Rotorua is located in the North island, south of Tauranga. It’s a city of 65 000 inhabitants, mainly known for its geothermal activity. We were surprise to discover in the middle of the city some mud pools and other hot water pools. We also found around the city a lot of geothermal park, you will have to pay to visit some of them and some lakes, creeks where you can go to see or swim for free.
What is the geothermal energy?
What we call geothermal energy is all the underground activity producing heat as well as the different techniques for extracting this energy. That means the deeper you dig the hottest it is.
New Zealand is in middle of two tectonic plates, the pacific and the australian ones. If New Zealand holds so much geothermal and volcanic activities it’s because the pacific plate slides slowly under the australian one at approximately 4 cm per year.
Why that much in Rotorua?
Rotorua is particular because the city was build in the middle of a caldera, it’s basically the collapsing of the magmatic chamber of a volcano after an eruption which creates a flat basin. Rotorua is actually build within a really old volcano it’s the reason of the intensity of the geothermal activity. So intense that Rotorua use the earth to heat and produce electricity. Around the city we found a lot of geothermal site, spectacular and colorful.
To discover more of the geothermal energy, we had the choice in between a multiple of sites. We choose to go to Wai-O-Tapu which was for us the most spectacular. It’s one of the most visited site so our advice to enjoy the place is come really early, preferably just before the eruption of the Lady Knox geyser which is 1,2km further. Don’t panic I will explain.
The park is located 31 km from Rotorua and gather a nice diversity of lake and colors. At the entry the staff will give you a map that will help you to walk in the 18 sq.m park. The walk is really easy, it’s only 3 km and the track is well maintain.
We arrived at 8h and the park opened at 8h30 and we will advise you to do the same. The park was almost empty and we enjoyed and took pictures with no one around. You can also enjoy the beauty of the place and it’s really peaceful.
To see the Lady Knox eruption we planned to cut our tour in two. No problem at all because the ticket is multiple entry during the day and include the Lady Knox.
We were lucky enough to have a great weather this day and the colors were stunning. We have to admit the sulfur smell can be uncomfortable at the beginning but you end up being used to it. Especially when you start the track by the ocher yellow caves due to sulfur, where the smoke never stops. Further, the smell is less present and we arrived in front of the colourful lakes, don’t put your finger in as it’s too hot! In between you will find “Champagne pool” and “Artist’s palette” amazing scenery and discoveries.
We did a big part of the park before leaving to go to Lady Knox geyser. 10h15 it’s the time for the eruption. No, the geyser doesn’t erupt by itself at this time every day, the staff does all the job and triggers the eruption! How can they do that? That was my question and the answer is really simple, they use soap. Indeed the geyser is to impredictible and can erupt by itself every 2 or 3 days, so the staff creates the eruption once a day. Beware the place is really crowdy to see the show. Even if it’s not a “natural” eruption that was the first time I was seeing it and I felt like a kid.
For the record, the geyser was discovered in 1901 by a group of prisoner who wanted to do they laundry and they added some soap to the hot water. They triggered the geyser accidentaly the first time.
Wai-O-Tapu means “Sacred water” in Maori.
Before leaving the place go to the mud pool, it’s a huge pool of boiling mud quite impressive.
The website where you will be able to book your ticket and find more informations here..
Other things to see
Kerosene creek. A little popular creek not far from Wai-O-Tapu. Not deep at all we come here more to seat in the hot water and enjoy the place. It’s just a bit smelly which is a little annoying. Just before Kerosene creek you can see a steaming lake, very impressive when the difference of temperature is important. Don’t be afraid by the road, it’s gravel road but it’s ok to drive.
Huka falls is an impressive waterfall with a huge output, 200m3 per second, which rushes into a fairly narrow path. The water is light blue and if you are lucky you may be able to appreciate the crazyness of some who go down the rapids in Kayak. Don’t do that except if you are a pro.
Spa park is an other free place where you can enjoy hot water straight from the river bank. It’s a popular place because close to the city. The spring comes directly from the stream and comes to mingle with the cold water of the river. The closer you are to the source, the hotter the water is.
It’s only few of the activities you can do around Rotorua but just to let you know it’s one of the most visited city in North island, especially for the sensational activities.