One of the best reasons to visit Craters of the Moon is price – at $8pp it’s affordable, and the good folks at The Craters of the Moon Trust donate part of the income to charity. The 45 minute walk is also pushchair and wheelchair friendly with the exception of the 10 minute uphill detour to the lookout.
Craters of the Moon is part of the Wairakei geothermal field. The steaming craters came to life in the 1950’s with the development of the Wairakei Geothermal Power Station. The opening of the power station extinguished some of the nearby springs and geysers as it reduced underground water pressure, however the remaining water boiled more actively resulting in the steaming craters we see today.
While Craters of the Moon isn’t as vividly colourful as other geothermal attractions like Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland, it’s still a unique landscape. There are some unusual plants that thrive in the heat like moss that looks like a miniature forest.
Prostrate kanuka is endemic to New Zealand and the plant has taken over at Craters of the Moon. Kanuka carpets the landscape, from August – January the plant is in flower and I imagine it would be a pretty sight to see en masse.
The craters vary in size, the larger ones have viewing platforms so you can see inside. There is one large crater with a mud pool at the bottom, the mud wasn’t actively bubbling on our visit but one of the vents was hissing loudly and releasing a lot of steam.
It’s worth following the steep uphill detour to the lookout, it takes around 10 minutes to get to the top. On a clear day you will see the mountains in the Tongariro National Park, Lake Taupo, and the craters billowing steam in the thermal valley below.
Craters of the Moon is around 8km south of Taupo at 171 Karapiti Road. There is a small Visitor Centre and gift shop, coffee can be purchased but there isn’t a cafe.
A few tips:
Prepare to cover up and use sun screen as the 45 minute walk is exposed to the elements. Bundle up in winter, we found the track to the lookout especially cold.
Young children need to be watched so they don’t veer off the boardwalk and onto hot ground.
If you want to see the vibrant colours that geothermal attractions are known for in the region, as well as more diverse landscapes, click the link below to see other posts about geothermal attractions in Rotorua and Taupo.