The famous Champagne Pool of Waiotapu. © Christopher Chan

Wai-O-Tapu: thermal wonderland


Described as a ‘thermal wonderland’, Wai-o-Tapu, meaning ‘sacred waters’, is a globally renowned attraction that sits – well, bubbles and hisses – about 30km south of Rotorua.

Around 18 square kilometres of geothermal activity is on display here, in various guises. Well, and geysers, course. The most famous is the Lady Knox Geyser, which, is activated to blow every day at precisely 10.15am. How do they do that, you might ask? Well, nature’s force gets a little encouragement from some detergent, and a constructed ‘blow hole’ then funnels all the steam into an impressive display.

Less forceful but equally arresting is the monstrous and fantastically coloured Champagne Pool. Now while that might sound like an exotic tub filled with Moët, it is a wholly natural and naturally wholesome sight.

An amazing mixture of bright, naturally-derived colours, it is a bubbling example of what makes Rotorua the hot spot it is. The champagne colour denotes the abundance of CO2 in the pool, while other chemical compounds explain the bright orange edges that offset the aquamarine centre. Makes Joseph’s dreamcoat seem monochrome compared. And at 70°C-plus, it’s a case of look but don’t touch.

There’s heaps to see on your wander through the park: stunning mineral terraces, lots of bubbling mud pools and other hot and cold springs. The walk through this cathedral of steam is flat and well-paved, with a great viewing platform that lets you survey all from a suitable elevation and a good café at the end of it all, where the only steam comes from the coffee machine.

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