New Zealand’s scenery is a feast for the eyes and a dramatic reflection of the country’s position atop two tectonic plates. As the plates shift over time, mountain ranges have formed, volcanoes have erupted from the earth, and boiling mud pools have dotted the landscape.
From the majestic Tongariro National Park to the bubbling wonders of Rotorua and the painful past of White Island, New Zealand’s natural elements continue to enchant both tourists and locals alike. Here are a few of the country’s most renowned volcanic and geothermal locations.
Tongariro National Park
In central North Island, Tongariro National Park stands tall as an example of the forces of nature. Its three towering peaks – Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu rise high above the surrounding farmland and can often be found with snow on their peaks. From steaming vents to sulphurous lakes, there’s no forgetting the volcanic origins of this untamed terrain. Set off on the legendary Tongariro Alpine Crossing to experience it for yourself.
Nowhere wears its geothermal heart on its sleeve quite like the city of Rotorua. With a thriving Maori culture and no shortage of geothermal activity, it’s no surprise that Rotorua is one of the country’s most impressive tourist destinations. Stroll through Te Puia Park to witness the bubbling mud pools and show-stopping Pohutu Geyser, then see the world’s largest hot spring at Waimangu Volcanic Valley before stopping at Whakarewarewa Living Village to eat sweetcorn cooked fresh in the natural volcanic hot springs.
Rising up from the ocean not far off the coast of Whakatane, White Island is an active volcano that was once a must-visit attraction in the Bay of Plenty. Consistently puffing steam, it could be accessed by boat or plane, allowing you to walk on its surface on a guided tour. After an eruption in 2019 that resulted in tragedy, it is now off-limits to visitors. However, on a clear day, you can view it from the coastline.
While Lake Taupo is the central feature of the city of Taupo, a giant volcano once stood in its place. Thousands of years ago, a colossal eruption left nothing but a crater where the Taupo Volcano once stood. Today, that crater provides leisure and tourism activities that draw millions of people to the city each year. Along the shore, you’ll find hot water bubbling up in some areas, leaving mineral deposits on the surrounding rocks. While you’re there, visit nearby Craters Of The Moon, a geothermal walkway that takes you through an other-worldly landscape.
As you explore New Zealand’s volcanic marvels, be sure to remember that these geothermal wonders are more than just tourist attractions; they’re windows into the inner workings of our planet.
Sarah Todhunter is a writer, mother-of-two and a dual citizen of New Zealand and the UK. As the sole proprietor of Fyxen Copywriters, she has navigated the ups and downs of moving a business and family across hemispheres, sharing the lessons she’s learned along the way.