Soak in a hot stream, marvel at a boiling mud pool and watch a geyser erupt in spectacular fashion at one of New Zealand’s most impressive geothermal wonderlands.
Enjoy the surreal landscape and mysterious appeal of this active geothermal area in the Taupō Volcanic Zone. Wai-O-Tapu, means “sacred waters” in Māori and a visit to Waiotapu includes hot springs and bubbling thermal mud pools of bright colors. Enjoy the free natural attractions or explore the fenced off Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland.
At the park’s visitor center, get a map and information about how volcanic activity formed this area thousands of years ago. Arrive before mid morning to witness the show at the Lady Knox Geyser, for which you need a ticket to the Thermal Wonderland first. A staff member actually stimulates the eruption of the geyser by pouring detergent down its vent, so it is less of a natural phenomena than it sounds. Nonetheless, it is spectacular to watch, and smell, the thick plumes of mist that shoot up to the sky.
Head back through the park’s entrance gate at the back of the visitor center to find the Champagne Pool. This vast pool of steaming water has colorful edges formed by the mineral-rich water. The pool overflows down the hill to form Primrose Terrace, a series of sinter terraces, which are ledges of silica.
Marvel at the multicolored pools and other dramatic features as you wander along the tracks, which range between 30-70 minutes in length. Stay on the boardwalks to be safe in this highly turbulent and often extremely hot landscape.
Outside the Thermal Wonderland, just follow your nose to the park’s public geothermal areas. Follow the Waiotapu Boardwalk to see a large pool of gurgling and spitting mud, an impressive display of nature.
Walk to the bridge just beyond the visitor center to find “Hot N Cold,” a hot spring alongside a cold stream. Find a spot with the perfect mix of temperatures for you and relax in the gently flowing water or chat with the soaking locals.
The Waiotapu geothermal region is 17 miles (27 kilometers) to the south of Rotorua and 33 miles (53 kilometers) to the north of Taupo and can be reached by car or shuttle bus from Rotorua. The visitor center has a café and souvenir shop.