Travel Story | The Smelly Volcanic Plateau in New Zealand

by Flip Flop Wanderers

The volcanic plateau in New Zealand: in our opinion, one of the most stunning areas of the whole of New Zealand but also pretty smelly! It is here that you can find all the iconic volcanoes, geysers, and hot mud pools. Of course, that comes hand-in-hand with sulphur and sulphur means smell! But well, that didn’t really bother us. We visited this area after we had been for 2 weeks on the road again, after working at Hot Water Beach, as you might have read in our previous update. In those two weeks, we already went crisscross over the North Island, and this would only continue as we went via the volcanic plateau back to the east coast again! Yes, we definitely wanted to see eve-ry-thing this island had to offer!

Read our travel story about freedom again in New Zealand!

So this time it wasn’t beaches that dominated our travels, like in the previous post, but volcanoes, epic activities, hot spas, Maori culture, and many lakes. We’ll tell you all about this smelly area below!

On the road!

Stunning Taupo

After a night on the gorgeous free campground at Te Kuiti, it was time to head towards Taupo that Tuesday. Unfortunately, we had a lot of rain that day, so we couldn’t do much and went to a campsite quite early. We decided to park our van at Taupo Debretts. This is a thermal pool, which has a campsite with it too. And since water is wet anyway, we went there to have a swim in the rain. With the water temperature of 38 and 41 degrees, it was very relaxing!

The next day the rain had gone, and we went looking for the best sights of Taupo. First, we went to the Huka Falls. This waterfall only drops 9 meters, but the bright blue water flows with so much force that it is really impressive to see! 200.000 liters (that are 5 Olympic pools!) of water per minute flows through the small canyon! This is a very touristic site though, where buses full of tourists come by.

We wanted to kayak to some amazing rock sculptures from Acacia Bay, but the company didn’t have any good kayaks left, and it was super windy, so we decided to come back in the morning. Since we were here now, we went to see some other bays here and drove up to Whakaipo Bay. There was a nice black gravel beach in this beautiful bay.

Afterwards, we visited Aratiatia Rapids. This was a fast flowing river through the rocks until they built a big dam. The dam gets opened 3 or 4 times a day which makes the river come to life again. We were there at the right time and once the dam opened, the river filled up quickly and turned into a swirling river again. This place was also used for the ‘escape in the barrel’ scene of the Hobbit. Every time the dam opened they threw a lot of barrels in the river, without any dwarves in it though 😛

An Introduction to the Volcanic Plateau

Now it was time to visit Craters of the Moon. This is one of the cheaper geothermal parks here. The flat green landscape with smokey craters everywhere has an off earth feeling to it!

We drove to the town center of Taupo where we found the big letters #LOVETAUPO. We went further to look for Taupo’s hot water beach. This is a small hot spring at the edge of the lake, but it is really small, so not that special. We were hungry now, and knowing that Taupo has world’s coolest McDonald’s the choice what to eat was made easily. This McDonald’s has an airplane next to the restaurant where you can dine in. How cool is that?!

Next, we went to Spa Park Hot Spring. In this park is a little hot spring under a bridge at the side of the Waikato River. It is a free nice hot spring, and we were not the only ones. After a quick visit we went to 3-mile beach to watch the sunset, and make some cool shots with our van!

The next morning we went back to the kayak rental, but there was no-one there. Strange since they told us to come back in the morning. After calling them they told us they were not there, which we already noticed 😛 We tried some other companies, but they told us the wind is too strong to kayak to the rock carvings. We decided to leave this until Bram’s parents are here and visit it together. That’s why we headed for Wai-O-Tapu, a bit of a drive towards Rotorua. It is a beautiful geothermal park which we visited our first time in NZ as well. It is actually so beautiful that it was worth another visit. You can see some stunning craters, geysers, and waterfalls.

Not far from there you can find Kerosine Creek. There are some free hot pools in this river, and there is even a hot waterfall! Normally swimming in the waterfalls here is freezing but this one was really warm! We continued to Rotorua where we visited the night market which was a nice way to finish the day!

Smelly Rotorua

In the morning we went to Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Another smelly place that we visited before but it is so worth another visit! Last time we didn’t have time to see it all. There are spectacular views of the smoking lakes and hot rivers. After walking up the track, there are buses to take you back to the entrance.

Next, we went to Whakarewarewa which is a Maori village build on top of a geothermal area full of hot springs. First, there was a show with a Haka and such. Afterwards, there was a tour through the village. Apparently, they still live a bit as they did in the past. They cook dinner in the hot springs and in the ground (Hangi) and they use the water for bathing as well. The geothermal activity keeps moving around which forced the village to move all the time. We saw some houses with huge craters underneath, so they could not live in there anymore.

Whakarewarewa is a bit touristic, but there is another suburb in Rotorua where only Maori people live, Ohinemutu. We went to have a look there, and we even heard them practicing the haka. It is nice to see that they still live to these traditions while living in a modern world at the same time. There are a beautiful Marae and church in this village.

After this visit, we went to Kuirau Park. This free park has some geothermal views as well. There are bubbling mud pools and a hot food bath.

Adrenaline Activities

Next to all the geothermal activities, there are some awesome other activities to do in Rotorua! In the early morning, we went to Skyline Rotorua. You can go up to a mountain via a gondola. On top of it are plenty of adventures activities. You can go down a very steep mountain bike track, there is a huge swing and you can go Luge-ing. We went for this last option. Luge-ing is driving down a hill in some kind of go-karts/toboggan rides. It is so fun to do! There are 3 different tracks to race down the hill. There is also an awesome view over the town from up there, and you can find the ‘Rotovegas’ sign up here.

Back down again we went via the Rotorua Museum. The museum is closed but it is still a beautiful building.

Next, it was time for some more adrenalin activities. We went to Ogo which is the same as Zorb. You climb into a huge ball filled with a little bit of water inside, and then you roll down a hill. There is a straight track and a zigzag track and we tried both! The zigzag one is the funniest one, you fly around in that ball!

After some dinner, we went to the Polynesian Spa. These thermal baths are on the side of Lake Rotorua and it gives some spectacular views, especially around sunset! It was very relaxing to sit in the hot water which had temperatures between 40 and 42 degrees!

Beautiful Lakes

The next day we went to drive around Rotorua Lake. First, we visited a nice pier close to where we camped. On the North side of the lake, we found a nice spot to park the van and make some cool shots with it.

A bit further we came to the Okere Falls. We wanted to go rafting here but it was not possible at the days when we were there because the dams were opened too much and the river was too high… It’s a shame because you will raft over this 7-meter high waterfall! Seeing the falls, Manon didn’t really mind that we couldn’t go rafting there anymore 😛

We continued to Lake Rotoiti, a nice lake, but we continued quickly to the next lake: Lake Tarawera. This lake has some stunning views! We chilled a bit on our Trono’s here. There is a nice pier where we wanted to make pictures of sunrise the next morning. We had to come back because at the moment there were many boats landing, and also one big float that had 3 houses full of furniture on it and it was unloading here… Couches, gazebo’s, barbecues, they had it all.

We drove a bit further along the lake and saw some more awesome views. Then we went to the Green and Blue lakes, two other lakes close to here. There was a viewpoint in between where we could see both of them.

We drove back to our spot at Lake Tarawera as we saw on the Wikicamps app that you can camp there for free at night. So that is what we did. We had dinner next to the lake and we enjoyed some beautiful views during sunset.

We woke up early to make some photos of the sunrise over the lake. It looked so amazing from the pier, and also from the beach! It was so calm and peaceful.

Playing With Mud & in the Forest

After breakfast, we drove to Hells Gate, another area with a lot of thermal activities. The cool thing here is that you can enjoy a nice mud bath! It was so relaxing to sit in the 40 degrees mud pool, we literally felt as happy as pigs in the mud! Afterwards, we could also enjoy the other hot pools here. Our swimwear and towel smelled really bad afterwards 😛

We continued to the Redwoods Forest which is full of North American Sequoia trees. These high red trees are a beautiful place to stroll around and make some pictures in between the giants.

Crystal Clear Water and a Cute Campground

Next, we visited the Blue Spring in Putaruru. This water is so clear! It comes from a very deep spring and it will take the water 50 to 100 years to get to the surface. 70% of New Zealand’s spring water comes from this spring. You are not allowed to swim in there, but it is freezing cold anyway. The water temperature is 11 to 12 degrees cold all year round.

Then we went to the Arapuni Swing bridge, which is a very long swing bridge over a fast flowing river.

That night, we went camping at Little Waipa Reserve, which is a beautiful free campsite along a river. It is so nice to camp in places like that, you never find views like these in the expensive campsites.

And that was the end of our visit to the smelly volcanic plateau for now. We were now going to the Bay of Plenty area for many more adventures. We will tell you all about it in our next update!

Thank you for reading again!

Don’t be a tourist, be a traveller


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