Travel Geothermal NZ
PAUL EWART steps back in time to explore the otherworldly natural wonders of New Zealand
Boiling mud pools, hot springs, shooting geysers, hissing steam vents and brightly coloured acid lakes – New Zealand’s North Island is a literal hotbed for geothermal activity, thanks to its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Auckland is the perfect starting point for our road trip. Less than an hour away, on the west coast, is volcanic black sand beach Karekare and surfing hotspot Piha. A day trip from Auckland by ferry, visit Waiheke Island, aka Island of Wine for vineyards and eco-tours.
Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula to the east offers a unique experience – dig your own relaxing hot spa bath in the sand. The iconic Cathedral Cove rock formation at Hahei Beach isn’t far away.
Three hours south is Rotorua, known for its unique Maori culture, hot springs and geysers. Make a beeline for Wai-o-tapu, one of the most extensive geothermal systems around and where you can see the famed Lady Knox Geyser, stunning Champagne Pool and the largest mud pool in the country.
Speaking of record holding, Te Puia has the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere – a natural phenomenon that shoots steaming water 30 metres into the air once or twice every hour. At Hell’s Gate you can indulge in 20 hectares of pools and springs.
Driving south for an hour, you’ll reach the town of Taupo, which is built around a lake created almost 2000 years ago by a volcanic eruption. As such, at many of Lake Taupo’s beaches, swimmers can enjoy warm, geothermal water currents to combat the NZ chill.
Craters of the Moon is a must-see. A 45-minute selfguided walk takes you safely through an active geothermal field of bubbling craters, steam vents and colourful soil.
South of Taupo, in the heritage listed Tongariro National Park, you’ll encounter a trio of active volcanoes. Amid the eerie jagged rock formations, lava still flows and steam pours down from its
slopes. Little wonder its otherworldly landscape featured throughout the Lord Of The Rings trilogy as sinister Mordor.
To really immerse yourself in the environment, don your boots and tackle the 20km Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Renowned as the best day trek in the country, it traverses steam vents, old lava flows and thermal lakes.
A three-hour drive west takes us to the mountainous region of Egmont National Park, home to what’s regarded as the most perfectly formed volcano, Mount Taranaki. It’s so picturesque it was a stand-in for Japan’s Mount Fuji in Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai. There’s an extensive network of hiking trails, so take your pick and start snapping as you stroll.
Craters of the Moon, part of the largest geothermal field in New Zealand. Paul discovers NZ’S marvels. Dig a hot spa bath at Hot Water Beach, Coromandel Peninsula.
Carbon dioxide creates bubbles at Waiotapu’s Champagne Pool.