New Zealand : Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Rotorua is a hotspot of active geothermal activity. (Get it? Hotspot?)
Less than an hour’s drive outside of Rotorua is the geothermal park called Wai-O-Tapu. Open since the 1930’s Wai-O-Tapu (meaning Sacred Water in Maori) is one of many geothermal parks in this area. In recent years a local Maori tribe began operating the park. I chose Wai-O-Tapu in particular because it was along our route headed south towards Taupo. The colorful photos of the Champagne Pool also helped convince me.

Pay for your admission inside the gift shop and start exploring! There are three path options and we chose to do all three. According to the map, all three takes about 75 minutes. The paths are laid out conveniently so that if you just follow the numbers, you’ll get to see everything without having to double back or retrace your steps. (Photo of map in the gallery above)

After you exit the gift shop, you get a few peeks of steam rising up from between the trees. The forest quickly opens up to a clearing with numerous chasms filled with steam and colorful rocks. Pockets of yellow sulphuric craters are scattered throughout with ominous names such as “Devil’s Home”.

Make your way up to a viewing platform and you get your first look of the famous Champagne Pool. The colors are brilliant and there’s always tons of steam rising off of it. The hot spring is deep green in the center with a vibrant orange outer ring. Heavy metal sulfides precipitate to form the orange ring.

By now you have reached Path 2 which takes you back into the forest. You get few viewpoints such as the Panoramic View:

Loop through Path 3 and back through Path 2. You’ll see lots of unique, natural scenery. Eventually you end up back at the Champagne Pool. When we arrived, the wind was blowing the steam right towards us. It was so thick at times that we couldn’t see 10 feet in front of us. It was a little eerie but also quite fun. It feels like you’re completely isolated with steam blowing all around you like it’s going to engulf you.

One of the most impressive pools was the Devil’s Bath. A combination of sulphur and ferrous salts gives it the vibrant neon green color. It almost looks like toxic waste.

We didn’t get to attend the Lady Knox presentation. We were impartial about it and thought, “If we finish the 3 paths in time then we’ll go. If not, it’s ok too.” It does look quite impressive though so if you’re able to make the viewing then don’t miss out!

I really enjoyed Wai-O-Tapu. It was filled with sites I have never seen in nature before. And omg, the colors! It almost feels like you’re on some alien planet. I read a lot of reviews comparing it with Yellowstone National Park here in the United States. A lot of people seemed to prefer Yellowstone’s hot springs. As someone who has never visited, I can’t say one is better than the other but I did enjoy Wai-O-Tapu.


Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland

Address: 201 Waiotapu Loop Road RD 3, Rotorua 3073

GPS Coordinates: -38.355064, 176.367493

Contact: (07) 366 6333


April-October: 8:30am-5:00pm (last admission 3:45pm)

November-March: 8:30am-6:00pm (last admission 4:45pm)

Christmas Day: 8:30 am-5:00 pm (last admission 3:45pm)

Lady Knox Presentation: 10:15am


Cost: $32.50 NZD per person

Duration: 1.5 to 2 hours to do all three paths


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