While traveling in New Zealand, we definitely wanted to take a stop in Rotorua, New Zealand’s hotspot for geothermal activity. A short stroll around town can take you past countless hot pools and bubbling mud pits being heated directly by the Earth’s core.
The absolute best way to see everything Rotorua has to offer in one place is with a morning visit to Wai-O-Tapu.
While Wai-O-Tapu is great to visit at any time of day, I recommend visiting in the morning; at 10:15 to be exact. That’s the time the Lady Knox Geyser erupts each day and you definitely don’t want to miss it. Griffin and I were surprised by how much we learned about geysers in the brief speech given by a park guide shortly before the spout gave us a show. It was still going when we finished our photos and headed to the main park area to check out the rest of the “geothermal wonderland.” Of course, don’t show up at 10:15 exactly. You’ll need to get there early to get tickets and make your way to the viewing area, which is a little past the main entrance to Wai-O-Tapu.
After the geyser, head back to the main entrance to continue your tour. There are three routes around the park, a short, middle and long, depending on how much time you have. The long route takes about 1-1 ½ and I highly recommend doing this one. Honestly speaking, I can’t think of any of the sites you would want to miss by taking a shorter trek. Not to worry, all three routes are easy walking and self-guided, so you can go at your own pace. You’ll find the place well marked and the routes easy to follow with a handy map, which you can find in several languages.
The thing we kept asking ourselves was “How on earth did this many geothermals end up in one relatively small area?” It’s amazing.
Highlights of the walk include the Sinter Terrace Formations, Champagne Pool, Crater Lakes, Hydrothermal areas, and an amazing range of colorful pools and volcanic areas. You’ll need to remember your camera for sure.
Nearby the park itself is another famous site, the Mud Pools, which was entertaining enough to make us stop and stare through more time than we noticed.
The geyser, park and mud pools all combined to give us a fantastic morning adventure that you will absolutely not want to miss. I promise this place is definitely worth the visit.
Wai-O-Tapu opens at 8:30am and closes at 5:00pm, with the last admission at 3:45. If you arrive early in the morning, make sure you time it so you can leave to see Lady Knox erupt at 10:15am.
Get to the geyser area early as the viewing area fills up. If you’re planning to take photos or video, you may want to check which way the wind in traveling before choosing your seat as mist from the geyser can wet your equipment pretty thoroughly.
There is a lovely cafe if you need refreshment as well as a visitor center on site.
The staff is extremely friendly and they will go out of their way to answer any questions for you and help you find your way around.
Make sure you follow the guide map closely so you don’t miss any of the hotspots. They are each numbered, so they are easy to follow, but some of the turns can confuse you if you’re not checking the map closely.
For more information, visit the Wai-O-Tapu website here.