Image by Wibowo Rusli Getty Images
A little off the beaten track, Orakei Korako gets fewer visitors than other thermal areas. But since the destruction of the Pink and White Terraces, it's arguably the best thermal area left in NZ, with active geysers, stunning terraces, bubbling rainbow land and the country's only geothermal cave. Entry includes the boat ride across the lake from the visitor centre and cafe (free wi-fi). Visit the toilets, punningly named 'guysers' and 'galsers', before crossing over.
A walking track follows stairs and boardwalks around the colourful silica terraces for which the park is famous, and passes geysers and Ruatapu Cave (allow 1½ hours). This impressive natural cave has a jade-green pool, thought to have been used as a mirror by Māori women preparing for rituals (Orakei Korako means ‘the Place of Adorning’).
It’s about 30 minutes to Orakei Korako from Taupo. Take SH1 towards Hamilton for 23km, and then travel for 14km from the signposted turn-off. From Rotorua the turn-off is on SH5, via Mihi. You can also arrive via the New Zealand River Jet.