You may be amazed by nature in many places on this earth. But no matter how many natural wonders you have witnessed, you cannot miss an opportunity to visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. It is one of the most colourful and unique geothermal sightseeing attraction in New Zealand. The geothermal landscape has been sculpted by thousands of years of volcanic activity and extends over 18 square kilometres.
The star attraction there is the Champagne Pool. The area also has many hot springs noted for their colourful appearance, in addition to the Lady Knox Geyser, Artist’s Palette, Primrose Terrace and boiling mud pools. Besides the famous colorful pools, the landscape itself is surreal. With a long history as a tourist attraction, the area has been named “One of the 20 Most Surreal Places in the World” by Trip Advisor. We’ve compiled this guide to help you to plan your visit to Wai-O-Tapu geothermal park.
The Champagne Pool is the most popular attractions in the park. Its crater is around 65 m in diameter with a maximum depth of approximately 62 m. The pool keeps at around 73°C by geothermal heated water that enters from its depths at 260°C. The reason for its popularity is the vivid blue and orange waters – fantastic opportunity for photos. The hot spring was formed 900 years ago by a hydrothermal eruption, which makes it in geological terms a relatively young system.
Lady Knox Geyser
Come and see the history and beauty of the Lady Knox Geyser at 10:15 am every day. Presented by the fantastic staff in a natural amphitheatre. It provides a unique opportunity to see an eruption to heights of 10 to 20 metres! The eruption can last for over an hour, depending on the weather. The visible spout is made of rocks placed around the base of the spring to enhance the eruption. Over the years silica from the eruptions has built up to give a white cone-shaped appearance.
Don’t forget to visit the Mud Pool, the largest mud pools in New Zealand, this was originally the site of a large mud volcano which was destroyed through erosion in the 1920’s.
The entry ticket is approximately $32.50 NZD for an adult and $11.00 NZD for a child. While it’s not free, it’s totally worth seeing.
The active geothermal area is situated within a 30 minute drive south of Rotorua and a 40 minute drive north of Taupo. There are different ways to get to Wai-O-Tapu from Rotorua. You can self drive there if you choose to book the entry ticket only. It’s really easy to find and well signposted when driving along this road. Alternatively, you can book the tour with transfers or combine the entry ticket with the return transfers from Rotorua. If you plan on self driving, we recommend you leave early. The parking lot nearby does fill up quite quickly.
There is ample parking at the site of the Lady Knox Geyser and most guests are parked within a walk of about 100 metres to the geyser arena.
The visitor centre also supplies parking areas for visitors which is well sign posted. At peak times, staff will guide you to parking areas. Special needs parking is located at the front of the Visitor Centre.
You’ll marvel at the vividly coloured hot pools, volcanic craters and steaming fissures in the geothermal park! Wai-O-Tapu is a place for self-guided exploration. You can set off on one of the three well-signposted tracks around the park. Depending on which path you choose, the walk will take between 30 and 75 minutes. The terrain is interesting and varied, with fumaroles belching steam from the ground in an almost moon-like landscape. Paths marking the route are generally boardwalks and warning signs, unsurprisingly, we advise you to keep to them! In particular, on some signs, they note the temperature of the surrounding ground at over 100 degrees! So please be sure to stick to the paths.
By the way, please remember to grab a map at the Wai-O-Tapu Visitor Center. It’s quite well put together and you’ll know exactly where you are in the park at each point. Please note that Wai-O-Tapu is a cashless site. All major credit cards and EFTPOS are available on site.