Life & Culture

New Zealand’s Thermal Wonderland

Nov 02, 2021 ByClaire Miles

Te Ika-a-Māui, otherwise known as North Island, one of New Zealand’s two islands, holds many beautiful lakes, peninsulas, national parks and volcanos. The Taupō Volcanic Zone has been active for two million years. It stretches out into the Bay of Plenty on the northern coast of the island and is still highly active to this day. It is home to Mount Ruapehu, Lake Taupō and many other natural beauties.

Rotorua, the second-largest urban area in the Bay of Plenty, is known for its geothermal activity. All this volcanic activity leaves a faint scent of sulphur in the air, but what a gem of a place it is. It comes as no surprise that it’s a major tourist destination, for international and domestic tourists alike. Dotted around the city are unique thermal parks that anyone can stroll through.

Woman walking on a footpath at Kuirau Park, Rotorua, NZ.

GettyImages/Francesco Vaninetti Photo/Royalty-Free

Imagine having a nice picnic in the park, and then going to sit next to a lake, where there are huts and gazebos purposefully designed to divert water through them. With benches poised perfectly, so you can dip your feet in these thermal pools and just take it all in. Not all the waters are safe, however, (and there are enough signs to warn you from danger); in some parks, there are subterranean thermal pools, where all you can see is steam escaping from cracks in the ground. Some pools are even fenced off at quite a distance, but you still can spot the geysers erupting.

Just 27 km (16.7 miles) south of Rotorua lies the spectacular Waioptapu, which means ‘sacred waters’ in Māori. This 18 square km geothermal area is especially unique thanks to the incredible colours of the hot springs; the result of thousands of years of geothermal activity occurring beneath the earth. Amidst the boiling mud pools and vibrant colours, you can find the Lady Knox Geyser. Induced to erupt every day at 10:15 am, she is said to produce jets of water reaching up to 20m, and the show can last up to an hour. Although carefully signposted, all of these marvels are easily accessible to view via foot.