State highway 5 links the geothermal cities of Rotorua and Taupo
Passing through an area where the raw power of nature comes bubbling, hissing and erupting from the earth’s molten core. Here you can get up close to the colours, heat and smell of geothermal activity. This is a place like no other.
Just twenty minutes south of Rotorua, the first significant thermal area you will come to is the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. This is the world’s youngest geothermal system, created when Mount Tarawera erupted in 1886. From the high vantage point at the Waimangu visitors centre, the thermal area spreads out beneath you, filling a lush valley above Lake Rotomahana that is a protected scenic reserve and wildlife refuge. Self-guided walking tours of the valley range from 45 minutes up to 4 hours; taking in steaming crater lakes and streams, mud pools and geysers – including the Frying Pan Lake, the world’s largest hot spring, and thanks to their newly launched app you can now view the legendary re-created Pink & White terraces in-situ from the Ariki Moana boat during its regular cruise times each day. Sturdy footwear is recommended. A shuttle bus operates between the visitor centre and the lake as an option to lessen the amount of walking required. A recommended addition is a boat cruise on beautiful Lake Rotomahana, seeing rare geothermal sights not accessible on foot.
Geysers and Mudpools
Continuing towards Taupō you will soon reach Wai-O-Tapu, home of the Lady Knox Geyser – which erupts faithfully each day at 10:15am, prefaced with an informative talk about the science and history of the geyser. Wai-O-Tapu means Sacred Waters in Māori, and in the thermal area you will see water at its most colourful – framed in pools of orange and green, or cascading over pearly white terraces. Wai-O-Tapu is home to New Zealand’s largest bubbling mud pool where you are sure to be mesmerised by the sight, sound and scent of this rare natural phenomenon.
Header image: Champagne Pool, Wai-O-Tapu