Take a walking tour of the the world’s most colourful hot springs at Waiotapu New Zealand

by | Jan 18, 2018 | Asia, New Zealand | 0 comments

We drove from Napier to Rotorua to see the most colourful hot springs in the world

The drive takes about 3 hours. The scenery is stunning with steep green hills and thousands of sheep. I wanted to stop for pictures but there are no places to pull over. There is a lot of traffic on the road, including logging trucks, so it was just too dangerous to stop. You will have to do the drive yourself to see how beautiful it is.

We arrived in Rotorua in the late afternoon and had a chance to explore the town. It is lovely and worth the visit in itself. (more on the town next week)

We visited the hot springs the next morning. It is best to visit the hot springs in the morning so that you can see the geyser that erupts every day at 10:15 a.m.

It is a 20 minute drive from Rotorua to the hot springs. If you do not have a car, you can arrange a shuttle bus pickup from your hotel.


Waiotapu, the name of the hot springs, means ‘sacred waters’ in Māori.


A visit to Waiotapu includes the geothermal fields and Lady Knox geyser. The geyser is a couple of miles away from the fields. Tickets are only sold at the geothermal fields. If you want to start your visit with the geyser, you first have to drive to the fields to buy your tickets.The geyser erupts every day at 10:15. The parking lot at the fields empties out at 10:00 while everyone drives over to the geyser. If you buy your tickets online, you can go directly to the geyser. We started with the fields, drove over to see the geyser and then returned to the fields to finish our walk.


Buy your tickets online and avoid the confusion of driving back and forth from the fields to the geyser


Champagne Pool is Instagram-perfect

Walking through the Waiotapu geothermal field is an otherworldly experience. Plumes of sulphur vapour escape from deep rocky caverns. You can hear angry mud ponds deep below the surface. The smell of sulphur permeates everything. Nothing grows in this vast volcano zone. I can’t compare it to anything I have ever seen.

Champagne Pool is the star attraction at Waiotapu. The colours are incredible.

The striking blue-green water is from chloride. Arsenic creates the orange shelf.

Carbon dioxide causes the gas bubbles in Champagne Pool. The temperature of the water that bubbles to the surface is 74° C.

The park assumes that visitors have enough sense not to touch the water. There is a low wooden fence between the walkway and the pool. No one ventured beyond the fence when we were there.

I had the feeling that If I put my hand in the water, my flesh would vaporize and I would pull a skeleton from the water. Something you would see in a horror movie.


Do not touch the water

This is a closeup of Champagne Pool

It is hard to get a closeup of the water because of the plumes of sulphur. I have lots of pictures that are nothing but white vapour. I can still smell the sulphur.

The bubbles in Champagne Pool remind me of Dean Martin singing Tiny Bubbles.


Do not drink the water in Champagne Pool

We stopped at Champagne Pool again after we finished walking through the geothermal field

There are 3 marked trails, ranging from 1.5 to 3 km. We did the 3 km walk.

The water spills from Champagne Pool into the Artist’s Palette

The colours in the Artist’s Palette change with the weather.

This is the Artist’s Palette again a bit later in the day

This is the boardwalk across the Artist’s Palette

The water that spills across the Artist’s Palette is only about an inch deep but I did not want to venture off the boardwarlk

The water flows down Sinter Terrace from the Artist’s Palette

Sinter Terrace is oddly mesmerizing. Everything in the river is dead. Yet, the silica deposits look like miniature terraced rice fields. There is no life in this vast terrace.


I did not put a finger in this water

This is the view looking back up the sinter terrace

Sinter Terrace ends with this green river

The sulphur plumes kill the vegetation

The sulphur is almost luminescent yellow.


The sulphur-yellow backdrop is an unusual place for a selfie

This is a small pool of vigorously boiling water

The water from Champagne Pool eventually spills into this beautiful lake

This is a chainsaw carving of a friendly gecko

The gecko is carved from a single pine log.


Did you know that Saw Dogs is a reality show on chainsaw carving?

You will find this stunning Opal Lake near the exit from the geothermal fields


This duck does not seem to mind the sulphur in the lake

After exiting the geothermal park, we drove a couple of miles to the next attraction, Lady Knox Geyser.

We are waiting with anticipation for the geyser to erupt

There are tiered viewing stands to watch the geyser.

Soap makes the geyser erupt

The geyser does not erupt spontaneously. Soap changes the equilibrium at the base of the geyser, causing it to erupt.

I thought the geyser would give one spurt and be done. I set my camera on burst shot so that I could take multiple shots and hope  to capture the moment.

I didn’t need to worry about getting a shot. The eruption went on and on. It lasted 45 minutes. There was lots of time for photos. Since I set my camera to burst mode, I have dozens and dozens of shots.

There she blows!

The wind shifted throughout the eruption so we were misted by the eruption.

We talked to a guide before seeing the geyser. He tried to tell us not to expect too much. He said that is is nothing like Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park. Well, I have never been to Yellowstone and I have never seen Old Faithful so I had no comparative. I thought the geyser was absolutely amazing. I also enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere at the geyser. Everyone wandered around taking pictures.

Notice the beautiful forest behind the geyser. This is Kaingaroa Forest, one of the largest planned forests in the world.

Before the forest was planted, the hills were covered in native scrub. In the 1920’s, the government tried some experimental plantings of pine and douglas fir. The fertile volcanic soil was perfect for trees. In the 1980’s the government wanted to sell the forests to private interests. The Māori brought a legal claim for treaty violations. It took 20 years to reach a settlement that saw the lands revert to the Māori while the forests are owned privately.

Now I understood why we saw so many logging trucks on our drive along the forest to Rotorua.

This is a closeup of the geyser

What a great way for kids to spend the day

This is a geezer blowing a geyser

We stopped at the Mud Pools on the way out of the park

The mud pools are totally mesmerizing. You can watch as a pool is ready to explode. First, there is a wisp of steam. Then the pool starts to bubble. Finally, it explodes and mud shoots into the air. Trying to aim my camera at what I thought would be the next explosion was like playing Whack-a-mole. No matter where I was aiming, a better pool was exploding somewhere else.

The exploding mud looks like modern sculptures

Another mud photo

And another

We had a wonderful day at the geothermal park

I have seen a lot of strange things, but nothing compares to Champagne Pool and exploding mud pools.

I liked this bus in the parking lot. It was time to head back into town and find a full glass of New Zealand wine.

Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at BoomerVoice.ca
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray