There are a number of geothermal sites in Rotorua and Taupo and they all have their own claims to fame – ‘Orakei Korako is arguably the best thermal area left in NZ’ (Lonely Planet), and ‘Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland – one of the 20 most surreal places in the world’ (Trip Advisor).
It makes it hard to decide where to go if you have to choose. My aim with posts about geothermal attractions is to highlight what we think are the best reasons for visiting a particular site.
Orakei Korako is about 45 minutes drive from Rotorua and 25 minutes from Taupo and that is one of its advantages in terms of visitor numbers. It’s a bit off the tourist trail so it’s unlikely to be as busy as other geothermal areas.
The captain of the little ferry above takes you on a two minute ride across Lake Ohakuri to the start of the self guided geothermal walk. Allow at least 90 minutes for the walk along well made tracks and boardwalks. There are quite a few steps but it’s not too strenuous, note that the walk is not push chair or wheel chair friendly. (Baby backpacks are provided free of charge for children under two).
The Orakei Korako website provides a good explanation of the geothermal formations that you see as you walk around the park so I’m not going to try and replicate that, instead I’ll show more and tell less ……
Ruatapu Cave is one of only two geothermally situated caves in the world, the other is in Italy. You can’t walk inside the cave, instead you can stand on a viewing platform and see the hot clear pool of water at its base.
I find mud pools mesmerising and I read on a sign at Orakei Korako that the more rain there is the more active mud pools are, so winter tends to be the season with the most mud action.
The thermal area is known as the Hidden Valley, following the tracks into the hills where steam swirls through the air and mud bubbles and water boils it does feel like you’re in a hidden and relatively untouched part of New Zealand.
When you’ve finished your walk you press a button at the jetty and the ferry comes and collects you. The balcony of the Visitor Centre / MudCake Cafe is a lovely spot to have a drink before or after your walk, don’t count on there being a lot of food in the cabinet during winter months. The lawn next to the Visitor Centre is ideal for a BYO picnic.
Orakei Korako is located at 494 Orakei Korako Road, adult admission is $36, age 16 and under $15, families $92, under 6’s free. Admission includes return ferry trip.
In summary, we think it’s the beautiful lakeside location, the likelihood of less visitors compared to other sites, and the native bush and active geothermal activity entwined that are the best reasons to visit Orakei Korako.
PS. I won a double pass to Orakei Korako at Fieldays last year – thanks Great Lake Taupo.