Two things you notice when you get to the Rotorua area: Steaming ponds, rivers, and the smell of sulphur. To get up close to the action, there are many Thermal Parks you can choose from. The most famous ones are undoubtedly Wai-o-Tapu and Te Puia. Being the most famous ones also means: Very busy! In our search to find alternatives that are less crowded and gives you similar experiences, we came across Orakei Korako and Waimangu Volcanic Valley.
Wai-o-Tapu is by far the busiest and largest Thermal Wonder Park. Not for nothing, as it is also the most colourful one. If you don’t mind the crowds, it is a great park to visit.
Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Waimangu Volcanic Valley is the only geothermal system in the world…
- wholly created within written history
- which can be pinpointed to an exact time and event
- created solely as a direct result of a volcanic eruption – the Tarawera Eruption of 10 June 1886.
The Waimangu Volcanic Valley walk or hike takes you on an ecology-focused adventure of the craters of this beautiful valley. As you walk through the youngest eco-systems in the world you will view a range of geothermal activity, native plants and bird-life, an activity not to be missed. You’ll see lakes, craters, pools, and even a ‘Marble Terrace’ all within an approx 5 km walk.
At the end of the track, you can opt to enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Rotomahana. A beautiful lake with its separate geothermal system, with the astonishing thermal activity that can only be seen from our vessel during your boat cruise.
Orakei Korako is yet another thermal park that boasts the most active geysers of any geothermal park in New Zealand. Up to 23 active natural geysers play freely through the area, which is constantly changing. Marvel at the number of boiling hot springs and the vibrant colours all around you, or take a native bush walk through this untouched geothermal paradise.
Somewhat ‘off the beaten track’, the Hidden Valley lies nestled in the Taupo Volcanic Zone between Taupo and Rotorua. Orakei Korako is a mere 25-minute drive to Taupo and 45 to Rotorua.
This is a great spot if you want to freedom camp the night before or after visiting the park, as this is allowed for motorhomes. There is a little ‘hot water beach’ just on the side of the car park to soak your feet and take in the view of the steamy ‘Waiwhakaata’ or ‘Pool of Mirrors’ hot pool across the river.
Hell’s Gate: Where mud has healed for centuries…
Hell’s Gate is New Zealand’s unique and active geothermal reserve and mud spa.
It offers not only a self-guided thermal walk, but also the unique experience of bathing in world-famous mud baths, and soaking in the sulphur spas and cool plunge pool.
You can also learn about Carving , an important art form in our Māori culture. It’s used to tell our stories and pass down our heritage to the next generation.