There are lots of places in Rotorua to find bubbling mud and steam vents, but the difference here at “Hell’s Gate” is that the landscape might actually end up scaring you. Rotorua’s geothermal activity is most pronounced in this valley, and the steam is just a little bit thicker and the mud gurgles a little bit louder. The earth here is powerfully raw—and that’s what’s made it such an alluring site since the days of ancient Maori. The famous playwright George Bernard Shaw first uttered the name “Hell’s Gate,” as he reasoned that if Hell were to have a gate, it would surely look like this.
Tikitapu is the Maori name originally given to the valley, named after a Princess who ended her life by jumping in a boiling pool. Indeed, the water here in the natural pools can easily reach above boiling, and the hottest pools register temperatures over 250°F. Wooded boardwalks lead visitors on a safe path through the chaos, and when harnessed properly, the natural mineral waters can actually be healing, and the mud is used for massage.
The Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park is open from 8:30am-8:30pm on every day except Christmas. The park is located 15 minutes from downtown Rotorua, and there are free shuttles at 8:50am, 12:50pm and 4:50pm. Admission begins at $20/adult and increases with additional activities.