As we planned our 2 week adventure in New Zealand, we knew that Rotorua was a “must see” area for us. There are many thing to do in Rotorua due to it’s diverse geothermal activity including geysers, volcanos, mud pools and hot thermal springs. About 20 miles outside of the city center is the most colorful of these geothermal areas, Wai-O-Tapu. Let’s take a photo tour of Wai-O-Tapu, New Zealand’s most colorful geothermal area!
Getting around: There are 3 different hiking trails to follow. We found them to be well kept, great markings and the map made it easy to navigate. The treks are cumulative therefore at a minimum you would do the red track and then you can decide to keep going on the other trails.
Red Track is ~30 minutes at a distance of ~1 mile
Red-Orange Track is ~40 minutes at a distance of ~1.3 miles
Red-Orange-Yellow is ~75 minutes at a distance of ~2 miles
Price: Adults $32.50 NZD and Kids 5-11 $11NZD
Hours: Last admission is always 3:45PM
April – October 8:30AM to 5:00PM
November – March 8:30AM to 6:00PM
Attire: Wear comfortable clothes and footwear. Depending on the trail you take, you will be walking quite a bit
THUNDER CRATER AND DEVIL’S INK POTS
The start of the hike is largely rocky with little color. I was actually so anxious to see the color that we plowed quickly past the Thunder Crater and Devil’s Ink Pots. The dark colors are due to the amount of graphite and crude oil being brought to the surface.
Luckily after about 10 minutes, we got our first glimpse of color at the Artist’s Palette.
Due to the changing temperatures, wind direction and water levels the colors can literally change. We stood here admiring the view and varying levels of steam that swept across.
The area is large and vast. After taking in this view, we made our way down to walk along the edge.
Crossing into the orange section of the trek, we made our way through a bit of the trees. The benefit of taking this one is that the panoramic view of the next area was stunning.
If you cannot decide wether to stop at the red trek or keep going, we highly recommend at least walking partly down the orange trek to see this area. Once you see it, we suspect the decision will be to keep going to explore the other areas.
Continuing past the view point, we entered the yellow trek. Being one of the top things to do in Rotorua, we had to see it all! After that view above, we had no choice but to explore it! The path moved downward with the first sight of Alum Cliffs.
The color contrasts against the cliff are visually stunning. We stayed here a bit to just take it in. This area was formed by an eruption over 900 years ago. Unlike the the artist’s palette colorful area, this didn’t have steam so the colors were constant and vivid.
FRYING PAN FLAT
The next area was Frying Pan Flat which was filled with sentiment and believed to have been formed by an eruption as well.
The difference in the yellow trek versus the others is that the main attractions become a little further apart. The walk isn’t strenuous and there is plenty to see along the way but important to note as a decision point of how long of a hike is chosen.
After a little walk past the caves, the sound of water becomes evident and a little waterfall comes into view.
Shortly after Lake Ngakoro comes into view. The color of the water reminded us of a dark green slime! So cool and definitely makes the longest yellow trail add-on worth it.
The walk back up the second part of the yellow trek does not have many attractions. Finally after a bit of a hike you reach the Primrose Terrace which is a vast area that is formed by the sentiment deposits left behind as the water evaporates.
It is now time to conclude the last part of the red trek on the final leg of the tour. Champagne Pool is aptly named due to the consistent bubbles that are in the water.
There was quite a bit of steam the day we visited so we had to have patience to see the colors and get a good shot! As a bonus, it felt like a mini facial at times as we were engulfed in steam while we waited for the wind to cooperate.
After continuing past a few craters, the last major attraction is Devil’s Bath. One of our favorite spots! The color was so vivid that we felt our eyes were playing tricks on us!
As the water color deepens, it means the arsenic content is increased. Based on what we witnessed, we would have to believe it was pretty high the day we were there!
Overall we strongly recommend Wai-O-Tapu during your next trip to New Zealand. It really is one of the best things to do in Rotorua. For more planning information on Wai-O-Tapu, check out Visit Rotorua.