Activities

Wai-O-Tapu: New Zealand’s Thermal Wonderland

If you go to New Zealand for any length of time, you will at some point hear about its position as one of the major geothermal areas in the world. In Rotorua, you will hear about it (and see it) everywhere you go. You will also smell it.

A visit to a museum or geothermal site will tell you all about the formation of New Zealand millions of years ago, back when it separated from the pre-historic supercontinent of Gondwana (Australia, Africa, South America, and most of the modern-day Southern Hemisphere). New Zealand is now on a major boundary line between the Australian and Pacific plates, which is why it is filled with so much geothermal activity (and earthquakes, unfortunately).

While you will find geothermal areas through the country, Rotorua is the major geothermal hotspot in New Zealand, and therefore one of the main tourist areas. Most of you know that sulpher-rich, rotten egg smell, and it’s certainly present around the town of Rotorua (although I didn’t notice it too much and was not at all bothered by it).

WaioTapu Thermal Wonderland

Geothermal attractions in and around Rotorua include Waimangu, Whakarewarewa, and many others. But the one site I had to visit during my time in Rotorua was Wai-O-Tapu, New Zealand’s “Thermal Wonderland”. Boasted as New Zealand’s (much smaller) version of Yellowstone, Wai-O-Tapu is home to geysers, hot springs, and magnificently colored pools.

While it stayed relatively sunny in town, out in the valleys surrounding Rotorua it quickly turned foggy and frosty. As my first stop after leaving Hot Water Beach, I was quickly reminded that was indeed winter in New Zealand. I spent a few hours walking through Wai-O-Tapu, and it was cloudy the entire time, so getting proper photos was difficult. It didn’t take away from the in-person viewing experience though.

Champagne Pool

Devil’s Bath

A walking track leads you through the park, past all of the major features, with plenty of signage to tell you what you’re looking at. My favorite features were the Devil’s Bath (a neon green pool) and the Champagne Pool, but the entire place is filled with interesting things to look at.

I can’t compare Wai-O-Tapu to the other geothermal sites in the area since I was unable to see them all, but I can say that it’s totally worth a visit. Adult admission is just over $30, and it generally only takes about 3 hours to see the whole park.

Getting There

Wai-O-Tapu is located about 20 minutes outside of Rotorua, so if you don’t have a car, you’ll need to arrange and budget for transportation. Luckily there are plenty of transportation and tour options available. I went with Thermal Land Shuttle. For $70, they provided transportation to and from Wai-O-Tapu, a stop at the Lady Knox Geyser, commentary from the friendly driver/guide, admission into the park, and a stop at a nearby hot springs pool at the end of the tour. I was pleased with my decision to go with Thermal Land Shuttles, as it made my trip to Wai-O-Tapu easy.


Read Next:
6 Free Things to do in Rotorua
New Zealand on a Budget: 13 Ways to Save Money
Rotorua Redwoods: A Redwood Forest in New Zealand

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New Zealand is one of the world's geothermal hot spots. Wai-O-Tapu is oneof Rotorua's top geothermal attractions.

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Natalie
    August 20, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Awesome pictures! All the colors from the thermal activity are so cool!

  • Reply
    alex
    August 20, 2016 at 10:37 am

    I love the names; Devils Bath & Champagne Pool, and you can totally see where they got them from. Sounds like a pretty cool trip to do. #FlyAwayFriday

  • Reply
    Ruth
    August 20, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    I have to say your photos are incredible (even in the fog). I really like geothermal areas but I do not get to visit them too often. Rotorua would be in my plans if I visit New Zealand one day.

  • Reply
    yogawinetravel
    August 20, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    This looks like such an incredible place to visit! Love the names of the different springs – will have to add this to the bucket list!

  • Reply
    l8gapyear
    August 21, 2016 at 5:09 am

    We recently visited Beitou hot springs in Taipei, so I know what you mean about the eggy smell. But really that’s where the comparison ends, Beitou was impressive, but Wai-o-Tapu looks amazing. We expect to be hitting New Zealand early 2017. Rotorua was definately on the agenda. Now we know exactly where to go. 👍

  • Reply
    Kana
    August 22, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Oh wow the Devil’s Bath color is so crazy! Looks like slime or something! Just like everyone else, I love the names! Thanks so much for joining us on #FlyAwayFriday!

  • Reply
    ttbchloe
    August 22, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Gorgeous!! I am dying to go to New Zealand! The beauty there just looks unreal! Thank you for sharing on #FlyAwayFriday and cannot wait to see your next post this week!

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