Rotorua: a Cauldron of Boiling Hot Water Springs

New Zealand is known for the spectacular vistas and beautiful road trips. Along the road, many exciting attractions present wonderful opportunities to divulge in the uniqueness that New Zealand has to offer. One such unique destination is Rotorua.

What makes Rotorua special is the terrain. The landscape of Rotorua is studded with beautiful thermal springs, primarily due to the seismic nature of the land. Actually, not only Rotorua, the entire landscape of New Zealand is known for its seismic activity. Due to this, New Zealand has also earned a nickname: 'Shaky Isles'. However, the seismic activities have reduced by a great margin in recent years and the nickname remains that of yesteryear's.

But as compared to the randomly distributed volcanic touch points across New Zealand, Rotorua brings you the densest collection of the same. Within a few kilometers, you will find a lot of thermal parks & lakes around Rotorua. In fact, I would go on a limb here and say that Rotorua is the thermal capital of New Zealand. Apart from the thermal parks and lakes, you also have a lot of other activities to indulge in and attractions to marvel. But the geological hot spots make Rotorua a must visit destination while planning your trip to New Zealand. In fact, I would call Rotorua the best destination in the North Island of New Zealand. Apart from Rotorua, I also loved Muriwai Beach in North Island.

Let's have a look at the best touch points which are results of geothermal activities around Rotorua. The peaceful city has a lot to offer if you possess even a tiniest of interest in the field of geology or seismology.

By the end of this article, you will get to know the best attractions which can help you enjoy Geothermal activities. But the first three are my favorite, in no particular order.

Wai-O-tapu Thermal Park - Geothermal Park

Also known as the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, this park offers a long walk which can help you visit all the various geothermal activities emanating within the park. There are a couple of shorter versions of this walk as well, which are a subset of this long walk. The longest walk helps you go through the entire thermal park and it might take up to 3 hours if are at a leisurely pace. The distance that you'll walk for before completing this walk is 3 KM. The shortest walk is 1 KM and there's another walk of 2 KM.

Irrespective of which path you take, don't miss point no. 19. "Champagne pool". In fact, that's a point in the entire thermal park that you cannot miss even if you are oblivious to its existence. Dozens of people would have assumed various poses from different viewpoints surrounding Champagne pool. This attraction offers the most dramatic set up as the Sulphur steams go berserk with the wind and creates an illusion of a lake on fire. The colors of this lake water form a unique combination. Trust me, the drive to Wai-O-tapu and time spent here will be worth, all because of this one point. All the other attractions are more or less the same. But, Champagne pool really stands out.

In fact, if you want to get your money & time's worth, Champagne Pool does the job. It is part of the shortest walk as depicted in the image. So, you might as well opt for the shortest route. However, we had ample of time and decided to walk around the entire Geothermal park.

When you are visiting Wai-O-tapu thermal wonderland, try to reach before 10 AM. Before you reach the parking of Wai-o-tapu thermal park, you will pass Lady Knox Geyser. It's a bit of detour from the main road to Wai-o-tapu. The Geyser erupts daily at 10:15 AM and would create a mighty sight for you to cherish. Unfortunately, we missed it by 15 minutes. But if you can make it, please consider visiting as it really depicts an exciting geothermal phenomenon.

If you are visiting Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Park, I'd recommend you to keep 3-4 hours aside. It is situated at a distance of 31 KMs from Rotoroa city and takes around half hour to reach.

Hell's Gate - Geothermal Park

Rightly named, this geothermal park actually feels like Hell's gate. Upon seeing the steam emanating from the bubbling & boiling water, one would wonder about this unique phenomenon. If at all there's a hell, the gate to it would definitely look like the seemingly nefarious Sulphur springs at Hell's gate geothermal Park.

The walk through this geothermal park would take anywhere between 30 - 60 minutes, depending on how excited are you after discovering these Sulphur springs. We quickly whisked through the lesser dramatic springs and spent some time admiring the steamy landscape. We found one point, 'Steaming Cliffs' which was the most dramatic. If 'Champaign Pool' was the best attraction at Wai-O-Tapu thermal park, 'Steaming Cliffs' adorns the Hell's Gate Geothermal park as the best attraction.

You can opt for a long walk in Hell's gate, but there are short cuts as well. We covered the entire walk as we had sufficient time to spare. However, even the entire walk of Hell's gate isn't going to take very long. The distance you cover is less.

After walking through the Hell's gate park, you can opt for a nice & relaxing mud spa.

Covering Hell's Gate should require around 1-2 hours. It's not very far from the city.

Polynesian Spa - Geothermal Spa

Can you think of a better way to end a day? Well, at-least for me, soaking in hot Sulphur springs can bring utmost joy to a weary traveler. Polynesian Spa does just that. Out of many options that they provide, we chose the private couple spa. Overlooking a peaceful sight of a lake, our own spa area gave a calming vibe. We dipped ourselves in the Sulphur spring and enjoyed the bountiful view as the lukewarm streams of water ran over us.

Apart from the private couple spa, there are some public areas as well. But, I would strongly recommend the private spa. The spa slots can be booked online and also in person. We had booked the slot online. However, we reached earlier and requested them to move us ahead which they gladly did.

Here are some options available for you to choose from.
- Deluxe lake Spa: Plunge in the hot pools with views of the lake, public pools
- Pavilion Pool: Not exactly by the Lake, but hot pools which are public
- Lake View Private Pool: Most suited for couples, we opted for this. You get a private pool & changing room with view of the lake
- Family Pools: Best suited for, you guessed it, families. Public pool and not necessarily by the lake

You can look at some bathing packages as well which offer combination of the above mentioned options. These packages are catered to various type of visitors; couples, families etc. Please visit their official website to have a look at these packages.

In addition to the bathing options, Polynesian Spa also offers a wide range of relaxing massages. You can try some of their massage packages as well.

Even More

Apart from the above mentioned recommendations, there are many other options as well to witness geothermal activities. Such as:

- Kerosene Creek: A thermal waterfall and pool which can help you indulge in relaxation & enjoyment. However, make sure you check the water levels before heading to Kerosene Creek.
- Wairua Stream: Another hot pool where you can indulge in some Sulphur springs. You have to take a boat across Lake tarawera which might make this time consuming. So, have a look at some online images & reviews before deciding about visiting this hot pool.
- Kuirau Park: Located amidst the city, Kuirau Park is a free sight for witnessing thermal springs. Taking a dip here might not be possible, you can only dip your feet.
- Waimangu Volcanic Valley: This volcanic valley is host to a beautiful lake which has thermal activity. Very close to Wai-O-tapu thermal park, this volcanic valley can be an addition to your day. Unfortunately, you cannot take a dip in the lake.
- Waikite Valley, Thermal Baths: Somewhat similar to Polynesian Spa, Waikite Valley offers a range of indulgence options if you want to relax in their thermal baths
- Whakarewarewa - The Living Maori Village: If you are intrigued with a combination of geothermal activity and local culture, Whakarewarewa is the destination for you. There are experiences & tours available for this destination which not only helps to discover the Geothermal hotspots but also introduces you to the culture of Maori, the local dwellers of New Zealand.
- Te Puia: If you are visiting Whakarewarewa, you might as well have a look at Te Puia. Just 1.7 Km away, Te Puia prides itself with the presence of famous Pohutu Geyser.

The above mentioned options are primarily for you to enjoy geothermal activities or phenomenon while visiting Rotorua. So have fun and stay steamy!

- Umang Trivedi

Umang is an avid traveler and passionate blogger who has been writing about his travel experiences since 2012. He is an adventure junkie with a curious eye for beautiful nature. He loves to explore & visit offbeat travel destinations. Umang also compiles travel tips, itineraries and more to help readers plan their trips. Follow him at or on Instagram

If you have a limited amount of time for your journey, see our advice about how much time to spend here: Should I spend 1, 2, or 3 days in Rotorua?, Should I spend 3, 4, or 5 days in Rotorua? and Is Rotorua Worth Visiting?

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Hot Water Springs in Rotorua | Budget Your Trip

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