The Waimangu Volcanic Valley, on the North Island of New Zealand, offers one of Rotorua’s largest zones for exploring geothermal phenomena. Called “the world’s youngest geothermal valley,” Waimangu features boiling lakes, bubbling mud pools, and mountains bathed in steam. The surrounding beauty of the native bushland is just a bonus.
The 1- to 2.5-mile (1.5- to 4-kilometer) pathway takes visitors on an easy 45-minute walk past thermal pools, geysers, fumaroles, and fissures to the lake edge. Complimentary shuttles offer rides between stops. Avid hikers can split off on the Mt. Hazard trail to get better views of the valley and gaze down on the lakes, radiant in turquoise and greens. One lake provides one of the best activities in the valley: a cruise on Lake Rotomahana. This naturally formed lake, once home to the Pink and White Terraces, covers 15 separate craters and is a haven for endangered birds.
A guided tour of the Waimangu Volcanic Valley provides more insight into how this exceptionally young landscape transforms by the day. Some tours include the option to explore Wai-O-Tapu, the Whakarewarewa Living Maori Village, Huka Falls, or the Hobbiton Movie Set. A seaplane flight offers otherworldly views from above.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wear comfortable walking shoes; some of the terrain is uneven and requires going up or down steps.
- Wheelchair access is available along flat areas of the walkway, but the Inferno Crater and the Mt. Haszard hiking trail are not suitable for wheelchairs.
- Lightweight, fold-up wheelchairs and strollers can board shuttle buses and the Lake Rotomahana boat.
- Book early for boat tours during peak season (November to March).
How to Get There
The Waimangu Volcanic Valley sits 25 minutes from downtown Rotorua at 587 Waimangu Road, just off State Highway 5. It’s a fascinating journey along the Thermal Highway, with round-trip transport from central Rotorua provided by most tour operators. Many vehicles stop for photo ops at Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake) and Lake Rotokakahi (Green Lake) en route. There is also shuttle bus service from Rotorua to Waimangu.
When to Get There
This natural attraction is open daily 8:30am to 5pm (until 6pm in January), with the last admission at 3:30pm. Be sure to arrive by afternoon if you plan to take a lake cruise or hike, and allow at least 1.5 hours for your visit. Boat tours run 45 minutes, with six scheduled departures daily.
Mt. Tarawera’s Eruption
When Mt. Tarawera erupted in 1886, it forever changed the Rotorua landscape into a valley of steaming wonder. Though New Zealand’s indigenous Maori made use of these hot spots for centuries, the geothermal activity here grew 20 times larger once the Tarawera eruption was complete. Visitors can learn more at the Buried Village of Te Wairoa, a former Maori village established by missionaries and destroyed in the blast.