EXPLORING THE THERMAL WONDERLAND OF WAI-O-TAPU AND HAVING A HARD TIME BREATHING IN ROTURUA
Today we are leaving lake Taupo behind to head further up North to explore the geo-thermal wonders of the famous Wai-O-Tapu National Park and the city of Rotorua. We noticed that once you manage to get past the smell you'll indeed find yourself in a weirdly beautiful wonderland of exploding geysers, bubbling mud wholes, colourful lakes and steaming vents and hot springs.
TAUPO - LEAVING OUR LAKESIDE PARADISE
The absolutely stunning area of Lake Taupo definitely impressed us! It can easily compete with all the other lakeside hot spots we had found on the South Island such as Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki and Lake Wanaka. So if you think the North cannot live up to the wonders of the South than let us tell you, Lake Taupo can kick some serious butt when it comes to comparing Lakes in New Zealand and shouldn’t be missed on any New Zealand round trip agenda.
Needless to say, that after such a fun-water-themed-packed day of enjoying New Zealand’s biggest lake and its surroundings - soaking in hot springs and exploring other geo-thermal activities as well as chasing waterfalls and finding one of the most impressive waterfall we have ever seen - it was really hard to say goodbye to Taupo! Check out our full post about things to do in Taupo and it’s surroundings.
BRING ON THE GEO-THERMAL FUN!
However things looked bright ahead! The sun was shining and we had a visit of the famous Wai-O-Tapu National Park lined up - a geo-thermal Wonderland and New Zealand must-visit! We were pumped and excited for the adventure ahead.
Already the 45-minute drive from Taupo to Wai-O-Tapu was really spectacular - especially how the morning fog mixed with the steam vents you could see along the way - it looked like there was smoke and steam everywhere you looked.
A hot date with Lady Knox
Make sure to get to Wai-O-Tapu at around 9:30 - 9:45am the latest if you don’t want to miss out on an impressive date with a very special lady! She is quite a hot one and ready to blow some steam. Her name is LADY KNOX and she is the resident geyser of the Wai-O-Tapu National Park.
Every day at 10:15 am you can watch Lady Knox erupt to heights of 10 to 20 metres during a guided presentation in a natural amphitheatre just a few minutes drive past the Visitor Centre. The entrance to the National Park covers as well for the presentation of the geyser so make sure to get your entrance ticket first before heading to Lady Knox.
Check this link for a little video of the geyser erupting during this informative presentation: http://www.waiotapu.co.nz/attractions/lady-knox-geyser/
WAI-O-TAPU - exploring a wonderland of geo-thermal activities
Admission to Wai-O-Tapu is 32.50NZD per Person. It’s the only National Park that charges a fee but it’s totally worth seeing. Thinking about our road trip through the US where basically every bigger National Park cost us at least 20 - 30USD per person this one was actually a bargain!
The colourful and volcanic area of Wai-O-Tapu is packed with geysers, boiling mud, steam vents and hot springs - so basically a whole lot of weird bubbling and boiling stuff that sounds already a bit strange and surreal when hearing or reading about it but which looks even more surreal when actually seeing it.
No wonder why Trip Advisor also calls Wai-O-Tapu “one of the most surreal places to visit in the world”. Watching boiling mud and fascinating steam vents all around you IS FREAKING SURREAL!!!
After a while we didn’t even notice the horrendous rotten-eggs-kinda-smell that accompanied all of this spectacle. It was just so mesmerizing to walk through this park and simply watch in awe what million years of geo-thermal activity have created here.
There are boardwalks and formed pathways leading you through 3 different loop walks – you can do just one (1.5 km), one & two (2 km) or all 3 (3 km). Doing all 3 takes you a couple of hours to complete but you won’t really notice the time fly by while you tramp slowly through the weirdest looking scenery of all times full of caves, lakes, craters, hot springs and pools in all kinds of colours and shapes.
You can learn a lot from the many sign-boards along the pathways however what we loved the most was the names they came up with for those weirdly creations, trying to explain whatever it is that is in front of you. You'll find names like: this is “Artists palette” and that’s the “devils bath” - it was hilarious but surprisingly fitting. 😊
Our favourite however was the “Champagne Pool” and although NOT finding exactly what one would expect when hearing “Champagne pool” we did find a fascinating gigantic pool with a bright orange border and filled with hot bubbling water which looked indeed a bit like Champagne bubbles. But the smell….oooohh myyy…..No interest in tasting THAT sort of bubbly!!! 😊
WECOME TO ROTOVEGAS - a smelly adventure paradise
We ended the day in Rotorua just a 30 minutes drive from Wai-O-Tapu.
This city with a lot of geo-thermal activity happening has one distinct feature - the constant smell OF ROTTEN EGGS! It’s kinda disgusting! 😊 This smelly added bonus that comes with a visit to the city also gave Rotorua it’s nickname: ROTOVEGAS!
We actually wondered how people can LIVE in a place that smelly but I guess it’s like with most things - you’ll get used to it, eventually 😊. As first time visitors we weren’t impressed and almost left straight away.
However, it might be worth trying the get past that evil smell as Rotorua is actually the perfect place for everyone who loves adventure, relaxation and thrilling experiences. So basically it’s for everyone! 😊 From hiking, zip lining, rafting and meeting the adorable Kiwis at the Rainbow Springs Nature Park to chilling in hot springs and taking a scenic flights over New Zealand's most iconic volcanoes, there is A LOT to see and do in and around Rotovegas, that it would be a shame to just ignore it. So take a deep breath my friend and dive right in! 😊
We spend the rest of the day walking through the city and along the promenade by the lake, eating ice-cream and hunting down steaming gullies with water vapour coming out! It was actually really fun.
If you’re lucky you can stay again right by the lake for free (close to the boat ramp in the car park area) however be quick, there are just limited spaces available. Otherwise you’ll find plenty of camping grounds nearby.
We definitely had an amazing day today and despite feeling like we hadn’t taken a shower in years it was absolutely impressive seeing all the geo-thermal activities of this area. New Zealand once again blew our mind!
Next Day: DAY 22 - Tauranga & Mount Maunganui
Previous Day: DAYS 19 & 20 - Taupo
Start at the beginning: DAY ONE - Christchurch to Akaroa
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