To be sure, it’s a touristy thing but Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is none the worst for it.
This was on my list of places to show Tam on our New Zealand campervan trip. Having lived in the North Island before, about 15 years ago, I remembered Wai-o-Tapu thermal wonderland as being an amazing place. Was my memory playing tricks on me? Time for another look!
Before getting to the carpark, head on down the loop road to the boiling mud pools, they are well worth a look. Depending if the weather is dry or wet depends on how viscose the mud is and how it moves. Sometimes it is quite liquid like the video above and correspondingly in the drier weather it moves like a thick chocolate. It found it mesmerising!
Entry to Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland
After looking at the mud pools, head down the road to the main car park. Entry (at the time of writing) is $32.50 NZD for an adult and $11.00 NZD for a child. Family price is $80.00 NZD. While it’s not free, it is good value in my opinion. The uniqueness of the area coupled with the informative signage makes for an unforgettable experience. Listing surreal landscapes, you’d be hard-pressed not to put Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland in the top 5.
The Wai-o-Tapu thermal wonderland is an amazing landscape full of geological wonders. 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, advise you to keep to them, on pain of pain! In particular, on some signs, they note the temperature of the surrounding ground at over 100 degrees! So yeah, stick to the paths.
If arriving early at Wai-o-tapu thermal wonderland, you get a chance to see the Lady Knox geyser which blows regularly at 10.15am every morning. The staff give you directions for it, it’s an additional 3-minute drive away.
The Devils Bath is especially striking. The bright yellow water is, in fact, a result of sulphur dissolved in and sitting atop the water. Coupled with the surrounding rocks it is extremely striking!
The Champagne Pool
The beautiful champagne pool. Named for the bubbling waters caused by the carbon dioxide dissolved in it. A Hydrothermal explosion formed the pool about 900 years ago. Steam shrouded, the pool is, in essence, a fabulous sight. The explosion excavated a crater of about 65 metres wide and the same deep. As shown above, deposited at the sides of the pool metalloid compounds give it a surprisingly orange colour.
The amazing Oyster Pool. The jaw-dropping colours surrounding this limpid blue pool were spectacular. Being a bit of a geology geek, I was in my element. However, you don’t have to be a fully paid up, card-carrying nerd to enjoy Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland! Don’t let the name put you off, thermal wonderland sounds a bit kitsch but it is worth the entry fee to view the full fury of nature. New Zealand is comparatively extremely geologically active and here you can see the Islands growing and forming in front of your own eyes.
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland – Conclusions
Go for it! Firstly, you don’t see something like this every day. Secondly, it gives you an appreciation of New Zealand’s formation and its uniqueness.
- Situated south of Rotorua in the North Island
- Entry Fee $32.50 per adult
- Take a camera
- If rain is forecast take an umbrella. It’s all outside
More details on Wai-o-Tapu thermal wonderland can be found here