Until then the trail to Whakapapa had been a rough and potentially dangerous trek with many kilometres of untamed country to cross on foot or horseback, wild rivers to ford and mountainous terrain to navigate.
The Chateau was designed by Timaru-based architect Herbert Hall , who based his design on the Canadian Resort of Lake Louise and design it in a neo-Georgian structure of four stories and basement.
The foundation stone was laid in early 1929. Using a workforce of over 80, with the construction company offering an incentive of free accommodation and a free suit to workers. Most of the labourers were recruited from the Waikune Prison. Construction was completed on 1st August 1929.
The Chateau was commandeered by the New Zealand government as an asylum when an earthquake damaged a hospital in Wellington and then served as a rest and recuperation centre for Air Force personnel returning from service in World War II. In 1948, newly renovated, the Chateau reopened to provide accommodation for visitors to Mt Ruapehu and the Tongariro National Park.
In January 2023 the Grand Chateau Tongariro Hotel announced it would close permanently from February as result of a seismic assessment highlighting safety issues with parts of the building.
The Grand Chateau Tongariro Hotel’s spooky tales date back to its use as a women’s asylum in the early 1940’s, following the temporary closure of the Porirua Lunatic Asylum due to the 1942 Wairarapa earthquake. The staff tell stories of a nurse named Charlotte, who was said to have died in one of the rooms. It is believed that Charlotte continues to make her presence felt in the hotel, particularly in one of the rooms which was said to be her favourite.
Staff and guests also report mysterious instances of fires stuttering in their fireplaces, and curtains moving as if blown by a strong breeze, despite no breeze being felt. Many also remark on the hotel’s resemblance to the Overlook Hotel from Stephen King’s The Shining, which was based on the notoriously haunted Stanley Hotel in Colorado.
Is it possible the presence of former staff, patients and soldiers still linger in the halls of this remote landmark? If you have a tale to tell about the Grand Chateau Tongariro, let us know in the comments below.