Known as Tikitere to the Ngāti Rangiteaorere people, this highly active geothermal reserve lies 16km northeast of Rotorua on the Whakatāne road (SH30). It's not the most colourful of the Rotorua thermal areas but, among all the bubbling pools and steaming vents, there are some unique features, such as a 2.4m-high mud volcano and the largest natural hot waterfall (40°C) in the southern hemisphere. There's also a small but well-priced set of therapeutic outdoor mineral pools attached to the complex.
Walking tracks make a 2.5km figure-eight loop through the reserve, passing all of the geothermal features and providing all the gurgling, burping and boiling you could hope for. Even if you’re not hopping in a spa, there’s a natural warm mud pool in which you can soak your feet at the end of the loop.
The diabolic name originated from a 1934 visit by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, who described it as the gateway to hell. However, Tikitere has long been known to local Māori as a place of healing. Warriors would ritually bathe in the hot waterfall to physically and spiritually cleanse themselves when returning from battle, and sulphur-infused water drawn from the pools was used as an insecticide and to heal septic wounds.
There's a cafe and a workshop where you can try your hand at woodcarving.