Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Top choice natural feature in Rotorua Lakes

Image by Vincent Jary Getty Images

The most colourful of the region's geothermal attractions, Wai-O-Tapu (Sacred Waters) has a variety of features packed into a relatively compact, heavily cratered area, with the highlights being the orange-rimmed, fizzing Champagne Pool and the unearthly lemon-lime-hued Roto Kārikitea. Just down the road (but included in the entry fee) is the Lady Knox Geyser, which erupts (with prompting from an organic soap) punctually at 10.15am and gushes up to 20m – follow the park exodus just before 10am to witness it.

All the headline acts are on the shortest (1.5km) of three interconnecting walking loops, but you're best to set aside at least a couple of hours for the full 3km track, which leads down to a waterfall spilling into Lake Ngakoro.

Wai-O-Tapu is 27km south of Rotorua along SH5 (towards Taupō), and a further 2km from the marked turn-off.

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