- Built beside Waikato River, Taupō in 1899
- Construction by Bailey and Lowe, Auckland
- Built of heart kauri
- Two-masted, steam powered schooner (wood fired)
- 55 feet long with a beam of 11 feet, 6 inches
- Weighed 19 tons
- Top speed 15 knots
- Faithful service between Taupō and Tokaanu for over 20 years delivering mail, passengers and cargo
1864 - 1927
With a new route for tourists opening up from the south there was a need for a passenger vessel to convey passengers across the lake. The government offered a subsidy for a suitable vessel. The offer was taken up by Darby Ryan with his partner Alexander Marshall, the engineer.
Ryan obtained his master mariner's certificate in 1900, and soon set up the first launch services for the public on Lakes Rotorua and Taupo. Between 1900 and 1909 he part-owned the SS Tongaririo, which ran between Taupo and Tokaanu, and was its captain from 1900 to about 1920
A wing three-quarter, Ryan represented Auckland and was a member of the original All Blacks in 1884.
Ryan was a talented artist (view portraits in Tūwharetoa Gallery) and an accomplished musician.
1924 saw the completion of the bridges over the last two rivers on the eastern lake route. With the increase in road traffic the SS Tongariro became under used and uneconomic. She was deregistered in 1925.
The owners sold the 'Tongariro' in the early 1930s. The engine was removed and it was converted into a houseboat by Mr J.Taylor for Mr.Newdick, the licensee of the Spa Hotel for the use of his guests. Five bedrooms were added to the deck to provide accomodation. She was moored at the boat harbour, Kawakawa Bay. A perfect sheldtered and safe achorage.
This little hotel in miniature became the most expensive in New Zealand. Fishing guests stayed on board at a cost of ten pounds per week. Cooking was done ashore on a wood burner. Unfortunately, the houseboat Tongariro was unstable and sank twice.
Eventually the old steamer was towed back to Taupuaeharuru bay, Taupō and was hauled up onto the shore where she slowly deteriorated. Nothing is left of her now. However a few pieces were salvaged in the 1980s, including a steel porthole, the large kauri rudder and part of her bow. A sad end for a gallant ship whose history is closely woven in the early history of Taupō.