Travel Geother­mal NZ

PAUL EWART steps back in time to ex­plore the oth­er­worldly nat­u­ral won­ders of New Zealand

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Contents -

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.

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